Star-Advertiser: ‘OHA Condo Plan Clears Hurdles in Senate’

Two committees pass a bill allowing towers to be built on certain Kakaako parcels

By Andrew Gomes
Star-Advertiser 2/13/14

The state Office of Hawaiian Affairs won support from two Senate committees Wednesday for developing condominium towers on land in Kakaako makai of Ala Moana Boulevard despite deeply divided testimony on a bill that would reverse a 2006 law prohibiting residential use in the area.

The bill that passed, however, was amended to restrict housing to three inland parcels out of nine mostly waterfront lots that the state gave to OHA two years ago to settle disputed claims over unpaid ceded-land revenue.

OHA had said it was seeking to develop housing on only three or four parcels, though the original bill allowed for residential use on all nine lots covering 31 acres.

Committees on Hawaiian Affairs and Economic Development, Government Operations and Housing voted unanimously to pass the amended version of the bill, Senate Bill 3122.

Hawaiian Affairs committee Chairwoman Maile Shimabukuro (D, Kalaeloa-Waianae-Makaha) acknowledged the heavy split of support and opposition over allowing condo development in the area, and proposed several amendments seeking to strike a balance.

One of the amendments would impose fees on residential units to be spent on helping maintain the area’s parks, ocean access, security and free public parking for park users.

Another amendment increases the development height limit on two parcels fronting Ala Moana Boulevard for residential development to 400 feet from 200 feet.

OHA sought the bill because it concluded that income from commercial development allowed under current zoning would fall short of what would typically be expected from land worth about $200 million, which was the ceded-land settlement value.

Appraisers for the state and OHA calculated that the land was worth $193 million to $198 million, which is what OHA could expect to receive if it sold the property.

However, a study commissioned by OHA last year assessed the earning potential for the land and concluded that achieving a market-rate annual income of $14 million to $16 million from $200 million of real estate isn’t possible with retail and other commercial development that would suffer from a lack of residents in the immediate area.

OHA testified that it will balance commerce and culture to create a redeveloped Kakaako Makai that will make Native Hawaiians and the general public proud.

“We seek to find the highest point at which the culturally rich use of our Kakaako Makai lands intersects with revenue-generating use of the parcels,” the agency said in written testimony. “We understand better than any other developer the impacts of irresponsible development. Native Hawaiians have been victims of, and suffered most from, the consequences of reckless development.”

Many OHA beneficiaries testified in support of the agency’s request, and urged lawmakers to pass the bill.

Click here to read the full story on the Star-Advertiser site.

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