Planned ‘improvements’ will destroy Kakaako
This is in response to "Lawmakers voice concern over plan to build at Kakaako
" (Star-Bulletin, Oct. 14).
The Legislature established the Hawaii Community Development Authority in 1976 to serve the people of Hawaii. Since then, HCDA has mutated into an agency that serves the big developers. The HCDA board has to remember that HCDA is a state agency and, as such, serves the people of Hawaii, not big developers. If not, the Legislature must pass legislation that will bring HCDA under direct legislative oversight.
On the HCDA's Web site, Daniel Dinell, the executive director, states that "the HCDA is tasked with the exciting responsibility of contributing toward positive economic and quality of life outcomes for Hawaii's people. ... HCDA is meeting its challenge for Kakaako to articulate a vision to encompass our unique island lifestyle, to promote positive economic development, to preserve our diverse cultural heritage and to foster a live, work, visit, learn and play community."
If you are somewhere between St. Louis Heights to Punchbowl, look toward Kakaako and you can see the beginning of HCDA's vision -- high-rises slowly creeping across, blocking your view of the ocean. Or go down to the Ala Moana tennis courts. As you face mauka, you will see that the Koolaus have been replaced by a mountain range of glass and concrete. These are condominiums that many of us cannot even dream of owning. How do these massive developments "encompass our unique island lifestyle"?
Walk down Queen Street between Kamakee Street and Ward Avenue and ask the small businesses along the street, "How will HCDA's vision 'promote positive economic development' for your business?" Soon HCDA will start construction on this part of Queen Street. The result will be a loss of parking for these businesses and a once quaint, peaceful street will be a major thoroughfare for the big developments. Their answer will be a look of anger. First they will lose a lot of their business because of the 18-month construction period. After construction, they will not get back the customers they lost because they will not have parking in front of their businesses.
Then comes the knife in the back: They will be assessed for "improvements" that they have paid for through decades of property taxes. HCDA says that the assessments are just a small percentage of the total construction cost. How many of you think that $70,000 to $240,000 is peanuts? To the small businesses, every penny is important. Now comes the final twist of the knife -- the improvements will cause an increase in property taxes.
Some of these businesses have been in Kakaako for more than 50 years. They are the "diverse cultural heritage" of Kakaako. HCDA's vision of large developments will bury this heritage. Kakaako will cease to exist.
Recently, HCDA went through the motions of a public hearing to change the rules for Kakaako Makai development. The decision to change the rules was made before the public hearing because the bidding developers told HCDA that they needed a residential component. HCDA was blinded by its vision. Kakaako Makai is a prime state-owned, ocean-front property. To go fishing, picnicking, surfing or just to enjoy the ocean is a "unique island lifestyle" that should be preserved.
The vision of the redevelopment of Kakaako should be the melding of many visions: small businesses, small landowners, the community, the University of Hawaii, the maritime industry, developers and so on. But for the past 30 years, HCDA officials have been operating in a vacuum. They believe their vision is the only vision. The HCDA board, the governor or the Legislature must take the blinders off HCDA before Kakaako is forever lost.
Dexter Okada is president of U. Okada & Co.
and a member of the Kakaako Business and