CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kukui Gardens residents held signs along North King Street yesterday to protest the sale of the complex.
Kukui buyers narrowed to 3
Some residents of the housing complex still protest the sale
Trustees for Kukui Gardens have narrowed down a list of 17 prospective buyers to three, all of whom have pledged to keep the 857-duplex affordable-housing complex standing.
"The tenants are going to be pleased with whatever they (the board) pick," said R. Stevens Gilley, the board's real estate consultant, who is helping with the sale.
But residents remain skeptical, and about 60 held a vigil at Tamarind Square yesterday to protest the sale. They want Kukui Gardens to go to a nonprofit organization that would keep rents low.
Drew Astolfi, staff director for Faith Action Community Equity, which is helping Kukui Gardens tenants, said the board has been "completely not receptive" to residents' concerns.
"How dare they put so many at risk when there are options available to them" to keep the complex affordable, he said. He also questioned why the board has not been more open during the process. Trustees met behind closed doors yesterday to discuss the offers at the Tam & Stanford law offices. Partner Raymond Tam is a member of the board.
Kukui Gardens was put on the market in January. It was built by late philanthropist Clarence T.C. Ching, whose foundation now manages Kukui Gardens. Both of Ching's sons, Lawrence and Wallace, are on the housing complex's board.
Board members have said the nonprofit could no longer afford to run the housing complex. Proceeds from its sale would go to other foundation initiatives, including a new building already under way at Saint Louis School on Waialae Avenue.
Kukui Gardens must remain affordable housing until 2011, under the terms of a loan with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Also, HUD must approve the complex's sale. But Astolfi said the agency's approval "is just not a significant obstacle."
It will take at least three more weeks for the trustees to agree on a buyer, Gilley said, adding all the prospective buyers manage other housing complexes on the mainland.
Some have holdings in the islands, but it is unclear if they have run other affordable-housing complexes, he said.
"They're not going to kick out anybody," Gilley added. "They want the tenants there."
He also said there would likely be a rent increase after the HUD agreement is over, but stressed it would be "minor."
The trustees did not consider the highest bids offered, which were from developers. The offers that made it to the final three were in the "higher end" of the pile, Gilley said.
He would not say how much had been offered.
Meanwhile, trustee Paul Loo submitted his resignation to the board yesterday, saying he has been unable to concentrate on his work at Morgan Stanley because tenants have been calling him frequently to try to persuade him to reconsider the sale.
"Groups are not only calling my office, I'm being asked by legislators to come and testify," Loo said.
Lawmakers are considering a bill that would condemn Kukui Gardens to keep it affordable housing.