DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Construction of the Ward Village Shops project in Kakaako has resumed again after the state approved moving more sets of remains. But another skull was discovered over the weekend, and plaintiffs in a lawsuit against developer General Growth Properties want another halt.
Ward Whole Foods work on again
Another motion to stop remains from being removed will be heard tomorrow
Construction is moving forward again on the Whole Foods Market site at Ward Village Shops in Kakaako after another controversial green light from the state to remove nine sets of human remains discovered there.
An Oct. 12 letter from the state historic preservation division gave developer General Growth Properties permission to remove and relocate burial discoveries numbered. 55 to 63.
But on Sunday, another skull had been discovered at the site, bringing the current count of remains to 64.
General Growth is planning a $150 million retail center that is to include a 67,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market, condo rental tower, parking garage and additional retail shops.
But the project has been beset by numerous delays as what originally was thought to be just 11 sets of native Hawaiian remains grew to 47 and now numbers well beyond 60.
Upon any new discovery, developers are required by law to inform the state and await directions on what to do with them.
Upon any new discovery, a burial is assigned a number, but can include remains from more than one individual.
Construction has been stop-and-go at the 6-acre site bounded by Auahi, Kamakee and Queen streets for the last few months, as more remains have been discovered.
Thomas Dye, president of the Society for Hawaiian Archaeology, has said the additional finds should be no surprise, given that his estimate of remains at the site is at 335.
That figure, an extrapolation from a sample, should have been presented to the Oahu Island Burial Council for its review last fall, he said.
In August, the state gave General Growth permission to relocate 10 burials on the Diamond Head side of the site, reasoning that they were not associated with a concentration of burials or important individuals and events as recommended by the council, nor located in areas within a context of historic properties.
The same three reasons were given for the relocation of the latest discoveries this month.
On the other hand, the state in June recommended that General Growth redesign its condo rental project to keep 30 other sets of remains on the Ewa side of the site preserved in place.
Meanwhile, the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. has filed new motions in its ongoing lawsuit on behalf of cultural descendant Paulette Kaleikini, seeking to stop any further disinterment of native Hawaiian remains, known as iwi, at the site.
A hearing on the motion is scheduled for tomorrow in state Circuit Court. Moses Haia, an attorney with the Legal Corp., said it also expects the judge to hear a motion to compel discovery.
"It has been tough for us to get timely notification of additional discoveries so that we can take appropriate action," he said. "When the state gets information, we'd like to be advised."
Otherwise, he said, the group does not have a reasonable opportunity to respond. Haia said the remains are being obliterated by the ongoing pile driving and construction activity.
In addition, he said, the Hawaii Community Development Authority -- the state agency overseeing Kakaako's redevelopment -- should not have given General Growth a development permit for the project without first seeking review and comment from SHPD.
General Growth vice president Jan Yokota did not return calls for comment yesterday.
SHPD, meanwhile, is under growing scrutiny for its management of native Hawaiian burials.
Dye, along with the Society for Hawaiian Archeology board, which includes Dr. J Stephen Athens and Dr. Jane Allen, reviewed documents from SHPD concerning the Ward Village Shops project.
The board agreed the inventory survey report commissioned by General Growth should not have been accepted by the state because it failed to give a correct estimate of the number of iwi, as well as to adequately define the burial site boundaries.
The board also concluded that the treatment of the remains should be decided by the burial council rather than the state.
Dye said that, otherwise, the Ward Village Shops project sets a bad precedent.