Tuesday, March 2, 1999

Kam Drive-In swap-
meet vendors, customers
protest city park proposal

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


Vicki Domingo put her three children through college selling warabi, bitter melon, saluyot and malungay leaves at the Kam Drive-In swap meet.

Without it, she said, "we'll be stuck."

Domingo is among the swap-meet vendors expected to raise a ruckus at tomorrow's Planning Commission meeting on the city's plan to turn the Kam Drive-In site into a park.

An additional rally was expected to be held in front of Honolulu Hale tomorrow to protest the city's interest.

The vendors say they have a petition with more than 4,000 signatures asking that the city not move forward with a park.

"It's very emotional for me because we've stayed there with Kam swap meet since 1976," Domingo said.

Domingo said that, according to Consolidated Amusement's numbers, there are 1,575 regular sellers in a given week, most of them small-time vendors unable to go elsewhere to sell their goods.

City Council Chairman Mufi Hannemann, who introduced the idea, said landowner Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate is going to put a commercial center there if the city doesn't get to it first.

The estate is "very aggressively" courting Home Depot, Costco and other major retailers to take over the site, Hannemann said.

The request before the Planning Commission calls only for the 14-acre site to be designated for a park but provides no funding, he said.

If anything, Hannemann said, a city condemnation could prolong the life of the swap meet since funding for a purchase most certainly won't occur next year because of the city's budget woes.

"All this (approval for a park) does is it gives me up to six years to find funding," Hannemann said. "We're just going through the process."

Hannemann said he will try to seek federal funding to help with what's expected to be a fairly high appraisal. While the city has yet to do its own appraisal, Bishop Estate officials have put the value at between $15 million and $18 million, he said.

Estate officials have told him that they are "close" to a deal with several users, he said.

Bishop Estate spokesman Kekoa Paulsen confirmed that the trust is entertaining proposals.

And while Consolidated's lease with the estate is through 2016, that lease can be bought out should the trust find a higher use for the land, Paulsen said.

"This is what the swap meeters have to understand, one way or another they're going to be displaced," Hannemann said.

"There's no scenario now that calls for them to be there forever and ever," he said.

Consolidated stopped showing movies at the site last September.

Barbara Gray, a locksmith who has been at the swap meet for seven years, said she pays about $11 a day to vend at Kam Drive-In.

While there are some $10 stalls at the rival Aloha Stadium Flea Market, most spaces there are in the $50 range, she said.

"And it's a whole different crowd," Gray said. "It's real commercial, kind of a tourist swap. Kam swap meet I like to think of as being a local swap."

Gray added: "Some people seem to think that when the drive-in quit showing movies there was no use there anymore. But the swap meet has been carrying that site for years."

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