Welcome to the neighborhood | Downtown


POSTED: Sunday, November 08, 2009

Our Downtown and Chinatown neighborhood is a very special community. We are a very diverse population living almost exclusively in high-rise condominiums. We have the chronically homeless in our doorsteps and some of the most expensive apartments in the state.

The Downtown part of our district is the workplace for a huge segment of Oahu's work force during the day, and almost desolate at night and on weekends. Chinatown is a historic district highlighting the ethnic component of our culture.

We are also home to a persistent crime and prostitution problem, despite tremendous efforts to improve the area by bringing in restaurants, businesses and art galleries. Nowhere else in Hawaii can you find such a huge business district and the uniqueness of Chinatown.




        ; Chairman
        Frank Lavoie
        Vice chairman
        Alvin K.C. Au
        Tom Smyth
Dolores F. Mollring
        Anthony Chang, Lynne Matusow, Carl Middleton, T.A. Ruby and Stanford B. Yuen



        For agenda/minutes, call the neighborhood assistant at 768-3710 or visit www.honolulu.gov/nco/index1.htm. Chairman Lavoie is at 230-9056; his e-mail is .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). com

Please come visit our special businesses. First Fridays are a great time to start if you haven't done so yet.


1: The mayor's proposed River Street Residences. We held a special meeting solely to discuss this program. The housing would be primarily for chronically homeless on a “;Housing First”; program, meaning that there is no requirement for drug, alcohol or mental treatment. This raised fears that the problematic people in our community would only increase and not decrease.

Many felt that Chinatown has become a “;dumping ground”; for all of Honolulu's problems. The project is aimed at the chronically homeless. A chronically homeless person, as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and cited by the Department of Community Services, is someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, has severe mental illness or a developmental problem. Most residents were in opposition. There were many supporters as well, though most did not live in the district. The board voted to oppose the project in its current form and location.

2: Crime is a continuous problem. After a recent shooting and stabbing, our neighborhood finally received the attention it needed. Police presence increased dramatically.

In addition, the long-requested foot patrols of the neighborhood were started. The board has felt that officers on foot are a much greater deterrent than officers who patrol only in cars.

The board requested the removal of some parking spaces where drug deals were going down in an attempt for environmental crime control. We will continue to work with HPD to get the police presence we need.

3: Parking is a problem for residents and visitors. There have been proposals to keep public parking lots open later and increase the meter times to two or three hours in Chinatown to allow visitors to frequent the local businesses.


There have been discussions about expanding loading zones, which are an important part of our business community.

A comprehensive review of parking will be undertaken with city officials in order to create the best parking situation for everyone.

4: Homelessness is an intrinsic part of our community. We have large amounts of social services located in our district, and it can be argued they attract the homeless population. The homeless run the gamut from those down on their luck to the addicted and mentally ill. The homeless, despite the preconceptions, are not a major source of crime. They can be considered more of a nuisance and eyesore. We are dedicated to finding solutions to this problem, though we cannot solve it alone.


5: Prostitution has been in Chinatown for a very long time. Despite continuous efforts by HPD, it still exists throughout parts of our neighborhood. The issue really bothers our community when the prostitution encroaches on the living areas of our residents. There are places such as Kukui Street where residents could not leave their homes without seeing prostitutes, johns and pimps on their doorsteps. The community has rallied and, with the help of HPD and legislation, we have made improvements, but there is still more to do.


The neighborhood can be subdivided into four unique areas:
» Capitol District: Includes 'Iolani Palace, state Capitol, City Hall.
» Chinatown: Notable are Hawaii Theatre, Wo Fat Building and Oahu Market.
» Central Business District: Commerce hub includes bank headquarters and most of the state's skyscrapers.
» Waterfront: Aloha Tower, foreign trade zone and cruise ship docks.