Saturday, November 3, 2007

Musings: Going, Going, Gone

It was hard to walk this morning because I kept looking up — at the waning moon, Orion, Makalii, Venus, Arcturus, the Big Dipper , a sky chock full of stars and constellations. The dew was thick and the air was downright cold. Winter, Kauai-style, is here.

Ever since I was on the HPR program the other day, I’ve been thinking of one Hawaiian woman who broke into tears during her call as she recounted the many places on Oahu lost to fences, development, other people.

I felt like crying myself, just listening to her, and I’m sure others did, too. There’s a lot of grieving going on in Hawaii, both for what has been lost, and what is still going, going, gone.

As a friend, born and raised in Kilauea and now deceased, once told me: everybody comes here with their ideas of what Hawaii could be, and the locals just mourn what was.

A recent post on the Poinography! blog included floor comments by Rep. Caldwell in favor of the Superferry bailout bill, in which he noted: “Whether you agree with him or not, Maui Council Chair Riki Hokama summed it up this way in Monday’s House hearing: “When are we saying enough is enough?” and “Who are we building for?”

On Kauai, aside from bit of affordable housing required under resort project approval, we’re primarily building for people who don’t live here.

In Princeville, a massive new hotel and rows of condos all alike are springing up to cater to the timeshare visitor trade, while in Koloa, some 3,000 units are underway, geared to the second home/vacation rental market.

Our agricultural lands are being consumed for lavish gentleman estates, and our coastal bluffs are crowned with mansions. Only two wild beaches — and by that I mean those unmarred by human development — remain on the North Shore, and I won’t name them here, because to use the words of writer Brian Doyle, whatever we look at, we destroy.

In nearly all these newly constructed dwellings, the lights are on — both inside the houses and illuminating the landscaping — but no one’s home, because the owners don’t live here. And many of them never will because they look at these houses as investments, spec properties they’ll spin when the market is right, not homes in a larger community.

Sure, these projects provide construction jobs now, which are often filled by imported workers because the local labor force is maxed out, and later they’ll generate more employment for those who clean the yards and homes.

But we don’t need more of this kind of employment, just like we don’t need more super-sized houses or folks who move here solely for the lifestyle and climate and are dismissive of the land and culture — people who contribute nothing to the community and indeed, often hold themselves apart.

And we definitely don’t need more Hawaiians crying and locals leaving because they no longer have or can afford a place in their own home.

What we do need is to ask, and answer with honesty: when are we going to say, enough is enough, and who are we building for?

Because it's a myth that the destruction is inevitable, and that we have to go on this way.


Anonymous said...

Obviously, enough is never enough. As long as the county zoning and permitting process gives the go-ahead, this will continue. As long as current land owners choose to sell, this will continue.

Property taxes paid by non-resident owners is enormous compared to resident owners (I know...we did it before we moved). Do you think the county wants those greatly inflated taxes on those $$$ homes? Of course!

To take a line from the movie Armegedon..."pucker up...incoming!"

Welcome to "HawaiiWorld"!

Keoua said...

Enough will be enough only when the locals rise up themselves and demand and end to the building,but it won't happen, partly because they need the jobs--building the houses, cleaning the hotels, etc.--and partly because they don't want to be associated with the haoles who have been demanding a halt to the destruction for years. Ironic but, unfortuately, I think it's true.

Anonymous said...

You have hit on something that continues to trouble me. I'm going to call it the soul of ownership. What kind of commitment does a timeshare owner have in their investment? What kind of commitment does Morgan Stanley partnered with E. Dowling to build out Makena have to the environment or Cargill /Lehman Bros. developing Wailea 670? Apollo Management another private equity group bought half of NCL from Star a Malaysian company. Maui Land and Pine is Public by closely held by a few investors. And there are plenty more.

Does a private equity group give a rats patoot if reefs live or streams run as long as the facilities are world class, the pool is big and gate-guards stand duty while their ROI meets hedge fund standards. When I went to Barbados years ago I found the reefs dead but condos and cruise ships persisted. We made a new rule: Chickens at the airport and No cruise ships. Maui now flunks that test.

Our counties do relish this tax base but has anyone calculated the real cost of these projects and servicing them? Are they sucking up every penny they pay out? The schools are not benefiting, or hospitals or most the infrastructure (and yes they are poking themselves in the eye). And as you said, every bit of the environment suffers and bit by bit it dies. The fact that our aquifers are being over-pumped isn't stopping anything in Wailea or Makena. It's manifest destiny for local developers and their equity backers and you have to ask why? Joined by the for profit support group(RE, unions) the lobby gets massive.Majority rules? HSF? There are plenty of places to point fingers but a dirty little secret is cost.

If you want to build a house in the bay area it will cost you well over 100k to get out of the dirt (just impact fees). Not here. Don't even exist but they're working on it...I guess. We're way too cheep (fees can be adjusted for affordable housing) Our planning committee is impotent and sadly comical though the new director seems capable. They haggle over traffic lights and think they are doing their job.

Cheney/Bush sold way far out, Lingle sold out, the legislature folded. It's ragged out there.Councilman Hokama (one of two who have a grip on the big picture) is definitely running for something...a look at his voting record would be useful.

Anonymous said...

It would be nice if our economy was more sustainable. But the facts as they are whenever our someone tries
to diversify our economy, the NIMBY's /CAVE folks come out in force.

Thus I pose this thought. As much you and others complain about over development.You all should look in mirror and come up with alternatives
to the current unsustainable economic forces.