Future shaky for apartment owners


POSTED: Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Owners of units in eight cooperative and two apartment buildings sold to neighboring 'Iolani School fear they might be out of a home when their leases expire in December 2012.

Sixty-three of 100 Date-Laau area residents attending a meeting—including a handful of renters—voted last night to pursue a possible lawsuit against the previous owners. If they win such a lawsuit, they would have the right to purchase the fee for the same price and terms as 'Iolani School did.

A second option to seek a buyout for owners also garnered 63 votes.

Iolani announced June 30 it had purchased the 5.5-acre parcel for $23 million from Lum Yip Kee Ltd. and Lum Chang Tai Inc. The school seeks to begin first an expansion along a 1.9-acre corridor between the campus and Laau Street. 'Iolani plans on gradually developing the property, but would not provide any concrete timetable.

Ninety-three-year-old Thelma Oka was among 44—less than a majority—backing another option: asking 'Iolani to set and commit to keeping affordable rents.

Oka was the first owner in the first co-op built on Laau Street in 1959. “;So this has been my home for the last 50 years,”; she said in a written statement.

When asked after the meeting where she would go should she not be able to afford the market rent, Oka shrugged her shoulders.

;[Preview]  'Iolani School Expansion Has Nearby Residents Worried

Residents in the low-rise apartment complexes on Date Street and La'au Street fear losing their “;affordable housing”; with the expansion of 'Iolani School.

Watch ]


“;I don't know where,”; she said. “;I have no one. I hate to think about it. I'm not thinking about it.”;

Betty Lou Larsen, president of the Date-Laau Community Association, said the association was working with the landowner to buy the fee from 2004 to 2005, but Lum Yip Kee ended the negotiations in August 2005 and said it was no longer interested in selling.

Bryan Hirokane, owner in the corporation that owns RADS, an apartment building, said, “;We spent a lot of money to organize a deal, and they broke off negotiations and turned around and sold it to 'Iolani School for the same price.”; He voted for the lawsuit only.

Some came away hopeful that a solution was possible.

Cathy Lee Chong, spokeswoman for 'Iolani School, said 'Iolani will charge rental rates based on what comparable apartments are going for in the area.

She said it was not the school's intention to evict residents or raise rents.

A survey taken by the association showed that of the 186 who answered the survey, 48.6 percent have an income level of about $33,000 a year.