Under the Sun
You don’t like project developing at Kewalo? Then complain about it
PEOPLE don't seem to complain about potholes anymore, or if they do, they aren't grumbling as much or as loudly as they did just a few months ago.
Same thing with beverage container deposits. Except for sporadic breast-beating about HI-5, it looks like the people have come to accept the law, which, by the way, has succeeded in tripling the number of recycled bottles since January.
Even Hurricane Katrina has floated into the backwaters of public attention, though feckless FEMA is still fooling around with truckloads of ice (last reported sitting in an Oregon parking lot) and many Gulf Coast residents remain adrift with few prospects for housing and jobs.
Trouble and distressing events aren't in shortage worldwide or at home.
Some of them don't have much staying power, like the Beverly Harbin-Governor Lingle mess that had erupted a month back.
Others are perennial. Hawaii's high cost of living is one of them, but that broad category punches up components constantly. Gasoline has been the dominant topic of dissatisfaction recently with the unfortunate confluence of hurricane-induced shortages and our own little price-cap venture.
Discussions about housing will never lack heat in the islands simply because demand continues to exceed supply and because supply leans toward the affluent. Take a look at recently announced developments. More often, new projects are labeled "luxury" or are tied to swanky resorts, meaning they're not for ordinary working stiffs.
Some issues simmer until news reports turn up the burners. One of these is the Hawaii Community Development Authority's plan for development of the Kewalo waterfront.
No one would argue that the area that mostly houses buss-up warehouses and industrial structures doesn't need fixing up, but the project will sacrifice public land for private residences -- 947 condos in three 20-story high buildings on the makai side of Ala Moana Boulevard.
The developer will pay the state $50 million for the condo land and $600,000 a year for leasing the rest of the 65 acres, a bargain considering the oceanside location and profits the retail components will likely draw.
How much the condos will sell for hasn't been disclosed, but you can bet they won't be affordable, not even the ones that are supposed to be in that vague category.
The rationale for the deal is that developer will spend about $650 million to transform the area, something the state believes it can't afford to do alone, and to increase the economy, the standard reason for almost everything politicians and the powers that be can dream up.
A park won't do; parks don't generate income, they don't increase the economy. But wouldn't it be beneficial to extend the all-too-short open space that runs from Ala Wai harbor through Ala Moana Park just a little bit more toward downtown? Isn't just a couple of miles of unobstructed shoreline in a dense urban zone worth more to residents and tourists than $50 million -- which wouldn't come close to paying for a couple month's worth of government operations.
Though the project promises to create a "vibrant public gathering place" (as one news publication gushed), what will more likely result is another barrier that walls off residents just as Waikiki's hotels and retail emporiums do. Instead of a free public space, it will merely be one more shopping area primarily for the well-to-do and tourists.
A few state senators are questioning the land sale and project, but they need a push. People who don't want to see public lands offered up to the lowest bidder, who want to salvage a thin slice of ocean view and who don't want access to the shoreline cut off ought to complain. There's more at stake than a pothole or a nickel deposit.
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Cynthia Oi has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at: email@example.com