Under the Sun
With isle housing, maybe money talks too much
AT both sites, breezes fetch salt spray from the sea. At dawn and evening, the sun casts equally enchanting light across the sky over them and waves soothe in identical rushes of the ocean's constancy.
Both depict a thin illusion of Hawaii, but are separated by more than the 20-odd miles between them.
"Got $40 million?" chirped a news broadcaster in a stale lead-in to a story about one of the locations, a near-three acres of land up for sale in the wealthy enclave of Kahala.
For that astounding price, you get a vacant lot. There's no pseudo-Mediterranean, blue-tile-roofed mansion, no tiger-lily, bougainvillea, areca palm landscaped gardens, no moss-rock koi ponds or marble "infiniti" swimming pools.
As a matter of fact, the expensive parcel's weedy brown grass looks just about the same as the grounds of Keaau Beach Park, but there on the far reaches of the Leeward Coast are homes. Not anything a "got $40 million" type would want, though.
Assembled from tarps stretched open for daytime living and cheap tents for sleeping or protection from the occasional shower, scores of people have converted Keaau and other public parks into their own private quarters. The seasoned ones pass on advice to new arrivals, telling them to "stay out of sight, out of mind" even as their increasing number makes that impossible.
Hawaii, like almost everywhere in America, has always accommodated rich and poor. Only it seems that the breach has gotten wider as the affluent are indulgently welcomed to the point of embarrassment.
The Donalds and Hiltons win almost drooling cheers for just showing off blueprints of the extravagant, luxury, five-star, top-of-the-line, opulent, plush, lush vacation apartments they will build for those who can say yes to the "got millions" question.
Having the rich come to the islands to buy and sell is viewed as validation, "as testament," said one politician, that Hawaii is "one of the world's most celebrated destinations."
But we already know that, don't we? Why else would thousands pull up roots in Beverly Hills to sink them here or send out tendrils from Dallas and Houston to embed them in local soil?
Yet, this apparently escapes the movers and shakers in Hawaii. Or maybe it doesn't. It may be that the movers and shakers want to jostle more cash into their own pockets so they, too, can say yes. And in making their pitch to gratify the Donalds, they tell the rest of us that we'll share in the abundance, that tax revenue and spending by the rich eventually will trickle down.
OK, some of it will, but the lion's share won't. Not really. The big money goes mostly to those who have big money to invest in the first place. That's fair, but what's grating are the claims that they are doing good for Hawaii.
If that were true, the Donalds also would be investing in housing for the people who take care of "yes" people's dwellings, who fix the sewers into which "yes" people's wastes flow and who clean the sidewalks and patch the holes they stroll and drive on.
Developers of housing projects sing a similar tune. After all, they say, they are putting in needed infrastructure, but forget that the infrastructure is necessary due to their building. They say that 20 percent of the housing they build will be "affordable," but what they obscure is that the sale of the non-affordable houses will be priced to make up the difference and that law requires the 20 percent anyway.
So don't give me generosity. Don't give me doing good. It's money that's talking here and is it ever loud. Maybe it's time to say no to the ones who can say yes.
has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org