Luxury condo plan splits Hawaii Kai community
A request to build a 90-foot high luxury condominium -- 30 feet over the height limit -- in Hawaii Kai is getting support from residents but faces opposition from its immediate neighbors. Developer 21st Century Homes is asking that the city raise the height limit and allow two buildings in its proposed 297-unit Hale Alii condominium to be 90 feet tall.
The City Council's Zoning Committee will hold a public hearing July 5 on the second of three required Council approvals.
"It's an excellent plan, it really is," 21st Century Homes marketing manager Mike Klein told the committee. "We have, generally speaking, fairly good community support. We have the neighbors, of course, that are upset here ... (and) that's where our problem lies."
The 3.8-acre site at Hawaii Kai Drive and Keahole Street is one of the last remaining parcels in Hawaii Kai for condominium development, Klein said, and the 90-foot towers would allow for the project to be built with a terrace effect that would create more open space fronting the complex and a more pleasing design.
The city administration told Council members it supports the change.
"We feel that this will improve the visual overall quality of this development," said Robert Reed of the city Department of Planning and Permitting.
The Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board also endorsed the project in 2004.
But neighbors decried the project, saying the buildings are too tall for the neighborhood and they will block views, sunlight and breezes.
"It's just going to be like a brick wall," said Amy Shimamura, a resident of the Moana Kai townhouses across from the site of proposed the condominium.
Klein told the committee that if the project is going to be required to stay within the 60-foot height limit, the developer would be forced to design a building that has less open space, looks more box-like and would run right up to the sidewalk.
"It's offensive and we don't really want to do that," Klein said. "We wanted to do something a little nicer and special."
Elizabeth Reilly, a member of the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board, said the residents who live near the site believe they will have to endure a "diminished quality of life factor" if the buildings tower to 90 feet.
"They're also really concerned that their ... neighborhood will eventually be called the back alley of Hale Alii," Reilly said.
Reilly said the ordinance governing the height restriction -- which was changed in 2002 to the lower height limit -- should be followed.
"We're trying really hard to maintain a suburb way of life," Reilly said.
"I understand there are those who are opposed to this," Councilman Todd Apo said. "But I think we would have difficulty going against something that the neighborhood board has approved and taken a formal position on."
Zoning Chairman Rod Tam, in recommending approval of the height increase, said he acknowledges the community concerns. "It's not our responsibility here on the Council to pull the community together, quite frankly," he said.