View Point

Wednesday, January 14, 1998

Mayor spin-doctoring Waiawa issue before Council

By Donna Mercado Kim

WITH respect to the Waiawa rezoning bill, Mayor Harris contends the Honolulu City Council has approved an excessive amount of commercial lands in the B-2/IMX zoning designations for the proposed Waiawa community, which would surpass the scale of Ala Moana Shopping Center.

This is a gross distortion.

The 50 acres of B-2 zoned lands for the Waiawa project is comparable if not less than the amount of B-2 zoned lands approved for similar master planned communities on Oahu in the recent past, such as Mililani and Hawaii Kai.

Of the 63 acres of B-2 zoned lands approved for Mililani (which could have built 6.8 million square feet of commercial area), only 700,000 square feet of gross leasable area has been developed to date. Of the 55 acres of B-2 zoned lands in Hawaii Kai, only 735,000 square feet of gross leasable area has been developed.

This shows that Mililani and Hawaii Kai have not been developed to the magnitude of Ala Moana Shopping Center, even though these planned communities have received approvals for more commercial lands than the Waiawa project.

The truth is that only market forces will determine what is actually built, and the City Council has acted consistently.

The mayor has also argued that amendments to the bill were last-minute changes that compete with Kapolei. The amendments were not introduced at the last minute. In fact, they were discussed at a Sept. 9 Zoning Committee meeting, at a Sept. 24 public hearing, at another Nov. 20 Zoning Committee meeting and, finally, during the Council's final reading on Dec. 3, 1997.

THE Department of Land Utilization (DLU), representing the administration, was present at these meetings. Yet not once during these meetings over a four-month period did DLU or the administration raise concerns regarding the maximum amount of commercial square footage being proposed.

The hypocrisy is that the mayor, who claims to be concerned about directing growth to Kapolei, initially proposed two Capital Improvements Projects to develop the Waiola and Waipio sports complexes in Central Oahu for approximately $89 million, both of which would be in direct competition with the state's proposed sports facility in Kapolei.

As for the golf course option, on Nov. 19 - nearly two weeks prior to final reading - I personally met with Malcolm Tom, city budget director, and Ben Lee, chief of staff to the mayor.

I asked them to get feedback from Mayor Harris regarding an option to develop a new municipal golf course that could replace the problematic Ted Makalena Golf Course.

Lee enthusiastically stated that the municipal golf course option looked attractive since the city was currently spending approximately $2 million to maintain the Ted Makalena. And, on the very next day, Lee personally came to see me minutes before the Nov. 20 Zoning Meeting to say that the mayor liked the idea of developing a municipal golf course at Waiawa.

Obviously, the mayor is lying when he says no one knew about these changes as reflected in your Jan. 9 editorial.

The proposed municipal golf course has always been an option rather than an obligation or requirement for the city. The proposal simply provides the city with an opportunity to lease and develop one of the two proposed golf courses.

This option requires future budgetary approvals from the City Council and need not be exercised. The city has two years to decide if this is a beneficial option. Until then, it does not cost the city a penny and, if exercised, would pay for itself.

The mayor is clearly doing his usual job of spin-doctoring an issue for his own political advantage. He seems to think that an option constitutes a "sweetheart deal."

Yet, it was Mayor Harris and his administration who structured the Ewa Villages "sweetheart" bailout plan using $11.96 million in federal tax dollars.

It was during Harris' tenure as managing director that tens of thousands of Ewa Villages relocation dollars were approved and illegally dispersed.

Let's not forget the "sweetheart" deal he orchestrated for the developer of the Pawaa Revitalization Project that allows for the conversion of affordable rental units to leasehold units.

AND finally, in the City Store saga, the mayor has instituted a "sweetheart" deal in which taxpayers will now subsidize the City Store.

The hearings and the subsequent decision by an 8-1 vote of the City Council to grant the rezoning for the Waiawa development project were conducted openly and in accordance with sunshine laws.

All points raised by the mayor were reflected in a Draft Unilateral Agreement circulated over two weeks prior to final passage.

And finally, only three members of the public testified in person and all were in favor of the project, along with Senator Kawamoto and the Council member of the district.

Donna Mercado Kim is a Honolulu city councilwoman representing District VII.

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