Tuesday, November 3, 2009

HHF Advocates for Minimizing and Mitigating the Rail’s Adverse Effects on Historic Properties

In what the City hopes will be the final negotiations on the Federal and State reviews for the rail’s impacts on historic properties, Historic Hawai‘i Foundation (HHF) continues to support and recommend solutions to mitigate and minimize the adverse effects on the historic properties by the proposed route.

Photo above: Honolulu's Historic Chinatown District is one of over 30 historic
places to be adversely affected by the future rail project.

“HHF has not taken a position on the transit system as a whole, or on other issues such as alignment, technology or cost,” Faulkner said. “Our response is focused on the potential impacts to historic sites and ways that those can be avoided and minimized, and where avoidance is impractical, how best to mitigate that effect.”

Historic Hawaii Foundation (HHF) is a consulting party to the Section 106 process for the Honolulu High Capacity Rapid Transit project, also known as the proposed rail system.

As a consulting party, HHF was invited to provide input into the negotiations on an agreement to avoid, minimize and mitigate effects on historic properties, which will be memorialized as a Programmatic Agreement (PA) between the official Signatories of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), and the Honolulu Department of Transportation Services (DTS). These Signatories must execute the final agreement in order for federal funding to be released to the project.

Other consulting parties included the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Park Service, the American Institute of Architects Honolulu Chapter, the O‘ahu Island Burial Council, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Hui Mālama I Na Kupuna O Hawai‘i Nei, several Hawaiian Civic Clubs, and a variety of other entities. Each party approached the consultation from its own perspective and in response to its own guiding principles and mission.

HHF has responded to the historic property impacts at each stage of the review process, including recommendations for avoiding, minimizing and mitigating impacts to historic resources.

ISSUE 1: Determination of Effects

In September 2008, HHF reviewed the Historic Resources Technical Report for the project. At that time, the project team acknowledged only six adverse effects to historic resources along the entire 20 mile corridor. HHF’s response was that the determination of effects needed to include direct, indirect, cumulative and reasonably foreseeable impacts on the corridor, the station areas, important view planes, and traditional cultural properties.

As an outcome of the process, the current proposed PA includes a determination of adverse effect on 31 historic properties within the corridor and provides for additional investigation to be conducted into traditional cultural properties and Native Hawaiian burials. A verbal agreement that is expected to be included in the next draft document will also provide for monitoring and evaluation of demolition of historic properties within station areas.

ISSUE 2: Avoidance of Historic Properties

“It is important to have advance investigation into all known historic and cultural resources that will be affected by the system, and to select the alternative that does the least harm while still allowing the project need to be met,” Faulkner said.

The project proposes to utilize existing right of way to minimize property acquisition for the project. The selection of the alignment, station areas, parking areas and other built components also limits both direct and indirect impacts on historic structures. However, the elevated technology will create visual impacts along the entire corridor, resulting in adverse effects on many historic properties. The chosen alignment along the waterfront is also in a high sensitivity area with known Native Hawaiian burials, which will likely be discovered and disturbed during construction.

The proposed PA includes a stipulation for the City to conduct archeology and cultural investigations for the later construction phases (which contain the areas of highest likelihood of additional discoveries) with local adjustments to piers and footings, or treatment plans for iwi kupuna, to be developed at a later date. O‘ahu Island Burial Council (OIBC) has opposed this approach, instead recommending that the evaluation be done first, and then the alignment selected.

“HHF believes that the project has mostly avoided historic buildings, but defers to the judgment of the OIBC in its evaluation of how the project will affect iwi kupuna and traditional cultural places,” Faulkner said.

ISSUE 3: Minimizing and Mitigating Adverse Effects

When the City released its Historic Resources Technical Report in September 2008 and the Draft Environmental Impact Statement in October 2008, it proposed mitigation for adverse effects only in the form of additional studies and documentation. HHF’s comments on the Technical Report and the DEIS included nine major areas for mitigation. During the consultation process, refinements and additions were made to the initial proposals.

“Looking at mitigation only on a site-by-site basis would not address the entire scope of the effects to historic properties, so throughout the review process, Historic Hawai‘i Foundation has proposed and supported mitigation for indirect, cumulative and reasonably foreseeable effects,” said Faulkner.

Substantial progress has been made since August 2009. Some of the City’s commitments to mitigation have been included in the current draft PA, while others have been made verbally and are expected to be reflected in the next draft of the written agreement.

Which HHF Proposals will be Included in the Programmatic Agreement (PA)?

1. HHF Proposed: Documentation of all adversely affected historic resources

The PA Includes (as of 10/30/09):
  • Historic Building Survey, Engineering Record and Landscape Survey (HABS/HAER/HALS) recordation will be conducted for certain resources as determined with National Park Service;
  • Archival photography of all other resources;
  • Photo documentation of select resources and viewsheds;
  • Comprehensive video documentation of project corridor.

2. HHF Proposed: Conduct cultural landscape reports

 The PA Includes (as of 10/30/09):
  • Historic Context Studies for relevant themes;
  • Cultural Landscape Reports for historic properties;
  • Traditional Cultural Properties study and treatment measures;
  • Archeological Inventory Survey and consultation with OIBC, Lineal and Cultural Descendents for treatment plans, monitoring, mitigation, data recovery and curation of iwi kupuna.

 3. HHF Proposed: Provide historic and architectural interpretation of resources

The PA Includes (as of 10/30/09):
  • Interpretive plan and signage installation at stations and in vehicles;
  • Historic brochure about the history of the area along the line (1000 copies);
  • Materials for children (digital format);
  • Humanities program to explore human histories, cultures and values ($100,000);
  • Educational program to encourage the rehabilitation of historic properties along the route (2 meetings, printed and electronic information).
  • Educational field guide of historic properties and districts along the transit route (print and electronic format).

4. HHF Proposed: Provide public access to documentation through a geo-coded electronic database to serve as an inventory of resources and research platform.

The PA Includes (as of 10/30/09):
  • Searchable database of historic properties in the transit corridor (excluding culturally sensitive data), publicly accessible, with interactive geographic component; links to documentations;
  • Develop strategy to make database available to any organization with capacity to maintain and support the database post-construction.

5. HHF Proposed: Write or update National Register Nominations for all 76 eligible historic parcels and districts; submit the nominations for formal designation.

 The PA Includes (as of 10/30/09):

  • Complete or update nominations for up to 31 adversely affected historic properties, and submit nominations unless property owners object;
  • Complete a Multiple Property Submission related to Modernism and the Recent Past Architecture in Honolulu/Oahu;
  • Update the Pearl Harbor National Historic Landmark documentation (subject to Navy cooperation).

 6. HHF Proposed: Establish a City & County of Honolulu Preservation Program and seek designation as a Certified Local Government.
The PA Includes (as of 10/30/09):
  • City shall include a staff position for Architectural Historian for the transit project during the duration of the PA;
  • City shall establish a Honolulu High Capacity Transit Corridor Project Historic Preservation Committee to develop a $2,000,000 funding program for historic preservation within the corridor.
  • The City shall monitor the loss of historic or eligible resources with the corridor. Additional refinement and response to any patterns of demolition are being discussed and should be included in the final PA.
7. HHF Proposed: Establish a Main Street Program to achieve economic development through historic preservation.

The PA Includes (as of 10/30/09):
  • No stipulations from this proposal is included in the agreement.
 8. HHF Proposed: Protection and restoration of affected historic properties

     The PA Includes (as of 10/30/09):

  • Development and implementation of historic parks improvement plans for all adversely effected historic parks (Irwin, Walker and Mother Waldron), up to $750,000 for improvements;
  • Protect and reinstall lava rock curbs;
  • Repair or replace in-kind historic bridge rails on Kapalama Canal bridge;
  • Replace true Kamani trees on Dillingham Blvd.

Photo above: Walker Park would benefit from
 the proposed parks improvement plan, which is to be
created and funded by the rail project as
 part of the mitigation for adversely
affecting historic sites.

9. HHF Proposed: Provide compatible design and context sensitive solutions for each station area and the guideway infrastructure.

    The PA Includes (as of 10/30/09):
  • Consistency with Secretary of the Interior Standards for Rehabilitation where historic properties are present.
  • Neighborhood design workshops (2) for each grouping of stations.
  • Design review of all built components by SHPD and concurring parties at Preliminary and Final design phases.
  • Additional measures to compatibility with historic resources and mitigation of effects are being discussed.
10. HHF Proposed: Other Measures

The PA Includes (as of 10/30/09):
  • All work carried out under the terms of the PA shall be conducted by qualified preservation professionals;
  • Construction protection plan to include noise and vibration monitoring, protection and mitigation. If any eligible historic property is damaged, it will be repaired following SOI standards;
  • A master schedule of implementation of the stipulations, deadlines and benchmarks, kick-off, scoping and review timeframes is to be developed;
  • Information about the progress of implementation of the PA shall be posted on the website and available to the public;
  • An annual meeting of signatories and concurring parties will review implementation progress;
  • Dispute resolution and administrative procedures are included;
  • Duration of PA: through end of construction.
  • Continued discussion on the current mitigation measures that limit involvement to “concurring” parties; this should be changed to “consulting” parties.

“Although Historic Hawai‘i Foundation supports improved transportation options for Honolulu, we remain concerned that the proposed system will fundamentally change the cultural landscape of O‘ahu and could forever diminish the civic experience in Honolulu’s historic areas,” said Faulkner. “We continue to remain engaged in the consultation process in order to ensure that appropriate and proportionate measures are taken to mitigate that effect.”

“HHF will also continue to be involved in the implementation of the agreement to ensure that the measures are followed, and all possible steps are taken to protect the essential character of the historic communities along the transit route,” Faulkner added.

For questions about Historic Hawaii Foundation's work with the Honolulu Rapid Transit Project, please contact Kiersten Faulkner at (808)523-2900.