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Honolulu Unanimously Approves Historic Preservation Commission

The City Council has voted to activate the previously dormant commission in an effort to better protect historic cultural sites. Honolulu is the only county in the state not to have a group of this type.

(TNS) — In an effort to better protect historic cultural sites, the Honolulu City Council voted Wednesday to activate the Historic Preservation Commission.

In an effort to better protect historic cultural sites, the Honolulu City Council voted Wednesday to activate the Historic Preservation Commission.

Although the Historic Preservation Commission was actually created in 1993, it has remained dormant for the past 30 years.

Honolulu is the only county in the state that does not have a commission of this type and largely relies on the Department of Planning and Permitting and State Historic Preservation Division to review projects and ensure that development does not result in the destruction of historic and sacred sites like Hawaiian heiau or artifacts such as ancestral bones (iwi kupuna ).

Bill 44 also addresses some of the responsibilities of the commission, including maintaining a public registry of historic sites and making recommendations to SHPD about how to minimize the impacts of development projects. It also adds anthropology, ethnography and sociology among the expertise required for eligibility to serve on the commission. Already codified were backgrounds in Hawaiian culture, architecture and archaeology.

"The ultimate goal is to have the administration stand up the commission, " said Coucil member Esther Kiaaina at Wednesday's Council meeting.

"I am aware of legal and technical concerns with regards to the process by which the commission was established. However, I think there is a way for us to work with (Mayor Rick Blangiardi's ) administration to resolve those concerns so that we can stand up the commission in short order."

Kiaaiana introduced the measure with Council Chair Tommy Waters.

Because DPP is a city department and SHPD is a state department, there have been communication barriers in regard to some historic sites. For example, in 2018 iwi kupuna were found during construction on an Aina Hina hillside. It was revealed that DPP granted permits to a developer despite being told by SHPD over a decade before that no permits should be issued for the property without an archaeological study. DPP, however, misplaced the letter and granted the permits.

In some cases, community members have taken protecting historic sites into their own hands.

The community group Livable Hawai 'i Kai Hui was able to obtain ownership of a property to protect the Hawea Heiau in Hawaii Kai. The group worked between 2009 and 2014 to raise funds, largely through the city's Clean Water and Natural Lands Fund, to save the heiau from development.

Managing Director Mike Formby testified to the Council during an October meeting that while the administration is generally in favor of the measure, he was concerned about potential legal challenges and potentially increasing backlogs at SHPD or within DPP.

Council member Andria Tupola spoke in favor of activating the commission as soon as possible.

"We've heard from the administration that the mayor needs to be the one to organize it, which he can (using ) his executive powers ... and we encourage him and his administration to expeditiously do that, " she said.

"I think we wish we were actually voting on appointees today so that we could actually have people in the commission."

Thirty people submitted written testimony in favor of Bill 44 for Wednesday's meeting.

"Bill 44 should have been activated long, long ago, " said Malia Kawaihoa-Marquez, a Hawaii Kai resident in her testimony to the Council.

"Mahalo ... for reviving this bill that has been ignored and not activated in regards to aina, sacred places, our kupuna that should be taken care of because Hawaii will no longer be Hawaii without kanaka."

The Council voted unanimously to pass the measure. Blangiardi has 10 days to sign the measure, veto it or it will become law without his signature.

(c)2022 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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