Monday, August 24, 2009

Musings: On TVR Hatred

“Why do people hate vacation rentals so much?” asked a friend who has one.

We were talking, of course, about the controversial and contentious ones that are outside designated Visitor Destination Areas and so must seek permits to get grandfathered in as legal uses.

I replied that I thought it had something to do with folks like Joe Brescia, who build lavish homes right on the beach and overwhelm residential communities with their commercial properties. This, in turn, raises property values and cuts into the supply of longterm rentals, both of which can work to push locals out. And in the process, neighborhoods are turned into defacto resorts, complete with beach umbrellas, teak lounge chairs and the stink of sunscreen on stretches of sand that only fishermen used to frequent.

At least, that’s the case in places like Wainiha, Haena, Hanalei and Kekaha.

On ag land, the same issues of rising property values and speculation come into play, unless it’s a rare bonafide farmer with the TVR, and then such activities are generally considered OK, because they help the farmer keep farming, and that’s a good thing.

Otherwise, the gentrification associated with ag TVRs works to push the price of land beyond what farmers can afford to pay. Those who do manage to pull off a farm get complaints from non-farming neighbors about noise and dust and trees that block their views.

But there’s more to it than that. Beneath it all runs a thick layer of resentment that folks, many of them living elsewhere, and many of them organized into investment groups, are making serious money off Kauai while giving nothing back. Indeed, they often show total disdain for the community, what with building on burials, blocking beach access and building big ass houses that are totally out of place and character.

In other words, people are feathering their personal nests at public expense. In many ways, TVRS are the worst expression of the old take up space, use up resources and move on mentality.

Undeniably, some of this resentment is linked to racial and economic animosities, because let's face it, many of Kauai's TVRs are owned by rich haoles.

From what I hear, such animosities apparently prompted at least one inspector to be over-zealous in issuing permit denials for bogus violations, which left the county open to litigation. And that’s reportedly why the Planning Commission reversed some of these denials in a hush-hush process that has TVR critics complaining about lack of transparency and Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho issuing subpoenas for those records.

It’s unclear whether Shaylene actually intends to get to the bottom of things and prosecute folks for the misdemeanor violation of operating an illegal TVR, or if she’s merely trying to make political hay and feed her feud with the current county administration.

However, in recent testimony by Protect Our Neighborhood Ohana (PONO) to the County Council, it appears that some of the TVRs that were denied did indeed have legitimate violations:

“Approvals” have been granted for some Wainiha/Haena TVR's despite habitation of ground-floor units for TVR use. Some approvals now illegally allow habitation on the ground floor of structures located within designated flood plain areas in violation of the National Flood Insurance Program and Flood Plain Management, County Code, Chapter 15: which states that Space below the lowest floor may be enclosed solely for parking of vehicles, building access, or storage.

PONO also has asked the County Council to launch an investigation or audit. In testimony delivered to the panel, it stated:

We do not support giving the Planning Department any additional authority to further grant “enforcement deals” regarding transient vacation rentals. PONO asks that the County Council exercise their oversight responsibilities regarding the implementation of Ordinance 876 & 864 which has been a fiasco. Lack of transparency has reached new lows in our Planning Department and Commission.

The group further testified that it appears that some applications were accepted after the Oct. 15, 2008 deadline, and some approvals were granted after the March 30, 2009 cutoff. It also questioned whether the Planning Department had fully considered the cumulative impact of TVRs on a neighborhood, as required under Special Management Area rules, as well as the General Plan.

The group roundly criticized the Planning Department’s lack of disclosure:

Although the ordinance provides for the files to be publicly available by March 2, 2009, they have been largely kept secret. No files were available at the counter as required. PONO filed a Request to Access Government Documents on April 14, 2009 which has yet to be complied with. To date, only a small percentage of the files requested have been made available to PONO.

PONO further states:

The Council should be concerned about the absence of files available for public review and scrutiny. In addition, the files which were made available to PONO were egregiously lacking in the information required by the Ordinance.

The group then cited such examples as “no documentation or report of the required inspection of the premises, whether inspection occurred, or any indication the subject property passed or failed the inspection … No indication in the files whether or not the applicant had claimed a Permanent Home Use Real Property exemption on their property …[and] no signatures of approving staffers."

Meanwhile, PONO has filed its own lawsuit against the county planning commission over its denial of their request to appeal some of the North Shore TVR approvals. So now the county is looking at lawsuits from both TVR opponents and proponents.

It seems the Council, which drafted this law, and Carvalho’s administration, which is charged with implementing it, need to sit down together and straighten out this mess before they dig the hole any deeper.

"It wasn't supposed to be just a registry," said Caren Diamond of PONO, explaining that the law was intended to grant permits to TVR owners who had properly applied, paid their taxes and otherwise followed the law. "Instead, the Planning Department has approved them across the board."

And that leads to yet another reason for TVR hatred, the sense that some folks are flouting the law while the county once again looks the other way — or worse, condones it.


Anonymous said...

So, what if those same houses in those same places were not TVR's but full-time or part-time residences of the same people who own them now?

And, for the part-time residence properties, what if the owners allowed family members and close friends stay there when it was otherwise empty for no charge, except 3rd party cleaning fee when they're gone?

They wouldn't be TVR's any more.

Would all the community problem go away?

I doubt it.

So, is it really a TVR problem after all?

Anonymous said...

"So, is it really a TVR problem after all?"

It's the community's problem...cause we're the ones who have to deal with this mess.

Anonymous said...

How much money do TVRs generate and what kind of impact does it have on the cost of housing? How can Average Joe Who Wants to Live in His House and pays his mortgage by working 9-5 compete with Rich Guy who generates $$$ from vacation renting his house to pay the mortgage? That's also the problem with TVRs on ag land and the prices sellers can get for land that's supposed to be for farming.

Anonymous said...

The main issue with TVR's is when they populate traditional neighborhoods with small lots. When they are next door to working folks, the latter’s quiet enjoyment of their home can be disturbed by some of the obnoxious tourists who are oblivious to how their actions effect their neighbors. Sort of like the neighborhood guy with his huge truck and small muffler that guns his engines all the time. This is reason the new regulations were enacted so that problems with transient occupants can be reported 24/7 to a property manager and if the nuisance continues, the owner’s permit can be revoked.

Of course, some tend to forget that many of the TVR’s were houses that were locally-owned and that they only got into transient rental because the local owner cashed in. And to say that all TVR’s which were formerly locally owned were sold because the property taxes were too high is mere speculation as not one since instance of this can be sited. As with the Ohana Charter Amendment, it was used disingenuously to tug on the hearts of ignorant folks who thought they were saving someone’s auntie from eviction. Malarkey! Not one instance of this happened. After all, wouldn’t it have been all over the news and the blogs?

Further, to make a blanket statement that TVR’s effect the availability of long-term rentals is simplistic. This may be occasionally true in a traditional neighborhood, but not with the fast majority of new and remodeled homes built in the last 20 years. The real problem is that the value of real estate has skyrocketed far out pacing the increase in personal income. This is merely a case of supply and demand. Many more people want to live or have homes here than there is available property to meet the demand. One of the big reason’s curbing the supply is government regulation enacted to control and slow growth. So anti-any development folks, like many readers here, through their anti-growth, anti-change efforts help to cause the rise in values since so little property is available to meet the demand. It’s just a fact like gravity. If you want to see where supply has helped to keep prices low, look at the development of Oahu’s Ewa plain where housing is affordable and nice communities are being built and populated. Not that I think we should do that on Kauai, but it demonstrates how it is supply and demand and not TVR’s that are inflating real estate values. As for rentals, most of the new homes on Kauai are second homes which would either never enter the long-term rental market or would be far too expensive for the typical Kauai resident if they did.

The TVR's comprised of large estates built in agricultural subdivisions have no negative effect on their neighbors who are more of the same. They do not make up neighborhoods in the traditional sense. They pay high property taxes, G.E. taxes and Transient Accommodations taxes which I dare say probably total many times that of the income taxes paid by the typical reader here. So to say absentee owners don’t do their fair share to support the community is patently false. They do their fair share of contributing to the welfare of the island by financing the County and the State governments more than many residents.

Anonymous said...

It is called gentrification where the privileged (greedsters) push out the marginalized, typically natives/local/working class poor.

Interesting how the "local politicians" are selling out the local people and yet keep getting re-elected! I guess the problem is the marginalized have been propagandized to act against their own best interests and some even aspire to become "gents" themselves.

From Wikipedia,

Gentrification (also urban gentrification), is the socio-economic and demographic change in an urban area consequent to rich people buying housing property, and the residing, in a lower-class (poor) community [2] — whereby the (statistical) mean income increases and family size decreases, to effect the economic informal eviction of the incumbent lower-class (usually non-white poor) people via over-inflated rents, house prices, and property taxes. Like-wise, the population change reduces industrial land use when such lands are redeveloped for commerce and housing.

Gentrification changes the culturally heterogeneous character of a city community to a racially homogeneous, suburban “enclave” for the gentry, [3] made feasible with government-sponsored reinvestment and from private real estate group reinvestment repairing the local infrastructure, via deferred taxes, mortgages for poor house owners and for first-time house buyers, and financial incentives for the owners of decayed rental housing.[4] Once effected, said economic efforts tend to reduce local property crime, increase property prices, increase taxes collected by local government, and the increased social acceptance of gay people and like minorities.[5]

Grassroots political effort, by the poor residents, to either guide or oppose the gentrification, is the community’s self defense against economic eviction [6] via artificially-inflated rents that deny them affordable housing in their own city communities.[7] Furthermore, the rise in property taxes, consequent to increased property values, usually forces resident owners, unable to afford the taxes, to sell their houses and apartment buildings in order to leave for a cheaper community — thus the neighborhood’s decline from urban cultural heterogeneity to suburban cultural homogeneity.[8]

As a socio-economic concept, urban gentrification — as understood in urban geography and urban sociology — is fundamental to understanding market-driven social class relations in US cities,[9] given that proponents claim it reduces local property crime, and opponents claim it merely displaces crime to other poor neighborhoods in the city.[10]

Anonymous said...


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Anonymous said...

I'll trade my screaming tita neighbor who cures her childern for a loud mainland family on a short term outing any day.
It ain't all cool in the local hood.
Plus the taxes the tvr's contribute to the county and stae provide jobs, maintain the infrastructure including schools.

Anonymous said...

"How can Average Joe Who Wants to Live in His House and pays his mortgage by working 9-5 compete with Rich Guy who generates $$$ from vacation renting his house to pay the mortgage"

-- ya, close enough to the nicer house that his property taxes shoot up per the county real property valuation system. big problem. pretty much pure economic gentrification, as noted in the blog. easy to see why reasonable people are very upset

"quiet enjoyment of their home can be disturbed by some of the obnoxious tourists"

-- is this THAT common? seriously. i wonder what the real and enforced nuisance laws are here

"The real problem is that the value of real estate has skyrocketed far out pacing the increase in personal income."

-- totally

nice thoughtful comment August 24, 2009 3:54 PM


Anonymous said...

the real problem is that our neighborhoods and communities are now resorts. And yes, people bought from local folks, and one by one the families who lived there left, the new owners then made resorts instead of residences in our communities.

Anonymous said...

"The new owners then made resorts instead of residences in our communities."

Thank you! That is exactly what happened!

Joel said...

TVR's can provide affordable housing. Most second homes and TVR's on the north shore at least, have a beautiful garage with unit above, or guest house, or even those illegal downstairs units that could provide fabulous housing opportunity for long term rentals. How do we work together to provide a better place to live for all.

"had something to do with folks like Joe Brescia, who build lavish homes right on the beach and overwhelm residential communities with their commercial properties"
As much of a kook as Brescia is, that whole side of the street is pure TVR's... huge ones, and his is one of the last. There are probably 15 other "resort style" pseudo homes. Those lots on the ocean didn't start as "communities" to be "overwhelmed". This is a burial ground. a sacred place that should have never been sold for anything, long before Brescia. It is so so sad to see. How can we stop this from happening in other parts of Hawaii. Act pro-active rather than re-active.

Anonymous said...

For years and years our communities have been proactive in trying to save our neighborhoods from a total takeover by transient vacation rentals. We have been fought tooth and nail by realtors who will continue to profit more from selling a house as a vacation rental than as a permanent home.

Re-active? We are just standing our ground.

Anonymous said...

I love tourists, but confine them to the VDA. And after you spend all of your money, nofogetfogohome.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone conducted a study regarding the impact TVR's have in a community with full time residents? Not necessarilly from an economic view but in regards to utilities usage, landscape wear and tear, common equipment and structures use, etc.?