A Look At Development Plans

Diamond Head makes some people think of Malibu | Bob Jones photo

Diamond Head makes some people think of Malibu | Bob Jones photo

I’ve lived here 51 years and have been a reporter

on and witness to all the Oahu development that began our sprawl, crowding, bad architecture, bad view planes, inadequate infrastructure and traffic problems since the early ’60s.

Visitors sometimes ask, “Is this Hawaii, or is this Malibu?”

I have strong opinions on what’s pono and needed and what’s wrong and excessive. So this week I’m looking at three big projects: Kahuku Village, Kakaako and the expansion plans of Hawaii Reserves Inc. (the Latter-day Saints Church) in Laie.

On the Kahuku Village issue, it would be easy to side with those who face eviction or tough borrowing decisions and want to keep their rental homes now owned by landlord Continental Pacific (CP). But my read is that CP has fairly offered house lots to existing renters at low prices and will help with the financing. Buying might be a stretch for some renters, but so is it for everyone on Oahu. The dissidents are wrong when they say they have a right to remain as renters because their ancestors lived there and worked on the plantation. Absent a lease, the renters have no claim.

Kakaako is a toughie. It is part of the urban core and logically should be developed for high-rise living. Where I disagree with the state is that too little emphasis is on preserving park space, and that all-powerful development agency Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA), stuffed with the governor’s appointees, is one of the worst concepts ever.

Those who object to additional high-rises espouse the argument that views from their condos will be impeded. They complain about traffic and inadequate sewers. The mayor counters that the sewers are adequate. The traffic issue would be mooted if people would get out of their cars in the urban core and use the bus system.

There is, however, the more legit complaint of how Kakaako permitting comes about. You don’t give a governor-run agency the power to jam things through without local approval. Kings and dictators have that, but it’s not America’s way.

HCDA was a very bad idea from the start.

We need to go back to giving citizens more say over Kakaako’s future. The high-rises themselves are not the problem. It’s how the permits for them are coming about. Just because the governor or his appointees to HCDA think it’s OK doesn’t make it so.

Lastly, the expansion of housing and BYU-Hawaii in Laie, aka “Envision Laie.” The Mormon Church, majority landowner, wants 875 new homes, a shopping center, school, church and light industrial area on 300 acres of Gunstock Ranch in Malaekahana. Also, it wants to double the student population of BYU-Hawaii and expand Polynesian Cultural Center. It already has the OK for a new Marriott hotel. The pro argument is that the college and PCC must expand to make them financially feasible. And that requires more homes for the people who will come there to live and work.

The church is dead wrong on this one. Laie – and the two-lane Kamehameha Highway – cannot sustain such a heady influx of people and cars. It makes as little sense as that proposal of 625 more hotel/timeshare units and 750 more homes at Turtle Bay Resort. The highway to Haleiwa already is backed up on any day of high surf and turtles that draw rubberneckers.

There also is the matter of keeping some “country” alive. Maybe that’s an old-fashioned concept for some, but it resonates with Wind-ward/North Shore residents and others who have watched with dismay the explosion of rich people’s housing and hotels at the expense of working stiffs living on $40,000-$60,000 a year.

We realistically cannot redistribute all the wealth, but we can retain some equality in setting Oahu’s sense of place. Is it Hawaii, or is it Malibu?