RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
This city parking lot in Kailua, bounded by Uluniu and Aulike streets, Maluniu Avenue and Kuulei Road, is a possible site for affordable housing.
Kailua lot opposed for housing
Merchants and the neighborhood board say there are better spots for the project
When Linda Yeehoy and her husband heard the city might build 85 affordable housing units in front of their Alii Antiques store in downtown Kailua, "we were shocked," she said Friday.
"There are a lot of businesses around in this area," Yeehoy said, gesturing past fragile glass bowls and brass bookends in her crowded shop to the shady, 145-stall metered parking lot outside.
Customers of four restaurants, several hair salons, antique shops, two medical office buildings, a printing shop, an athletic club and a number of small retail stores and professional offices all rely on the shared parking lot, Yeehoy said.
On weekdays the lot stays full, with drivers circling, looking for stalls, she said.
The 75,600-square-foot, city-owned lot (bounded by Uluniu and Aulike streets, Maluniu Avenue and Kuulei Road) already has zoning that allows multifamily housing and is labeled "for immediate development" on the list of potential affordable-housing locations that the city compiled in August.
That is why Kailua residents who oppose the location are wasting no time, said Kailua Neighborhood Board Chairwoman Kathy Bryant-Hunter.
"Councilmember (Barbara) Marshall said there's nothing out to bid, no decisions have been made," Bryant-Hunter said yesterday, "but we need to make sure there's community input."
Kailua and the rest of Oahu do need more affordable housing and transitional housing, Bryant-Hunter said, "but let's take a step back and make sure we're making good decisions, not hasty decisions."
The neighborhood board voted last week to oppose an affordable-housing development on the parking lot, and at a 10-acre site next to Kalaheo High School, the second Kailua location on the city's list.
The board also asked the city to look at other Kailua sites, including noncity lands that might be swapped or given tax benefits to encourage low-income housing development. And it wants the city administration to explain how it will decide which sites on its list will be used for housing.
On that list, the Kailua parking lot site was earmarked for 85 multifamily dwelling units, while keeping the same amount of parking in a garage underneath the building.
But Kailuans remember what happened more than a dozen years ago when the Lani Huli affordable apartments for seniors were built on another city parking lot, said Puna Nam, owner of Cinnamon's Restaurant, which is next to the currently proposed lot.
During the year-long construction of the Lani Huli building, some nearby businesses went out of business, Nam said. Its parking garage is underground, cramped and dark, and has a reputation for crime, he added.
A group that named itself KAPU, for "Kailuans and Professionals United," has about 800 signatures opposing the new parking lot development, Nam said.
"We're not against low-income housing. It's just a question of where is best in Kailua," he said.
Nam's suggestions for better places include:
» The northern border of Kawainui Marsh, across Mokapu Boulevard from Kalaheo High School near Kapaa Quarry Road.
» The southern side of Kawainui Marsh, alongside Kailua Road, where there is a small sewage pumping station.
» On Kailua Road between the Times Supermarket and Kailua District Park.
Nam said he noticed that several other city lots on the list of potential housing sites -- in Kaimuki, Moanalua and Waikiki -- appear to have been ruled out because they have parking meters.
"What's the difference?" he said.
The Kalaheo hillside, which has troubled homeowners there with costly repairs caused by moving earth, would be an expensive place to put low-income housing, longtime resident Lynn Kitamura said.
In a written statement to the KAPU group, Cyndy Aylett, a project review manager for Mayor Mufi Hannemann, wrote that "the City administration has not announced any intention to develop any of the Kailua properties. ... Any subsequent actions will also be subject to open, public review, at which time you can raise your concerns."