Star Advertiser: LED fixtures in city street lights dangerously bright, Sierra Club says

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

The Sierra Club’s Oahu Group on Friday said the LED fixtures the city chose for its approximately 53,500 street lights across Oahu are “bluer” and more harmful than more technologically advanced LEDs now on the market.

“We met with the city over a year ago and advised them to avoid the use of the much bluer 4000K and 3000K lighting,” the Oahu Group of the Sierra Club said in a statement.

Robert Kroning, the city’s director of design and construction, said the city is discussing the concerns with contractor Johnson Controls. When the city solicited proposals for the project in 2016, 2700K lights were not commercially available.

The Oahu group said that the blue light component of the fixtures chosen by the city “has been scientifically proven to decrease night vision, make it more difficult for people to sleep and hurt their health, severely and adversely affect night-flying seabirds and greatly increase the sky brightness to the detriment of astronomy on Hawaii island and sky gazers on Oahu.”

Kevin Jim, an astronomer and physicist who volunteers with the Sierra Club, said Los Angeles is now requiring most new lighting be 2700K after it made the same mistake, he said.

Kroning said the city has learned that the contractor’s manufacturer recently made available 2700K lights. “We are having the contractor examine the new 2700K LED street lights to see if they meet the requirements of the request for proposals in both energy savings and in illumination of our roadways,” he said. “If they do, we may make the change to a 2700K fixture.”

Kroning said he’s comfortable with the 3000K fixtures, which will be used in 90 percent of the lamps “since the blue light component difference between 3000K and 2700K light is quite small.”

Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced the conversions Thursday, saying the city does not need to pay any of the $46.6 million in costs upfront and that the lights will pay for themselves within 10 years and then start saving the city about $5 million annually.

Support for Bill 1 (2017)- Ko‘olauloa Sustainable Communities Plan

Below is the Sierra Club O‘ahu Group’s organizational testimony in support for Bill 1 (2017)- the Ko‘olauloa Sustainable Communities Plan:

We also created this social media graphic which we shared with our allies in Ko‘olauloa, sent to our O‘ahu Group email list, and posted to our Facebook page:

“Please submit testimony in SUPPORT for Bill 1 (2017) and attend the special Planning Committee meeting on November 29th, 6:30 PM, at Hau‘ula Elementary School’s cafeteria. Bill 1 (2017) updates the Ko‘olauloa Sustainable Communities Plan and helps guide future development on O‘ahu. This bill preserves the rural character of Ko‘olauloa (Northeastern O‘ahu from Ka‘a‘awa to Kahuku) and omits the “Envision La‘ie” development project proposal. We must preserve our remaining agricultural lands on O‘ahu and concentrate development within the urban core. Read the meeting agenda and submit testimony at:

News Coverage for the meeting:

Civil Beat Article:


Star Advertiser: Many hurdles ahead in farming our land


By Maureen O’Connell
November 19, 2017

Stepping up local food production in our island state is a sensible goal. With greater access to fresh, homegrown products, Hawaii could reap economic, environmental and health gains. What’s more, a more robust production could leave us less vulnerable to shortages tied to natural disaster, such as the likes of Hurricane Maria’s hammering of Puerto Rico.

However, challenges accompanying more food production are daunting due to geography-related constraints on farming as well as labor and technology snags, and an escalating demand to plant affordable homes here.

Last fall, when Gov. David Ige addressed the the IUCN World Conservation Congress — an environmental convention held in Honolulu — he announced his “Sustainable Hawai‘i Initiative.” In addition to more protection of watersheds, nearshore waters and various other green-focused objectives, Ige’s plan includes an aim to double Hawaii’s food production by 2020.

So far, that goal is yielding more aspirations than measurable operations.

While the state has a fairly recent fix on commercial crop acreage, it lacks firm figures on how much food is being produced locally versus what’s imported. Agency efforts to hold onto the latter baseline slipped away amid state government’s Great Recession budgetary cuts. Industry researchers estimate that Hawaii imports roughly 90 percent of our food.

Supporters of the call for more local production and greater food security, such as Honolulu’s Ulupono Initiative, an investment firm specializing in environmental sustainability, maintain that while the governor’s 2020 goal is now likely unrealistic, given still-steep hurdles, the push forward should continue.

Among the hurdles is development of a new baseline for measuring local food production.

At this time last year, the state was working with Ulupono Initiative to come up with an online food metrics platform aimed at providing policymakers with a clear statewide picture of food imports and exports. The Agriculture Department spent $90,000 on the computer program, with Ulupono contributing a $160,000 grant. But after long delays in subsequently contracted work that failed to meet the state’s needs, the Agriculture Department pulled the plug.

The state agency is now attempting to address the matter through other efforts. Amy Hennessey, an Ulupono Initiative spokeswoman, said: “We are hopeful this work is continued in some way in the future because the state needs to better understand the total volumes and kinds of food produced locally so that gaps and areas for improvement can be identified.”

Commercial ag charted

The state is faring better with the hurdle of charting commercial agricultural land use. Last year, the Agriculture Department released maps pinpointing farming and ranching operations — the first such update since a 1980 survey.

Done under a contract with the University of Hawaii-Hilo’s Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization Lab, the satellite-based mapping underscores dramatic change in the state’s agricultural profile over the past several decades, with the passing of longstanding sugar and pineapple production.

In 1980 there was a total of 350,830 acres in crop production statewide, 85 percent of which was either sugar or pineapple. By 2015, when the baseline update was completed, total acreage had dropped to 151,830, with just 28 percent dedicated to those two crops. While sugar remained dominant in 2015, with 38,810 acres, most of that land is now fallow following the shuttering of Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company on Maui late last year.

Today, Hawaii’s current top crops — seed production, commercial forestry and macadamia nuts — are grown primarily for export purposes. The bulk of emerging diversified acreage, which is planted with varieties of leaf, root and melon crops, are consumed locally. Farm land dedicated to those foods increased to 16,904 acres from 7,490 acres.

Accounting for more than three-fourths of the total commercial acreage is pasture land. Its tally in 2015 (761,429 acres) was down from 1.1 million acres in 1980. The decrease, according to the Agriculture Department, is due in large part to removal of remote lands from pasture use by landowners such as Kamehameha Schools and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands as well as acquisition of pasture properties by the National Park system, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army.

Noting that drop and the doubling of diversified crops, Hunter Heaivilin, a member of the Sierra Club’s Oahu executive committee, said: “We support expanding food production locally, but in determining where state efforts should be directed, it is important to consider market and land use trends.”

He said the state should be careful to avoid focusing primarily on large-scale operations in attempts to “move the needle” on growing our own food production, whether that’s farming or ranching. Such focus, Heaivilin said, “ignores the contributions of numerous small and mid-size producers entering and already in the marketplace.”

Industry subsidies?

The Hawaii Farm Bureau contends all forms of agriculture should be tapped for growth. But progress will be slow-going unless the Legislature bumps up ag funding, which now adds up to less than 1 percent of the state’s budget, said the bureau’s president, Randy Cabral.

“We need more investments in water infrastructure, drought mitigation, disease and pest research, marketing, transportation and strategies for dealing with labor shortages,” Cabral said. “It is easy to say what needs to be done. Placing agriculture as a priority … will require serious commitment. Infrastructure and capacity-building are critical along with a pragmatic position about advancement of agriculture.”

When asked to respond to a counter-argument that any subsidy of commercial agriculturalists should come from the private sector rather than taxpayers, Cabral said, “As a business, farming and ranching have risks like every other business. However, unlike most other businesses, we have to deal with bad weather, drought, pests and diseases.”

He continued, “We subsidize the tourism industry. We subsidize our film industry. Investments in agriculture is an investment in the very core business of a society. … Even as we live in a global economy, natural disasters and pestilence can isolate us easily as an island state. At that time, it will be too late to regrow agriculture.​ All other industries have the capacity to thrive with a strong agriculture base. Agriculture will not automatically thrive due to a strong film industry.​”

Growing new farmers

Another local food hurdle: growing a new generation of agriculturalists. The average age of a farmer in Hawaii is 60, according to federal data.

In response, the Farm Bureau has introduced state legislation and supports initiatives stressing ag education programs, ranging from Future Farmers of America to 4-H. And Ulupono backs workforce-growing projects. For instance, Hennessey said, it has partnered with Kamehameha Schools to provide grants to Go Farm Hawaii, which provides training for beginning to advanced level farmers.

In addition, she said, “We collaborate with a number of funders statewide including the Kokua Hawaii Foundation to provide support for programs that bring agriculture education and school gardens to schools across Hawaii, increasing appreciation and consumer demand for local food among children and their families.”

The Sierra Club’s Heaivilin said new farmers and training programs are key to future sustainability success as the demand for local produce is now outstripping supply.

Tethered to supply-and-demand concerns, according to the nonprofit, is the “suburbanization” of productive farmland, with Castle & Cooke Hawaii’s Koa Ridge housing development — poised for construction on what had been designated by the state as prime farmland in Central Oahu — serving as the latest example.

The 768-acre site will be covered with 3,500 homes, with 30 percent reserved for sorely needed affordable to moderate-income housing. To offset the ag loss, alternative land was provided for farming operations. Heaivilin said, “This type of approach, called ‘development-supported agriculture,’ has been growing across the country, but our land use and other laws do little to ensure that lands will remain in agriculture in the long term.”

In the case of Koa Ridge, the alternative ag land arrangement has prompted a deal through which the newly acquired land may be divided into for-sale “ag lots” — and that houses may be built on them.

Cabral said as local food production increases, so should policy-related vigilance. “Urban growth boundaries should be established … to protect farmers on the fringe of development,” he said. “Farmers should not continuously be required to defend their right to farm if local food production is a state priority.”

Regarding the challenge of balancing agriculture with other land development, Ulupono’s Hennessey added: “In order to have the ability to produce our own food, we must work to preserve agricultural lands as much as possible and find ways to harmonize development with meaningful food production so that they can peacefully coexist as in years past.”

Star-Advertiser: Council committee defers ban on foam containers

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
November 16, 2017

A Honolulu City Council committee on Wednesday deferred a bill that would bar food vendors from using polystyrene foam food containers and require them to instead use compostable ones.

The decision to defer Bill 71 was met with anger and frustration from representatives of several environmental groups.

Public Works, Infrastructure and Sustainability Committee Chairwoman Carol Fukunaga said there still appeared to be many concerns with the measure from various sides.

After the meeting, she said in an interview that she doesn’t intend to shelve the bill indefinitely.

“We’re going to have further discussions with the Department of Environmental Services, all the environmental organizations and the food industry folks and see what we can do with Bill 71,” Fukunaga said. If the discussions lead to the need for a new bill, “then we’ll move forward on that.”

When Fukunaga made her recommendation in committee, none of her colleagues raised objections and she moved onto the next item on the agenda. Deferrals at the committee level generally don’t include a formal vote, but several environmentalists criticized her for not conducting a vote.

Earlier this year, Council members deferred Bill 59 (2016), a measure to get rid of loopholes in the plastic bag ban, also citing the need to find a compromise to appease different stakeholders.

More than 40 people testified Wednesday on Bill 71, which was introduced by Councilwoman Kymberly Pine. By about a 3-1 margin, people spoke in favor of a ban on foam containers.

The Rev. Phillip Harmon, founder of the nonprofit Kahu­mana, said the organization serves food at its farm and cafe on bio-­compostable materials that will break down into soil. “Initially, about five years ago, it added about 20 cents to every meal we produced,” Harmon said. “Five years later, it’s 11 cents. ”

Additionally, “it doesn’t leak; it’s designed to accept the oil and grease from whatever the meal is,” he said.

Several other restaurateurs, as well as environmental groups, testified that not only is styrene, a key chemical in foam containers, harmful to animals and the environment, it’s unhealthy for humans as well.

Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawai‘i co-founder Dean Otsuki said, “Styrene has been linked to cancer, vision and hearing loss, impaired memory and concentration, and nervous system effects. … The chemicals accumulate in your body … and that’s when you get into trouble.”

David Acheson of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii said the organization’s various temples are trying to convert to using only reusables and recyclables. At his own temple, members are being encouraged to bring their own cups, utensils and plates. “This is the way we’re heading,” he said. “We’re not there yet. … It’s a journey.”

The Hawaii Food Industry Association, the Retail Merchants Association and Malama 808, a group composed of restaurateurs and merchants billed as dedicated to ridding Hawaii of litter, testified against the bill.

Lauren Zirbel of the Hawaii Food Industry Association said requiring compostable food containers would “provide no positive upside to the environment” because they don’t go to a composting facility, but would increase costs for businesses and, ultimately, consumers.

Even commonly used egg containers and meat trays would be banned under the bill, she said. “This is a huge cost.”

Jason Higa, president of FCH Enterprises, the parent company of Zippy’s Restaurants, said his restaurants switched to Type 5 polypropylene containers, which are microwave-safe, in 2010 in response to customer feedback.

Higa said he’s most troubled with the bill’s requirement that restaurants use compostable containers, something his company explored last year. “Our biggest concern with compostable containers is from a safety standpoint. … The integrity of that container is an issue for employees as well as our customers.”

About 10 employees of KYD Inc., a local manufacturer of disposable containers, testified that they may lose their jobs if the bill is passed.

In related news, the committee also deferred Bill 73, which attempts to tackle littering through education by providing incentives for nonprofits to help.

Bill 71 (2017)- Ban of expanded polystyrene foam food containers

In October and November 2017, the O‘ahu Group and coalition partners from the Kōkua Hawai‘i Foundation and Surfrider Foundation met with Councilmember Pine (bill introducer) and Councilmember Fukunaga (Committee Chair) to discuss O‘ahu’s proposed foam ban. We submitted the following testimony in support of O‘ahu’s foam ban. Click here to read Bill 71 (2017) and its current status.

Resolution 17-284 to Curb Toxic Herbicide Use

Mahalo to the O‘ahu Group’s Conservation Chair, Leilei Joy Shih, for submitting this insightful testimony in support of Resolution 17-284.

UPDATE: Resolution 17-284 CD1 is up for adoption at the December 6th, full Council meeting. Please submit online testimony in support by December 5th. You can read the meeting agenda and submit online testimony HERE.


Recycling meeting

The O‘ahu Group joined a meeting at Honolulu Hale to discuss the future of recycling and solid waste in light of the city auditor’s report, which recommends we send our recyclables to H-Power for incineration. While there is no easy solution to managing O‘ahu’s waste, the Sierra Club supports zero waste and extended producer responsibility policies, locally managing waste through the lens of environmental justice, and prioritizing waste reduction before reuse and recycling. This is just the beginning of working together with the City, State, and our non-profit allies to find creative, sustainable solutions for our ōpala.

Update 11/14/17- You can read more about this issue in the recent Civil Beat article: Recycle or Incinerate? The Battle of the Blue Bins

Star Advertiser: Bikeshare Hawaii CEO pleased by growth, says Biki is evolving

By Nina Wu
November 1, 2017

In its first three months of operation, Bikeshare Hawaii reported that Biki, the first bikeshare program in Honolulu, logged more than 180,000 rides.

Lori McCarney, CEO of Bikeshare Hawaii, said she is pleased with the results of the first-quarter report.

“We want to serve residents and visitors. We want our bikes to be used,” said McCarney, “so I think the growth in users over the period is really what we’re pleased to see. It wasn’t just (that) people came out, tried it out and said, ‘OK, that was fun,’ and went away.”

Since it first launched June 28, Biki has logged 180,272 rides, with average rides per day increasing from 1,735 in July to 2,101 rides in September.

A total of 31,743 unique individuals checked out a Biki in its first three months, according to the report released in October. Of the total, 43 percent were members, meaning they signed up for a monthly pass rather than a single $3.50 ride. The Free Spirit Pass, which offers a bank of 300 minutes for $20, was the most popular option.

With $2 million in state and city startup funds, Bikeshare Hawaii was launched as a nonprofit in June following years of preparation stemming from a feasibility study in 2014 that determined Honolulu could benefit from such a program. Bikeshare Hawaii has a contract with Singapore-­based Secure Bike Share to handle its customer service and day-to-day operations.


>> Total rides: 180,272
>> Unique users: 31,743 (43 percent members, 57 percent casual riders)
>> Most popular option: Free Spirit Pass ($20 for a bank of 300 minutes)
>> Average trip duration: 22 minutes, 25 seconds
>> Top 10 Biki stations: Waikiki (6) and Ala Moana/Kakaako (4)
>> Top three ZIP codes of Biki users: 96815 (Waikiki), 96813 (downtown/Chinatown) and 96826 (McCully/Moiliili)

* Source: Bikeshare Hawaii (as of Sept. 30)
Learn more at

In June, Bikeshare Hawaii began rolling out 100 Biki stations offering 1,000 turquoise-colored bikes for rent on a combination of public and private properties stretching from Diamond Head to Chinatown. It met with initial resistance from some neighborhoods, most often over the placement of the Biki stations.

The Kapiolani Park Preservation Society did not want stations at the park, for instance, saying Biki is an equipment rental operation with ads on its bikes, which is against its rules. Others complained about the loss of metered parking stalls in increasingly congested neighborhoods like Kakaako.

Currently, Biki stations occupy 34 metered parking stalls in Honolulu, according to the city Department of Transportation Services.

The 10 most popular Biki stations are in the Waikiki, Ala Moana and Kakaako areas. One of them occupies two metered parking spaces in front of ARVO, a cafe on Auahi Street.

Casey Wiggins, co-owner of ARVO at the Salt retail complex, said the Biki station was an adjustment at first. But now she embraces it, and sometimes hops on a Biki bike to get together with friends in Chinatown.

“I think it is drawing people here,” she said. “It’s great exposure for us and part of the healthy, active lifestyle.”

Likewise, Monica Toguchi Ryan, owner of Highway Inn, a restaurant also at the Salt complex, said she rides a Biki almost daily to run errands within a 1-mile radius, whether it’s a hair appointment or a trip to Longs Drugs. She and her husband also take the Biki to get coffee at Ward Village on Sunday mornings.

“I love it,” said Ryan, who also lives in Kakaako. “It’s wonderful to have this Biki station here.”

Not everyone is pleased with Biki, which remains a point of contention in Chinatown.

Tony Nguyen, whose family owns Lin’s Lei Shop, sees both the bulb-out and Biki station at the corner of Maunakea and North King streets as contributing to a drop in customers. The Biki stop is within a bulb-out near several longtime businesses, including the lei shop, Jerry’s Jade & Gems and an antique furniture shop.

“This Maunakea strip is extra busy,” he said, “especially for a retail shop where we rely on customers coming in and out.”

Customers used to stop along the curb to purchase a lei, but now they cannot. He admits it was previously a no-parking zone, but customers were willing to take that risk. Potentially, it could be lost parking citation revenue for the city, he said.

“I get it,” said Nguyen, who is personally boycotting the Biki. “More bikes, less cars.”

He just wishes Bikeshare Hawaii would move the station elsewhere, a block farther makai, for instance.

McCarney, who is also a member of the Downtown-­Chinatown Neighborhood Board, said the city had planned the bulb-outs in advance of the bikeshare rollout and suggested the station within it. She wants to gather various constituents of Chinatown to determine where additional Biki stations could go to bring more visitors to the neighborhood.

The Biki stations that are often among the 10 least used, she said, are the ones at Beretania and Isenberg streets, Halekauwila and South streets and by Aloha Tower Marketplace (Bishop Street and Aloha Tower Drive).

McCarney said Bikeshare Hawaii is evaluating those stations but is not likely to move them any time soon.

Once residents move into Keauhou Place, she said, perhaps the adjacent Halekauwila/South streets station will get more use. As for Aloha Tower Marketplace, perhaps the station is not as visible as it could be for students at Hawaii Pacific University and could benefit from more publicity. The Beretania/Isenberg location near the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii is primarily residential, so it might take longer to catch on, she said.

A few Biki stations at Ala Moana Regional Park moved due to sprinkler renovations. One at University Avenue was adjusted a few feet to improve drivers’ line of sight. McCarney said moving stations will get more difficult as time goes on.

In an effort to generate interest, Bikeshare Hawaii partnered with about 20 restaurants to offer discounts for Biki users in August and is partnering with retail businesses for its next promotion, “Biki Buys,” in November. Biki is also now offering a “Request a Biki Stop” form online.

“We’re still learning,” said McCarney. “The best thing we can do is listen to the community, our users, look at patterns and then try to build a substantial transportation system that works for the community. So we’re never going to be done making improvements.”

Member Meeting and Mixer- Nov. 29th


Join the Sierra Club O‘ahu Group for our annual member meeting and mixer and help us celebrate our accomplishments of 2017!  This is a social event open to all members and supporters of the Sierra Club O‘ahu Group.

This year alone, we’ve led nearly 90 hikes and service projects on O‘ahu, successfully advocated for the full funding of Honolulu’s new Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency, secured Mayor Caldwell’s commitment to 100% clean energy, advocated for electric buses and biking infrastructure, helped prevent inappropriate development projects on agricultural and conservation lands throughout O‘ahu, passed 8 Neighborhood Board Resolutions to protect our water from the Red Hill Tanks, and successfully lobbied for O‘ahu’s revised plastic bag ban.

Although this is a free event, we will be providing light pupus and will have Sierra Club swag available. Donations are greatly appreciated because they help support our work on O‘ahu.

Learn more and RSVP at our Facebook event.


Support for Resolutions relating to Clean Transportation

The O‘ahu Group continues our work to encourage clean transportation for O‘ahu.

We submitted written and oral testimony in support for Resolution 17-237, which encourages an electric bus pilot program, the adoption of a comprehensive transition plan, and moving to all zero-emission electric buses: 

We also submitted written and oral testimony in support for Resolution 17-238, which urges the city to transition to an all electric vehicle motor pool and automotive fleet. The city currently has about 1,800 vehicles in use and only 2 are electric…so far.

Both Resolutions had support from the City Administration and passed through the Transportation and Planning Committee at the October 26, 2017 meeting. They were adopted unanimously by the full Council at the November 1, 2017 meeting.