Around HawaiiOceanic Time Warner Cable's Community Website
OceanicspacerRoad Runner Mailspacerspacer

Aloha! It's Saturday, April 25, 2015


Business :: Real Estate :: Hawaii Real Estate Coach :: Truths and Myths About Zoning Rules

Truths and Myths About Zoning Rules

User Graphic
**** Based on 1 member review

The zoning rules in the city and county of Honolulu is regulated by the "Land Use Ordinance" otherwise known as the LUO. The LUO is the bible of zoning for Oahu residents. The LUO is written in English but you almost need a translator to explain the details in the LUO. The LUO is available online at or you can purchase the hard copy at the City and County City Hall bookstore.

This article will deal with the question: How many homes can I build on my property?  

The answer is:  It depends on the zoning, the lot size, availability of utilities such as water, sewer, fire protection, topography of the land, etc.

I will deal with Residential zoned land in this article and can touch on other zoning classifications in the future. There are 5 categories in Residential zoned properties. They are R-3.5, R-5, R-7.5, R-10 and R-20. The R stands for residential and the number stands for the minimum lot size in that category. 3.5 means that the minimum lot size for R-3.5 is 3,500 square feet. R-5 for 5,000 sqaure feet, and so forth. You will find R-3.5 properties in lower Kalihi, Liliha, Palama, Kapahulu. R-5 properties are everywhere and has the most homes in this category. R-7.5 properties are in the upper areas in the valleys and mountains and R-10 and R-20 zoned lots are further up the valleys and mountains.  For example, lower Manoa is R-5, R-7.5 properties are  above the University of Hawaii. In Nuuanu, R-3.5 is found on Pauoa Road, R-5 is found above Pauoa Road and R-10 is found above Laimi Road in Nuuanu.

If you want to build one house, any legally subdivided lot of record must be given the right to build one house. If you have a lot that is 3,000 square feet in R-5 zoned land, the city must give you a permit to build one house even though the lot is substandard in size. You must follow the setback and height limitations to build the house. If you have a house on a substandard lot and the house burns down or is destroyed or you tear the house down, you can get a permit to build a house.

If you want to build a duplex in R-5 zoned land, you must have a minimum of 7,500 square feet to build a duplex. If you want to build 2 detached homes, you must have 10,000 square feet or double the minimum lot area of 5,000 square feet to build 2 detached homes. The 7,500 to less than 10,000 square foot lot is called "Two Family Detached Dwelling Lot" in the LUO. The homes are attached but the designation has the word detached which is very confusing. You need to take my LUO class to get a full explanation to clear up the potential confusion. On R-7.5 zoned land, you need 14,000 square feet to build a duplex and 15,000 or more to build 2 detached homes. You will notice that the miniumum land area for R-7.5 zoned land much greater compared to R-5 zoned land. You are not allowed to build duplexes on R-10 and R-20 land. You will need 20,000 square feet on R-10 land and 40,000 square feet on R-20 land to build 2 detached homes.

As you can see, the zoning rules can be complicated. You need to consult an expert who knows the Land Use Ordinance to determine what you can and cannot do with your property. I have had people call me and tell me they found a property that has a big yard to fit another house and wanted to know if they can build a second home on the lot. I always ask what is the zoning and what is the land area and is there room to build a second house. The existing house may be built right in the middle of the lot and it would be very difficult to build a second home unless you moved the existing home or tore it down and built new or built the addition that is attached to the existing home. It is highly recommended that you understand the zoning rules before you buy a house if you have plans to build a second home with a legal kitchen. Some landowners will build an addition to the house and show a bar sink on the plans and after the house is built and the final inspection is done by the city officials, they will install an illegal kitchen and use the second unit as a rental.

Next article will deal with larger parcels of land and what you can do with the land and what steps are involved in the development process.

If you have any questions on zoning issues, please feel free to email me at or feel free to call me at 216 4999. I have free incoming calls. I try to answer any questions within the day or by the next day.

If you are planning to buy or sell a home, I highly recommend that you take the prelicensing course for real estate even if you do not plan on getting a real estate license. I teach all 60 hours and cover topics such as tenancies and how to hold title to property, licensing laws, easements, agency and duties of an agent to the client, how to understand the listing and purchase contracts, escrow services, title reports, land court and regular system of recording documents, financing the purchase, VA and FHA loans, Hula Mae loans, truth in lending law, fair housing, surveys, encroachments, liens, foreclosure process (judicial and nonjudicial), mechanics liens, judgments, wills and inheritances, property management, leasehold law, condominum laws, cooperatives, subdivision laws, timeshare laws, etc. You will become a better educated consumer and can make the real estate transaction smoother by understanding the laws and the process.

If you take the course and buy or sell property through Abe Lee Realty, I will reimburse you the tuition. If you want to get a real estate license, you can join a referral company and get paid 20% of the commission earned for giving referrals without doing any work. If you give us one referral that ends up in a closed transaction, I will reimburse you the tuition. If you want to pursue a career in real estate, I would be glad to give you guidance on various companies that you can join. Abe Lee Realty hires full time agents. Most of the big firms hire full time agents. Other firms may take part time agents. Go to for a schedule of the prelicensing classes for 2008. Hope to hear from you soon.

The views and information contained are not provided or endorsed by Oceanic Time Warner Cable or any its affiliates. The content provided is for general information and entertainment purposes only. Please seek professional advice before acting on any information contained within this web site. Any unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.


User Graphic
jimmiespen — Sunday, May 29, 2011
Hi Everyone... I have a question about R-5 zoning. If a parcel is zoned r-5, does that mean that the landowner has the right to build as many single family homes on that land as is possible, where each separate house must have a minimum of 5,000sf? So, the owner of a 10,000 sf lot has the right to build two separate houses, no matter what? Are there any exceptions to this rule? Thanks for any guidance on this! Jim

20150319- Q2_Phone_Phone2Go

The new Around Hawaii website is finally here!

To view the new website, please go to Around Hawaii will fully transition to the new website by May 8, 2015. Our goal is to provide you with a fast and convenient starting point online. With a single click, you will be able to view the latest local news, sports and original local content all within a single space.

Send This Person a Message

Email Article to a Friend

Become a Columnist
Are you an expert in your own field? Do you know somebody who is? Fill out our online form and tell us about it. We'll select and consider those who fit the bill!

Oceanic on Twitter Oceanic on Facebook