Paving Over Our Last, Best Ag Land

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - August 19, 2009
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Alarm bells went off in my head as I read that Star-Bulletin front-pager on the proposed 12,000-home Hoopili project that’s before the State Land Use Commission.

That would take 1,500 acres out of agriculture, displace Aloun Farms and - if you add in the 33,000 homes already approved for Leeward Oahu - pave over a good portion of the flatlands of the Ewa Plain and surroundings.

I guess a more money-minded person might say, “Hey, good expansion of the tax base, 20 years of construction jobs, houses for people who can no longer afford Hawaii Kai and Mililani.”


I’m alarmed because I’m more and more self-sufficiency-minded, and I thought we were ramping up interest in local produce after all these years of settling for imported, not-very-fresh food.

Now we’re proposing taking the best farmland on Oahu and turning it into a suburb of the Kapolei suburb!

I suppose it makes sense on a more-development level because we have envisioned that whole Kapolei area as a “second city” and the new rail transit line will go right through there.

Plus, we apparently are going to have the new West Oahu College despite being hardly able to afford our flagship university at Manoa.

Bob Bruhl, a Horton-Schuler Homes vice president, tries to soothe traffic anxieties by saying, “There are several major regional roadway, highway and freeway improvements that are under construction now and will be completed prior to the first mom-and-pop store opening for business or the first new family taking the keys to their new home.”

Why am I not soothed? Why is the esteemed economist Paul Brewbaker not soothed?

He says it all for me:

“We are at a fork in the road with respect to patterns of urbanization, energy alternatives and agricultural futures. It is difficult to predict the outcome. I can guarantee you if you pave over the best place to grow anything, you won’t have an ag option.

“It doesn’t cost us anything today to leave it as it is.”


One of our Ewa-side political activists e-mailed me to encourage at-grade transit rail at least from Kapolei to Waipahu.

He says that’s cheaper and faster to build than the elevated proposal.

I replied I’d have no problem with at-grade outside the urban core so long as it doesn’t compete with vehicle space on an existing roadway, and we can find land and build a rail bed cheaper than an elevated guideway, and get the train elevated by the time it hits Waipahu.

But is that doable, Mr. Mayor?

Waipahu through town, we’re stuck with elevation. That’s the price we pay for not having thought train back when we were thinking land acquisition for freeways.



Correction: Paul Achitoff of Earthjustice, the environmental group, points out to me that although it was called the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund before 1997, it is not connected with the Sierra Club. My error.

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