Saturday, June 2, 2012

Anti-Railer Slater Ignores Obvious, Says Buildings Were ‘Cleared Out at Foot Of Bishop Street’ To Maintain ‘Clear View to the Harbor’; Photo Below Shows Area, so Who Does He Think He’s Kidding?

Office towers surround Dillingham Transportation Building (red-tiled roof).
We sometimes see only what we want to see, and what Cliff Slater sees in downtown Honolulu today is “a clear view to the harbor without obstruction.” Say that again?
Mr. Slater, long known here at Yes2Rail as the anti-railer-in-chief (see link to our “aggregate site” in the right-hand column), was a guest on Hawaii Public Radio’s “The Conversation” show on Wednesday. He answered questions posed by host Beth-Ann Kozlovich about the nature of the lawsuit Mr. Slater and others have filed to kill rail.
Mr. Slater: If you block the view that people have become habituated to, that they’ve seen Aloha Tower, for example, and then suddenly that’s totally blocked, that’s considered a “constructive use.” If you look at the Nimitz-Ala Moana portion of the rail in particular, you can see that that would totally overwhelm downtown. We have before and after photos of the downtown and Chinatown stations and others, and that would just totally cover up everything. You would not have the same kind of feel downtown that you presently have.
It doesn’t have to be a direct impact. You don’t have to harm the building to have a constructive use of it…. If you totally covered up Dillingham Transportation Building without touching it, you’re obviously harming people’s views and use of that building, even though you haven’t touched it. It’s a question of what have you done to downtown.
Where’s the Harbor?
This view looking makai down Bishop Street is on Google’s Street View site and shows the “unobstructed" view of the harbor Mr. Slater wants to protect by keeping elevated rail out of downtown. Rail’s downtown station would be just on the other side of the Dillingham Transportation Building at left and would block the view of Hawaiian Electric’s power plant – which has been blocking views of the harbor since the 1930s.
Ms. Kozlovich: But when most people hear the word “use," the idea of some activity that actually involves some interaction between the thing itself and what impact….that’s only part of it. You’re also looking at what happens if you can’t see it, if it doesn’t have the same aesthetic value, if it doesn’t give the same feel, some of those more soft impact of what would happen.
Mr. Slater: Exactly. If you look at those photos of downtown, before and after, obviously that has a huge impact on downtown and our understanding and feel of all that historic area of downtown, and that has been well-covered in other cases before.
Ms. Kozlovich: Some would make the case though that we’ve had very large buildings, very different kinds of architecture, and that keeps changing over time, how we feel about downtown as it’s been morphing as modern times have taken over. What makes this different?
Mr. Slater: This is a visual thing. You have to see the before and after, the photos and renderings, which were done by the American Institute of Architects, Hawaii Chapter, to see what kind of an impact this would have on the view planes. You know, the architects worked for many years to clear out the buildings at the foot of Bishop Street so that you could have a clear view to the harbor without obstruction. This is gonna obstruct downtown…. Our whole coalition is based on keeping elevated heavy rail out of downtown.
Ms. Kozlovich: So those roughly 30 other sites that were (that a federal judge removed from the anti-rail lawsuit) outside the downtown area from what you’ve just said, why were they even included in the first place?
Mr. Slater: Because of all the historic concerns that other people had about that. Our core concern (Is) keeping elevated heavy rail out of the city, and that’s still intact….
Clearly, Mr. Slater still imagines an old downtown Honolulu that simply doesn’t exist today. His mind’s-eye picture shows the Castle & Cooke Building that once covered a city block and was razed to make way for the Davies Pacific Center at Bishop and Queen streets. Still intact are the low-rise buildings where the twin towers of the Amfac Center (now Topa Financial Center) were built. (This photo shows the view of HECO’s Honolulu power plant, across Ala Moana Blvd. from the Dillingham Transportation Building.)
Mr. Slater is using scare tactics in suggesting Honolulu rail will “totally cover up” the Dillingham Building. Yes, the view of the building from the HECO power plant and the Aloha Tower area will have the downtown rail station in it, but the view from virtually every other angle will not be affected by that station.  We’ll see the building after rail is built exactly as it’s shown today in the photo below.
What Mr. Slater’s ongoing anti-rail campaign is covering up is any reasonable sense of perspective on the necessity to build a modern transportation system to meet the needs of a modern, thriving metropolis.

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