RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Nancy Hall, left, and Michiko Gross are tenants of the building at 2566 Lemon Road in Waikiki. Their building is being sold and may be turned into a hostel. There are already three other hostels on that street, including the building to the right in the photo.
Sale of apartments concerns residents
The Hale Liu apartment complex in Waikiki might be turned into a hostel
Fifteen renters at a Waikiki apartment complex are worried about finding a new home if their building is sold and turned into a hostel, the fourth of its kind in the neighborhood.
The residents fear the prospective owner, who owns a hostel, will evict them and turn the building into a hostel on Lemon Road, a small stretch of road near the Honolulu Zoo.
Residents of the Hale Liu apartments, with monthly rents ranging from $700 to $900, would be forced to seek alternatives, which they say has been impossible. And some community members fear a fourth hostel will escalate what they allege to be noise pollution, drug usage, all-night keg parties and indecent exposure.
"We're gonna be homeless," said Nancy Hall, a resident of the Hale Liu apartments. "And the problems here are only going to escalate."
Community members, including Hall, some businesses and the Waikiki Area Residents Association met with City Councilman Charles Djou to call for regulatory measures for hostels.
The Waikiki Area Residents Association wrote a letter to the city proposing limits on the number of hostels in an area, and asking for stricter enforcement.
However, Djou said he feels there's little the city or state governments can do in limiting hostels.
"Trying to regulate and define hostels could become difficult," Djou said. "How do you ban hostels without banning hotels? How do you distinguish between a hostel, or a hotel with just poor service? Should the city government get into the business of raising the quality of service?"
Djou said he suspects the calls for regulation stems from the residents' fear of being evicted, which he called "a private contractual dispute between the tenant and landlord."
Hall said the owners of Pacific Ohana Hostel, Shane and Kim Voigt, are about to buy the Hale Liu apartments. Some of the residents are elderly on fixed income and say they haven't found affordable alternative housing.
Hale Liu co-owner Ken Tenn declined to confirm that the Voigts were trying to buy the apartments, and whether there are plans to turn the complex into a hostel. Tenn said only that the apartments were in escrow, and that a hostel owner may purchase them.
Pacific Ohana resident manager T. Hill declined comment, saying she did not have that information. The Star-Bulletin left a message for the Voigts with Hill, but the call was not returned as of press time.
However, Hill said the hostel has "very strict rules pertaining to any alcohol consumption."
"I live on the property, and drinking does not go past 8:30 in the evening," Hill said. "We know that our tenants go outside the building, and that's their business."
Liquor violations were found this past summer after an undercover sting at the area, said Honolulu Liquor Commission Assistant Administrator Anna Hirai.
Although she could not release more specific information pending adjudication of the violations, she said it did involve selling or giving alcohol to minors.
The main concerns are noise and safety, said Waikiki Grand Hotel Resident Manager Don Pierce.
"If you look at what's happening now, the policing of the noise and activities is actually by the Tradewinds (an condominium complex on Lemon Road) and our security guard," Pierce said.
Tradewinds owners Joe and Mary Hardin said they've been complaining about the noise for more than a decade, and police patrols have failed to be a consistent deterrent.
"The problem is there's no follow-up," Joe said. "The problems that our residents have are noise, periodic keg parties, and we have a security issue with them hanging out on our steps. The hostels have brought nothing good to Lemon Road."