State roundup for May 6


Oahu bag ban changes sought

HONOLULU (AP) — A Honolulu City Council member wants to change Oahu’s upcoming plastic bag ban by removing an exemption for plastic bags labeled as biodegradable.

The measure by Breene Harimoto follows concerns by the city Department of Environmental Services about how to monitor and enforce the exemption.

“They would have to, in essence, certify that bags being used are biodegradable, and what they discovered is that there really is no standard as to what is biodegradable,” Harimoto said.

The original ban passed in April 2012 was scheduled for a start date of July 1, 2015. It prohibits the distribution of plastic bags by retailers, except those labeled biodegradable.

Council chairman Ernie Martin, among the sponsors of the original bill, said he opposes the proposed change, which would delay the ban’s effective start date to Jan. 1, 2016. Out of the four counties, Honolulu is the only one without a plastic bag ban in place. The counties with bans do not exempt biodegradable-label bags, Harimoto said.

The proposed change is set to be heard for the first time Wednesday by the City Council.

Oahu housing concerns grow

HONOLULU (AP) — Oahu’s population is growing much faster than its housing supply.

To catch up with demand, developers would have to build about 2,000 more homes each year than they do now, Eugene Tian, a Hawaii economist, said.

His calculations assume 1 percent population growth on the island and 2.8 people per household. Whereas Tian figures Oahu would need about 3,525 homes a year to match demand, the island issued an average of 1,612 new permits a year from 2011 to 2013.

Oahu issued about 7,000 housing permits a year in the 1960s and about 6,500 a year in the ’70s. The gap between population growth and housing permits is the widest in at least 50 years, said Tian, the chief economist for the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

Developments such as the 5,000 planned condominiums in Honolulu’s Kakaako neighborhood are a start. But because towers take years to complete, Oahu’s housing deficit will endure in the near future.

The housing supply on the neighbor islands is more balanced because of their slower economic recovery since the recession and an enduring supply of housing.

Paul Brewbaker, an economic consultant with TZ Economics, has similarly been trying to call attention to the housing deficit on Oahu.

“People seem to have lost all context for what constitutes ‘a lot’ of home building,” he said in January. “Kakaako condos totaling 5,500 units this decade sounds pathetic.”

Tian said the market will react to the imbalance as developers see opportunities. The gap right now is so large the price of a single family home is projected to reach $800,000 next year. That follows a record of $650,000 last year.

Presenters at a recent Honolulu Board of Realtors forum said the city’s planned light rail line offers hope for adding land for housing and redevelopment to lands near train stops.

Investigators say brushfire apparent arson

HONOLULU (AP) — Honolulu fire officials say a brushfire in Kapolei appears to have been intentionally set.

KITV (http://is.gd/5k3FIi) reports the 12-acre fire broke out about 2:30 p.m. Sunday on Lauwiliwili Street. It was reported to be under control shortly before 5 p.m.

No property damage or injuries were reported.

Officials say a suspicious person was seen in the vicinity of the fire.

Energy efficient lighting coming to Kauai streets

LIHUE, Hawaii (AP) — Energy-efficient light-emitting diodes will soon be lighting Kauai’s streets.

The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative said Friday it will switch 2,900 street lights owned by Kauai County to LEDs. It will do the same for nearly 600 state Department of Transportation street lights on Kauai.

The latest LED lights use half the energy of traditional high-pressure sodium lights.

The county currently spends $1 million a year on street lights.

KIUC CEO David Bissell says the arrangement allows the county to cut its lighting bill and the utility to use less fossil fuel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The utility aims to generate 50 percent of its power from renewable resources by 2023.

The utility is paying for the retrofitting work. It will recover the cost from the county and state.

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