Bill keeps hope alive for Kukui residents
Legislation would condemn the complex in order to keep it affordable
Kukui Gardens residents crowded into their small community center yesterday to celebrate the passage through committee last week of a bill that would condemn the housing complex in order to keep it affordable.
They also vowed to keep up the fight, and planned to make a show of force tomorrow at the state Legislature, when House Bill 2239 is expected to come up for a full vote.
"This is a good day for us," Carol Anzai, president of the Kukui Gardens Association, told about 25 residents who came together yesterday for a pep talk and buffet.
"But we're not out of the woods yet."
Kukui Gardens was put on the market in January, and a buyer -- Carmel Partners Inc. -- was selected this month.
Sources have told the Star-Bulletin that Carmel is paying about $130 million for the 857-unit housing complex, which caters to both low- and moderate-income families.
The bill moving through the state House would provide funds to acquire Kukui Gardens. It also authorizes the state to condemn the complex in order to keep it affordable.
A Kukui Gardens spokesman declined comment on the bill yesterday, saying board members are still considering it.
Late philanthropist Clarence Ching built Kukui Gardens 36 years ago with about $16 million in U.S. Housing and Urban Development funds. It must remain affordable through 2011, under the terms of the HUD loan.
HUD must also approve the sale of Kukui Gardens, but officials have said such an OK is not a significant obstacle.
Kukui Gardens Corp. was set up as a nonprofit to manage the housing complex. Its board members have said they decided to sell because they could no longer afford running and maintaining Kukui Gardens.
An Internal Revenue Service tax return for the nonprofit showed the corporation made about $6.8 million in revenues in 2004 from rent and parking fees, and paid out about $5.1 million in program services and maintenance.
The remainder went into a trust, whose net assets were listed as $27.9 million.
Proceeds from the sale of Kukui Gardens will go to other foundation initiatives, board members have said, including a new building under way at Saint Louis School.
City Councilman Rod Tam, a vocal opponent of the complex's sale, told attendees yesterday that Clarence Ching was "spinning in his grave right now."
He also charged that the foundation was selling the complex because of "greed."
The comment excited the crowd, eliciting cheers and hoots. Many in the audience raised up their fists.
"This is like our own little village," said Winona Sardinha, who was standing at the front of the community center hall. "You couldn't ask for a better place to live."
Sardinha has lived at Kukui Gardens for 35 years.
She said several of her neighbors believe the complex will lose its affordability if it is sold and have already started looking for new apartments. But she has not.
"I'm going to stay here," she said. "Whatever it takes to stay here, I'll do it. We're going to stick to it to the end."