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Message from the Chair

 

It is a great time to be a planner in Hawaii. Honolulu has recently been named one of Rockefeller’s 100 Resilient Cities, launched a bikeshare program, and is in a period of densification within the urban core. Lihue town is being revitalized through an impressive Tiger Grant. Complete streets, walkability, bikeability – all parts of this broader notion of livability—are becoming everyday topics in decision-making. The intersection between the natural and built environment is perhaps more pronounced within an island, which offers both threats and opportunities. In Hawaii, we struggle with limited land availability, which affects the affordability of housing and makes clear tradeoffs between development, agriculture and open space. The closing of our last sugarcane plantation on Maui last year, for example, has again brought to the fore questions of how our lands should transition in a post-plantation economy.

Hawaii has immensely rich ecosystems from mauka (mountains) to makai (oceans), which form the backbone of our beautiful islands. Protecting our biodiversity, the quality of our waters and watersheds, from, for example, urban run-off, wastewater and invasive species is critical for the survival of not only our economy but also our culture and island life. Hawaii has made broad and strong commitments to renewable energy adoption, with the goal of achieving 100% net sales of electricity through renewable sources by 2045. The Governor recently created a Commission to explore both GHG reduction strategies and climate adaptation; and the county governments have similarly pledged to create Climate Action Plans. We are already experiencing the impacts of sea level rise, where the “King Tides” create salt water flooding throughout our coastal areas. This exacerbates our existing challenges in coastal planning, where our planners must traverse a tricky path between private land interests and maintaining our most valuable public trust, the beaches. Tsunamis, hurricanes, and other acute disasters exacerbate these vulnerabilities.

Students interested in any range of environmental planning topics, from energy to waste management to disaster risk reduction, will find that Hawaii provides an endless laboratory for learning. Those interested in land use, housing, and infrastructure will find that, like most U.S. cities, the rapidly changing transportation landscape is opening up the possibility to reimagine the functionality of space within urban areas. At the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, our faculty are committed to being thought leaders in the areas of environmental planning and community resiliency. Our program is designed around the areas of: Environment and Sustainability, Land Use and Transportation, Community Planning, Planning in Hawaii and Asia/Pacific, and Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance. We invite you to apply to our accredited Master of Urban and Regional Planning and our research-intensive PhD program. We additionally provide certificate programs in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance, a Professional Certificate in Urban and Regional Planning for those currently working in the field, and a Planning Studies certificate for current students in other programs within the University of Hawaii at Manoa. This year DURP launched its alumni association, The DURP Ohana. We value the support and enthusiasm of our rich alumni network – a strong indicator to me of the difference we can make in peoples lives and communities.

Makena Coffman
Professor and Chair

November 13, 2017