No consensus on Kakaako
A state Senate hearing attracts backers and detractors of a plan for a seashore village
THE DEBATE over a $650 million development plan along Honolulu's central waterfront got another airing yesterday at a Senate hearing, and at least one senator is wondering whether selling state land to make way for the project is a good idea.
The Senate Water and Lands Committee, in a fact-finding meeting, heard from supporters and detractors of the Kewalo Basin project, a proposed 36.5-acre waterfront urban village on state land in the Kakaako area.
The Hawaii Community Development Authority plan calls for A&B Properties to develop the land into an urban village, with shops, apartments and parks on land next to Kakaako Park and the University of Hawaii School of Medicine.
The semiautonomous HCDA was created by the Legislature in 1976 to develop the Kakaako area. Its goal is to provide affordable housing and infrastructure, including roads and sewers, and improve the economy of the area.
But the plan now has some legislators asking if HCDA has overstepped its bounds.
"I don't think the Legislature wants to micro-manage the project, but the policy about selling state land is what a number of people are concerned about," Sen. Donna Kim (D, Kalihi Valley-Halawa) said.
And opponents seem to be gaining in numbers.
During yesterday's meeting, the Outdoor Circle said state land would be sold and ocean views would be blocked by the proposed project.
"The Outdoor Circle ... insists that the state take the necessary steps to halt this project until it can be redesigned, placing the interests of Honolulu's residents first," said Robert Loy, Outdoor Circle environmental programs director.
The project also has been criticized by surfers and other park users, but it has been widely praised by planners, architects and property owners.
League of Women Voters spokeswoman Jacqueline Parnell said the project would actually improve public access to park land.
Clustering shops, apartments and parks together is smart growth and "makes us a vibrant city," Parnell said.
If the Legislature amends the plan to forbid housing, Parnell said, no one will develop the land, which now includes an old boatyard, an abandoned tuna cannery and a yard for city dump trucks.
"You can live with what there is now ... or you give the people the park they want financed entirely by public funds," Parnell said.
Representatives for Kamehameha Schools and General Growth Properties, which owns and operates Ala Moana Center and the Victoria Ward Properties, testified that a "residential component is important" to revitalize the area.
But critics of the plan are not so sure. Michelle Matson said the planned residential units and private parking stalls are "the antithesis of solid planning practices and public open-space protection. Recognized significant view planes will be destroyed by isolated high-rises popping up out of sync along the shoreline," Matson said.
Surf shop owner David Kelly said Honolulu needs more parks, not more shopping centers.
"Do you think another shopping center is going to encourage the kids to hang out in parks? Once we build condos in Kakaako, it will destroy what Hawaii is about, and that is preserving our land," Kelly said.
But city planner Lowell Chun said the Kakaako plan is well balanced.
"It is a spectacular setting for establishing a successful, mixed-use urban community," Chun said.