Sunday, July 6, 2008

Musings: Land Rush

I saw the celestial show of Regulus, Mars, Saturn and the crescent moon, all lined up over the mountains last night, from what turned out to be a perfect vantage point at Lydgate Park.

I’d gathered with some friends to hang out with George Cooper, author of the classic “Land and Power in Hawaii,” who is visiting Kauai right now. I had to promise that everything discussed last night would be off the record; it seems not everyone likes to have their utterances end up on my blog.

Well, actually, only one person voiced an objection, so out of respect to him, I won’t repeat any of the juicy nuggets I heard last night — even though none, ironically, were contributed by him.

But previously, I’d spent some time with George, who hasn’t been to Kauai in seven years, a period that has seen rapid growth of a mostly palatial kind. He was stunned to see the changes, yet what he found especially hard to take were the local families that are now involved in acrimonious disputes over their land.

Kauai land has gotten so valuable that more and more families are experiencing the bitter, divisive conflict between those who want to cash out while the getting is good and those who want to hold on to the land.

I was thinking of this as I was driving on Hauiki Road, between Kapahi and Wailua Homesteads the other day, and was struck by all the spec houses and raw land — much of it marked “reduced” — that’s for sale over there. Much of this was once homestead land, which immigrants purchased when they completed their plantation contracts, and it’s been passed down at least one generation, and maybe two.

Now it’s moving forever out of local hands and into a price category that only people with money from elsewhere can afford. And as the fancy houses are built among the ramshackle ones, driving up the property values, what’s going to happen to the property taxes of the local working class families that for so long have lived there?

I’m not saying that local families don’t have a right to sell, because of course they do, and they have many reasons for doing so that they don’t need to justify to me or anyone else.

It’s just that when it comes to current land prices, and who is getting squeezed out and who is coming in, we’ve embarked on a course that won’t be easily reversed — save perhaps through Hawaiian independence — and it promises to have a profound and lasting effect on Kauai. In short, locals who don't already have land don't hold much of a prayer for ever getting it, not with the current giant disconnect between wages and real estate prices.

Land sales may be slowing right now, but that’s not going to change things. The top feeders who can afford Kauai’s prime are pretty much immune to the current economic downturn. They’re the ones who are currently wreaking havoc on the land, the social fabric and local culture as the rest of us struggle to survive. And unfortunately, they just keep on coming.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

I had to chuckle, Jane, at how you included yourself in "as the rest of us struggle to survive." Weren't you living for free in a luxury home for years and only now are paying rent like "the rest of us!"

Anonymous said...

I don't "pay rent [or mortgage] like the rest of us". I own everything I possess free and clear. I pay property taxes and the GET tax on stuff bought here, but that's it.

No struggle...just pure pleasure.

Of course, I'm a well-off retired mainlander, the best position a Hawaii resident can be in.

Anonymous said...

"Of course, I'm a well-off retired mainlander, the best position a Hawaii resident can be in."

Depends upon your age. Come here to kick it or kick back?

Anonymous said...

Why are imported people circa 1900 more valuable than people imported circa 2000? Some one has a nostalgia fetish.

Should we force all Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders to leave Las Vegas and move home? Land swap with haole retirees here? It would be very interesting to see just how the economy would look here if high paying construction jobs disappeared and all there was was low paying service jobs.

Anonymous said...

Don't blink, those "high paying" construction jobs are disappearing, too.

Joan said...

No one said "imported people circa 1900 [are] more valuable than people imported circa 2000?"

My point was that the newer imports are typically more destructive, take up more space, use more resources, make worse neighbors and are less invested in the community.

It's not a question of forcing Hawaiians to return home from Vegas. If they could find affordable housing, I'm sure many would come in a flash. And yeah, I'd go for a land swap between retired haoles and Hawaiians any day.

Joan said...

Weren't you living for free in a luxury home for years and only now are paying rent like "the rest of us!"

First, my name is Joan, not Jane. Second, I worked in exchange for my rent there, and third, while the owner's home was certainly luxurious, the gate house where I lived decidedly was not.

Anonymous said...

If this were a sovereign nation, like Fiji or New Zealand or Morocco or the United States, Hawaii could simply design immigration rules to benefit ITS people and culture, like any other healthy sovereign country. Instead, we exist to benefit the ravenous consumers and speculators of the U.S., expressed in swarms of American parasites -- you know 'em, those pasty, pudgy retirees bearing an unwarranted sense of entitlement. U.S. nationals should be reclassified as either legal aliens (with a green card equivalent), or illegal aliens. Call the Border Patrol!

Anonymous said...

"you know 'em, those pasty, pudgy retirees bearing an unwarranted sense of entitlement."

Yes! The ones who always show up at demonstrations~ trying to raise the drawbridge behind them.

Anonymous said...

"Depends upon your age. Come here to kick it or kick back?"

I came here retired and debt-free at age 50 to kick back. Now, at 59, I'm still lovin' it!

Anonymous said...

"And yeah, I'd go for a land swap between retired haoles and Hawaiians any day."

The biggest trouble with Hawaii are the Hawaiians. Let 'em all go to Vegas for all I care!

Anonymous said...

"...we exist to benefit the ravenous consumers and speculators of the U.S..."

You got that right....that's exactly what Hawaii, and all other "vacation-retirement" oriented states in the USA exist for. Get used to it.

Katy Rose said...

And that's exactly why some people want to see the "US out of Hawai'i." Get used to it.

Anonymous said...

Which, of course, will never, ever happen although the rabble rousers will alas always be with us, if only for comic relief.

Get used to that!

Anonymous said...

"Which, of course, will never, ever happen although the rabble rousers will alas always be with us, if only for comic relief.

Get used to that!"

That's precisely the attitude that the privileged class in Apartheid South Africa had about ex-President Nelson Mandela, throwing him into prison for 27 year, for being an nigger rabble rouser, standing up for sovereignty and native rights.

Perhaps not in your instant-gratification lifetime, but time will likewise bring justice for Hawaii, just as it did for South Africa.

Anonymous said...

Amen!

Anonymous said...

If so, none of us alive today will see it.

So, therefore, it doesn't matter (to me). The eitire universe has meaning only within my lifespan.

Anonymous said...

"It is not upon you to finish the work. Neither are you free to desist from it."
-Rabbi Tarfon

gadfly said...

Thus, the work of capitalistic empore building shall continue to time indefinate.

Anonymous said...

Gadfly, sweetheart, do the math:

Depleted finite global resources

plus

Capitalism's requirement of continuous expansion

equals

Capitalism's imminent demise.

Simple.

Katy Rose said...

Yes - if we agree with Wallerstein the task in front of us is to figure out what will replace capitalism. If we do our work, it will be a more free, more equitable and less coercive arrangement, but if we don't, there's an equal chance that it will be replaced with something very authoritarian.

It's not a question of "if," it''s a question of "when." We have much work to do.

Anonymous said...

Whatever system maintains or emerges, it is virtually certain to be an authoritarian, hierarchial one. That's just how people "settle out" at their various "levels".

Anonymous said...

and when the masses awake to see the future with clarity, when the poor and the rich realize that the ways and means are defined by principles of humanitarian values of love, compassion and respect for self, others and the environment they share. then and only then will future generations enjoy the benefits of freedom, sovereignty, and peace. until then the hate that harbors violence, war and destruction will continue to impact us all. NOT IN MY BACKYARD! work hard for peace and justice, then you can truly retire and leave a legacy that your progeny will be glad to inherit.

Anonymous said...

"peace and justice for all"..."harmonious, classless society"....

they are all illusions. little bubbles of these come and go, but for the most part life will remain just as it has been for thousands of years in these regards.

work for betterment if you will, futile as it is, if it makes you happy and gives you a degree of self-worth.

Me? I just want to maintain my first-class seat on this everlasting dung heap called civilization which is headed over a cliff.

Like Steve B. said in the movie: "Embrace the horror".