Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Sneaky Business of Transit Oriented Development -- Part 2: TOD Mean More Taxes, and Less Appeal to the Citizen

Honolulu Council Member Donovan Dela Cruz’s TOD angle about rail is a tired and by U.S. conditions largely false argument. First he needs to be reminded of Tom Berg’s excellent 2009 article in the Honolulu Star Bulletin “Fruitless in Fruitvale”:


Ironically, the city's monthly propaganda on rail, paid by Honolulu taxpayers, May 2010 issue, pictures Oakland's Fruitvale Village TOD as a success. If success is noise and abandonment, then it is a success. This video proves it.

Many TOD as "automobile hate zones," their mobility is abysmally low and no small or large business can survive there unless it has its own (costly) parking.

Then there are these three fundamental points for the City Administration's and Dela Cruz’s enlightenment.

  • TOD is Taxes Offered to Developers in multiple ways, (1) Upfront incentives which means taxes handed out to them as incentives, and (2) Reduced or waived property taxes for a number of years. Our city is in bad fiscal shape and in bad repair. Yet the typical politician proposes more taxes to benefit special interests but, as politicians do, they window dress taxes as a benefit for the "little guy."
  • In January, 2009, The Urban Land Institute’s local chapter (ULI-Hawaii) commissioned a survey of housing attitudes among the public. The phone survey was of 600 Oahu residents. They are huge proponents of transit and smart growth, yet, among the conclusions is this: “there is relatively much less support for the smart growth idea of higher-density use of existing urban areas – perhaps in part because people here generally still would rather live in suburban/rural settings themselves.
  • Portland, Oregon is the “poster child” of Light Rail advocacy and TODs. Research by Bruce Podobnik of the Department of Sociology at the Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon dated July 15, 2009 concludes as follows:

“This study examines the extent to which specific social and environmental objectives have been achieved in the new urbanist community of Orenco Station (Portland, Oregon). House-level surveys were conducted in Orenco Station, as well as a traditional suburb and two long established urban neighborhoods.

“The analysis also reveals a higher level of walking, and an increase in the occasional use of mass transit, in the new urbanist community. However, the majority of residents in all four neighborhoods (including the new urbanist neighborhood) rely on single occupancy vehicles for their regular commute.”

So when it comes to rail-based Land Use for TODs and Smart Growth, the argument that these work is all political hot air. Buses and roadways can do much much better at a fraction of the cost to the public.

A great example of this is the total remake on Kapiolani Boulevard between McMully and South Street with the Convention Center, the doubling of Ala Moana Center, the Nauru Towers complex, multiple other residential towers, the large, elegant dealerships, etc.

What's the Kapiolani Boulevard lesson? Huge investment for development and redevelopment and much increased densities took place in the absence of rail. However, if Mayor Fasi’s rail was built along Kapiolani Boulevard in the early 1990s, then rail proponents would have credited all this billion dollar investment to rail.

The Sneaky Business of Transit Oriented Development -- Part 1: Additional Land Controls that Distort Real Estate and Destroy Agriculture

We are being deceived, tricked, conned, and trapped.
Dr. Kioni Duddley
Full credit goes to Dr. Kioni Dudley for getting the scoop (in time) before this monstrosity takes a hold. Please read Dr. Dudley’s assessment below.

I read through the TOD proposal last night. Thank God I did. We are being duped in to voting support for zoning of Ho'opili that forbids agricultural uses!! Two of the three stations are on Ho'opili land. By voting support for the "East Kapolei Neighborhood TOD Plan April 2010," the Board is being suckered into voting for zoning for Ho'opili that would mandate dwellings, cabarets, markets, schools, hospitals, consulates, retail establishments, manufacturing, and heliports for Ho'opili land, but would forbid "all agricultural uses" and "farm dwellings."

This is the way the rail boys do it -- They send us a 117 page CD that they know we are too busy to go through. It is perfectly titled: "East Kapolei Neighborhood TOD Plan Public Review Draft April 2010." No one can ever question what it was about. No one can ever question that the Plan has undergone public review. Buried fifty pages inside, amid boring minutiae is the secret they really want us to vote for, a whole new zoning category called the "TOD Special District," a new category of mandatory zoning which unquestionably has been clearly tied to Ho'opili land.

They get a member of the Sierra Club to come and support their concept in order to give it credibility. (She, of course, likes higher density rather than urban sprawl, and that's all she speaks about.) Then they get the Board to vote support for the "East Kapolei Neighborhood TOD Plan Public Review Draft April 2010.

In future months, they will use our vote to convince the Land Use Commission, and then the city Planning Commission and the City Council that after two public review meetings with our Board, where they explained the whole concept, we voted to support zoning that would mandate houses and commercial operations on Ho'opili, and would forbid farming on Ho'opili. No one will have the chance to say we didn't know we were voting for zoning at all, that zoning was buried in the document on pages 50 and 51, and that it was never mentioned at the meetings.

We are being deceived, tricked, conned, and trapped.

We need to be clear that this is not Transit Oriented Development. It is Developer Oriented Transit. Everything is being done for the developer.

Three polls by KHON and the Advertiser show that 78%, 87%, and 87% of the people want that land kept in farming. Our door-to-door campaign bears out these high numbers.

The document can be found at the link below. Brief excerpts from pages 49, 50, and 51 are copied below.


The TOD special district is intended to ensure the community vision for the station areas through zoning standards that enable and promote transit-oriented development.

Special district regulations are mandatory, not optional. The proposed TOD Special District regulations may supplement or modify the underlying zoning district regulations. If any TOD Special District regulation conflicts with any provision contained in Article 3 of the LUO (Establishment of Zoning Districts and Zoning District Regulations), the more restrictive regulation takes precedence. A property owner must follow the provisions of the TOD Special District in order to develop property. In doing so, the property may be subject to different permitted and conditional uses, modified densities and building heights, modified yards and modified parking requirements. To take advantage of such increased entitlements, additional design-related criteria may be required. All applications are subject to design review.

The recommended Special District boundaries around each transit station take into account distance from the transit station, natural topographic barriers, extent of market interest in development, planned land uses and the overall benefits of transit including the potential to increase transit ridership.

The TOD, or transit-oriented development, precincts are generally within 1/4 mile of the stations, or in areas with greater development potential. The areas will likely be developed sooner and should include larger building forms and higher-intensity mixed-use, employment and residential options.

The TIZ,or transit-influenced zone, precincts are located beyond the TOD core, between 1/4 mile to 1/2 mile from the stations and should be less intense by nature. Properties within the TIZ precincts will most likely redevelop over a longer time frame and should include smaller buildings that “step down” to meet surrounding lower density neighborhoods.

Permitted in both TOD & TIZ precincts
• Dwellings, multifamily
• Group living facilities
• Cabarets
• Office buildings
• Universities, colleges
• Commercial parking lots & garages
• etc.

Permitted in TIZ precincts
• Self-storage facilities
• Dwellings, detached, one-family
• Dwellings, detached, two-family
• etc.

Prohibited Land Uses
• All “agricultural” uses
• All “animal” uses
• Farm dwellings
• Vacations cabins
27 more prohibitions