Hakuone Focuses on Sustainable Land Management for Kaka‘ako Makai
January 28, 2023

By: Hakuone

“A well-planned Kaka‘ako Makai can serve to help stimulate Hawai‘i’s economy; provide job opportunities for Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians; and contribute to the revitalization of Honolulu’s urban core.” – OHA CHAIR CARMEN “HULU” LINDSEY

Hakuone’s greatest contribution could be sustainable land management for Kaka‘ako Makai.

What it means for land to be sustainable

In its barest form, Sustainable Land Management considers the needs of the community and its environment. In its ideal form, sustainable land management practices help protect natural resources, reduce erosion, maintain soil fertility, and promote biodiversity. In its most ideal form, land management helps to ensure that natural resources are used responsibly for generations to come.

Conflict arises where business and societal interests disagree with the models that protect these natural resources. For Hakuone, the challenge is to use land in a way that meets the needs of the present without compromising the prosperity of our shared future. Living on an island, the emphasis is necessarily on our shared future. Whether we want to be or not, we are all responsible for the welfare of those adjacent to us.

Communal responsibility requires carefully harmonizing economic, social, and environmental considerations. Especially as these three spheres of influence are not always in concert.

Just as organizations motivated by financial gain don’t always see the forest for the trees, community interests don’t always see beyond the individual trees to the greater dynamics around them. Finding resonance within these different perspectives is a complicated business. High rises, for example, fit more people within a single plot of land, thus limiting the amount of surface area necessary for housing. But they also literally suck up more natural resources in the surrounding area by virtue of this greater population, as well as obscure the natural views of the ocean (which many would consider a ‘quality of life’ issue).

Thus, truly sustainable land management is a complex aim. A community goal of this scope legally includes developing and implementing property management plans and conservation and stewardship plans for all city real property. It necessitates the study of land subdivision and condominium property regime (CPR) laws related to agricultural land on Oʻahu. In short, there is a lot of red tape one has to account for, in parallel with the conversation taking place between all stakeholders involved. Hakuone is in a unique position to provide the necessary expertise through this process, ensuring the present and future success of the Kaka‘ako Makai project.

Why does this matter, especially today?

All of Hawaiʻi is outpacing the perceived limits of population growth. Honolulu is the most readily accessible example of this. Sustainable land management is particularly important to Kaka‘ako Makai due to the increasing pace of development that the area has experienced within an already sprawling city in recent years. As a result, there is a vital need to plan carefully for the use and conservation of land and natural resources. Not for profit, or for present communities alone, but in order to ensure that the area is able to meet the needs of its future residents.

Kaka‘ako, a neighborhood in Honolulu, O‘ahu, has a rich history dating back hundreds of years. The area was originally settled by native Hawaiians, who used the land for salt-making, fishing, and other purposes. In the 19th century, Kaka‘ako was developed as an industrial and residential area, with warehouses, factories, and homes built around and, in some cases, on top of each other. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Kaka‘ako underwent a period of rapid development, with many new residential, commercial, and cultural facilities created.

Today, Kaka‘ako is known for its vibrant and diverse community and mix of residential, commercial, and industrial areas. It is a unique and important part of the Honolulu community, featuring a blend of urban amenities and natural beauty. Hakuone aims to develop Kaka‘ako Makai in a way that will improve the quality of life for Native Hawaiians in particular.

How are we improving the quality of life for Native Hawaiians?

As discussed above, the key aspect of sustainable land management in Kaka‘ako has to be the development of land in a way that minimizes negative impacts on the environment. This involves promoting compact, walkable, and transit-oriented development, which can help to reduce the amount of land needed for development and the amount of vehicle miles traveled, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts.

Minimizing negative impacts on the environment could also mean incorporating sustainable design principles such as green roofs, rainwater harvesting systems, and solar panels into the design of new development projects.

Another important aspect of sustainable land management in Kaka‘ako Makai is the continued protection and enhancement of natural habitats. The area is already home to a number of parks and green spaces, including Kaka‘ako Waterfront Park (“Point Panic”) and Mother Waldron Park, which offer recreational opportunities for residents and visitors.

Parks and greenways provide important ecological functions and recreational opportunities. Development opportunities abound when one considers the pairing of the two through green infrastructure. This can take many forms, such as rain gardens and permeable pavement, which can help to manage stormwater runoff and reduce the risk of flooding.

We are also engaging with the community to ensure that land use decisions reflect the values of local residents. Input from the community through public meetings, workshops, and other forms of outreach isn’t just invaluable, it is instrumental. Long-term relationships established on mutual respect and trust in each other will allow us to identify and address any concerns or issues related to land use in the area. Never has there been a more important place for all of our islands to come together and find mutually beneficial solutions.

The ultimate goal of Hakuone is to create a vibrant, livable, and sustainable “kīpuka” that meets the needs of its current and future residents in an environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable way. This cannot be accomplished within a vacuum. We will have to combine careful planning and innovative design with active community participation to ensure that land is used in a way that is sustainable for our grandchildren’s grandchildren.

We are confident that we can make the lands of Kaka‘ako Makai a source of abundance and pride for our lāhui; a place that embodies a Hawaiian national identity while defining and maintaining a Hawaiian sense of place.

Let’s Get Technical: The issue of land valuation for Hakuone

All of the above notwithstanding, there is a legal process for land valuation, and it’s highly technical. For Kaka‘ako Makai this involves various methods, including the comparative sales method, the cost approach, the income capitalization approach, the direct market data approach, and the expert judgment approach.

The comparative sales method is a standard for determining the value of land and its associated improvements in relation to similar properties. Some hold that the most reliable method of estimating land value is through this comparison of the subject property with recent sales of comparable, similarly located properties. To determine the value of land in Kaka‘ako using the comparative sales method, for example, an appraiser compares the subject property to similar properties that have recently sold in the area.

This method considers factors such as the size and location of the properties, as well as their features and amenities. The value of the subject property would then be determined based on the sale prices of these comparable properties.

The cost approach takes into account all the costs of constructing a comparable replacement property. In the case of Hakuone, sustainable land management could also mean elevating the value of an area over time. No, literally elevating! Therefore we have to take cost approach methods under consideration. We are in a very real way manifesting something that doesn’t already exist, so we need to be able to communicate to the rest of the island what those associated costs are. 

As we get even more into the weeds of valuation, the income capitalization approach uses rental rates to estimate the present value of future cash flows. This is admittedly the last sort of evaluation we conduct as it’s far more abstract and subject to the whims of outside forces, but it’s an important part of the final overall recipe.

Finally, expert judgment is required to fit all of these pieces together – the sort that involves making use of the knowledge and experience of appraisers who can provide accurate estimates based on their past evaluations. All these elements are required when assessing the value of any land, but Hakuone’s sustainability goals must be taken into consideration as well. Bringing this back around, full circle, it’s important that proper attention is given to the original intent of sustainability so long-term solutions remain a top priority for Kaka‘ako Makai’s future viability within rapidly changing future projections for our island society and economy.

OHA is working to lift a 2006 prohibition by the State Legislature that bans residential housing on these lands. Without a repeal of this prohibition, OHA will not be able to generate revenues consistent with a $200 million investment, which assumed a 400-foot building height limit for select parcels when appraised by the state at the time of the settlement. In addition, building much-needed housing is an essential part of creating a vibrant heart of a community centered around a true live, work and play mission.

Therefore, OHA is supporting legislation in the 2023 session that will allow for the development of housing of up to 400 feet in height on three of the 10 Hakuone parcels, with a focus on kama‘aina needs for affordable and residential workforce units at various income levels.

Once fully developed, Hakuone has the potential to generate millions of dollars toward continuing beneficiary and community investments. A spectrum of housing options in a thoughtful, mixed-use community allows OHA to realize this goal. The development of Hakuone will also bring a broad, long-term economic benefit to local businesses and workers. Through identifying, assessing, and improving the land, Hakuone will be working to create a better future for all. While there are still some challenges to overcome, such as the issue of land valuation, the future work that Hakuone is facilitating is vital to managing sustainable land today.