No good rea­son for ‘poor doors’

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - VIEWS & VOICES -

There’s a rea­son why city of­fi­cials have fa­vored hous­ing de­vel­op­ments de­signed for res­i­dents of mixed in­come. There are mul­ti­ple rea­sons, in fact, es­pe­cially where it con­cerns the re­de­vel­op­ment of the ur­ban core, where Honolulu hopes to nar­row the gap in avail­able af­ford­able hous­ing.

One is that the ur­ban core should be home to at least some of those who work there. The big­gest need for hous­ing is for units priced at work­force and be­low-me­dian-in­come lev­els, so the city must en­cour­age the place­ment of such hous­ing as part of Honolulu’s “ur­ban in­fill” de­vel­op­ment.

But an­other rea­son is that stud­ies show that steer­ing clear of lower-in­come con­cen­tra­tions has so­cial ben­e­fits. Fam­i­lies who live in bet­ter sur­round­ings, es­pe­cially the chil­dren in those fam­i­lies, do bet­ter than those who re­main in a worse neigh­bor­hood or cy­cle down­ward.

And those chil­dren com­prise a next gen­er­a­tion that will suf­fer from fewer so­cial ills and, po­ten­tially, con­tinue that up­ward mo­bil­ity with their own fam­i­lies.

This in­clu­sive­ness is not the mes­sage that’s trans­mit­ted by the de­sign of a pro­posed con­do­minium high-rise in the Ka­pi­olani Boule­vard cor­ri­dor.

As cur­rently en­vi­sioned, the res­i­dents in the tower’s mar­ket-priced units would en­ter from Keeaumoku Street. The ren­ters, earn­ing be­tween $58,600 for an in­di­vid­ual and $83,700 for a fam­ily of four, would come in from the Makaloa Street side.

The rental en­trance is a de­sign el­e­ment now dubbed a “poor door.” It’s good that the City Coun­cil is tak­ing a pause on the project, pro­posed by ProsPac Hold­ings Group LLC, un­til this prob­lem can be re­solved. En­dors­ing this idea would set a bad prece­dent for the other projects planned in this district, which is en­vi­sioned as a di­verse com­mu­nity.

The leg­is­la­tion, Res­o­lu­tion 17333, would en­able the de­vel­oper more den­sity, and to build to a greater height than zon­ing now per­mits — 400 feet in­stead of 250. The 41-story project would be con­structed on top of a two-story com­mer­cial com­plex.

The res­o­lu­tion would make these al­lowances be­cause the ProsPac project lies within the tran­sit-ori­ented de­vel­op­ment (TOD) zone along the city’s rail align­ment. The fact that ProsPac is keep­ing its al­lot­ment of 78 af­ford­able rentals within this de­vel­op­ment’s foot­print, rather than sit­ing them at some dis­tant lo­ca­tion, is a nec­es­sary el­e­ment.

Ac­cess to rail tran­sit should be avail­able to all res­i­dents of these projects seek­ing TOD ben­e­fits.

How­ever, the con­do­mini­um­rental tower should strive for some com­mu­nity co­he­sion, and seg­re­gat­ing res­i­dents to sep­a­rate en­trances is sim­ply un­ac­cept­able.

ProsPac As­sis­tant Di­rec­tor Wil­liam Chen said the orig­i­nal plan was for a com­mon en­trance but that it changed when the af­ford­able com­po­nent of the project was changed to rentals. The sep­a­rate man­age­ment and “op­er­a­tional needs” would be bet­ter served with the two en­trances, Chen said.

It is un­clear why even sep­a­rate sec­tions of the structure need to be com­pletely dis­con­nected, with res­i­dents ap­proach­ing from the di­rec­tion nearer one door forced to go around the cor­ner. Many com­plexes have con­nect­ing cor­ri­dors to en­able res­i­dents to get from one side to the other; the same can be true here.

Of­fi­cials in other cities have de­cried the poor-door de­sign. Honolulu might con­sider fol­low­ing the ex­am­ple of New York in bar­ring sep­a­rate en­trances for af­ford­able units for any de­vel­oper re­ceiv­ing tax in­cen­tives.

The ProsPac project would pro­vide spe­cial ameni­ties for the condo own­ers, too, such as a pool deck, a fit­ness cen­ter and oth­ers. Given that the condo main­te­nance fee sup­ports them, that condo ben­e­fit seems fair enough — although ac­cess to these could be of­fered to ren­ters who pay a mem­ber­ship fee, as well.

There should be room for com­pro­mise here. But the con­cept of a poor door, at least, should be shown the exit at City Hall.

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