Council should not sell property to balance city's budget
A mayor's panel has recommended that the city sell some properties but not as a means to balance its budget.
THE City Council acted in seeming desperation last year
in accepting the bargain sale of choice downtown property to balance the city's budget. That is not the way the city should decide whether to unload any of the 700-plus parcels it owns. It should instead follow the recommendation by a team of business people that it use a more sound method to dispose of some of those properties.
Mayor Hannemann appointed the team in May to "take a comprehensive look at all of our city property, and whether or not we should dispose of them and how to do that." The review was made in the wake of the city's sale of a 2.3-acre downtown parking lot for $10.5 million to Pflueger Group, which is planning a 39-story tower and car dealership. The property's asking price was $15 million, needed to balance the city's budget.
The review team's boldest recommendation was that the city get out of the affordable housing business altogether. Hannemann says he agrees that the city should sell its 13 affordable rental housing buildings but would insist "that it stay in affordable housing and that we don't displace existing tenants."
Stipulations could be included in sales agreements that rents in those buildings remain affordable. While that could significantly reduce their value to prospective landlords, the mayor's appreciation of the effect on present tenants is well placed. He said the recommendation will be reviewed "exhaustively."
The panel also suggested selling one of the three municipal golf courses in the Waipahu-Ewa area -- Ted Makalena, West Loch and Ewa Villages. The West Loch course probably would be most attractive to buyers because of its landscaping and accessibility as a privately owned course open to the public.
Hannemann said the city has received an offer to purchase its Alii Place office building downtown. Approval of that sale would require the city to pay rent for the city prosecutor's continued presence in that building or to find other city office space for the prosecutor.
In the Kaimuki area, the panel recommended that the city redevelop its parking lots to attract more people and spur economic growth. Revenue from sales of other properties could be used for such improvements, just as proceeds from the sale of one of the three golf courses could be used for improvements at the other two.
The review team also endorsed a public-private partnership to operate the Honolulu Zoo. Hannemann has appointed a separate "group of stake holders" to examine such an operation. The Honolulu Zoo Society, which focuses on fund raising, education and volunteer programs, should be assigned to run the zoo.
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