Friday, December 16, 2011

Musings: Many Questions, Few Answers

Mist clung to the summit of Makaleha, softening the jagged edges of the range, while white clouds raced across a pale blue sky when the dogs and I went out walking on the first sunny morning in quite some time. As if to express their appreciation, the birds filled the air with loud, melodic song.

Residents from around the island attended a community meeting in Koloa last night to sing out against Grove Farm's plan to evict the tenants of Koloa Camp. You can read my account of the meeting here.

I was glad to see Councilmembers JoAnn Yukimura and KipuKai Kualii in attendance, but Grove Farm VP Mike Tresler, who ordered the evictions, was a no-show. Apparently he had a flight to Oahu that just couldn't be changed. Mmmhmm.

Still, Kepa Kruse, a really outstanding young man that I wrote about here, said it was actually a good thing that Tresler didn't come. Otherwise, the meeting might have been so confrontational as to foreclose any chance of working out an alternative. He's still hoping to convince the company to move the project across the bypass road.

Instead, Grove Farm sent VP David Hinazumi, a Koloa boy who came home to work for Grove Farm. David started the meeting by saying that he, his wife and their two kids had to live with their parents for a time because they could only recently afford to buy a home. Another young VP was in the same boat, he said, which underscored the need for this "affordable" housing.

This prompted Koloa resident Dan O'Flaherty to note, “Doesn't that tell you something, that even top executives from Grove Farm can't afford to buy a home on this island?”

I found it surprising that plans to use 8,000 cubic yards of fill to raise part of the land above the flood plain on a parcel bordering a stream doesn't trigger any sort of environmental assessment. In fact, the only approval needed is a Class 3 zoning permit issued by the county planning department. And you know what a cozy relationship it has with Grove Farm.

The general consensus seemed to be that the only ones who could afford to buy the homes are mainlanders, which prompted David Denson, himself a mainland haole who married into a Hawaiian family in Wainiha, to say, “When you get all these haoles with water in their houses, they're gonna sue your ass.”

Another interesting tidbit surfaced about Waita reservoir, which reportedly holds 1.3 billion gallons of water. Koloa resident Sonny Cayetano, the county's former Civil Defense administrator, asked if Grove Farm had a contingency plan in the event that the dam broke. “All of Koloa town would be inundated,” he said.

Though many questions and concerns were raised, few answers were given. It seemed from David Hinazumi's comments that Grove Farm hasn't yet explored a lot of the issues raised by residents. Yet it's still planning to push ahead with a mid-March start date.

But the most ludicrous comment of all came from Keith Yap, Grove Farm's director of finance, in his apparent attempt to ease community fears that Koloa Camp tenants would be evicted and their home destroyed, only to have the project stall, as has happened with other proposed developments in the town.

“Grove Farm is committed, even though things are bad [economically] now,” he said. “We feel the timing is right. We could end up where you guys can't buy it, where no one could buy it, but we're committed to building housing.”

So let me get this straight. You're gonna make people homeless so you can build housing that no one may buy.

Sounds like a plan.

Or as KipuKai noted afterward, if Grove Farm is truly committed to building housing that is indeed affordable, why doesn't it form a nonprofit and do it?


Anonymous said...

How come some Class III permits require public hearing and some don't? Can the public demand a hearing?

Anonymous said...

Tresler and his band of greedy Grove Farm management need to face the music. I can't believe that these "local boys" can really do this to their own people. They've sold out!

Why can this project not go through the proper reviews with community input? The Planning Department is way too cozy with developers that's why! The definition of what is "affordable" needs to be re-written. The clause that allows unsold affordable homes at market rates needs to be re-written. We've already seem some affordable homes meant for workers in Nawiliwili go to market rates.

The South Shore is turning to a playland for only the rich. Something must be done to stop this kind of exploitation of working people. It has to end now!

Anonymous said...

Crony capitalism at work! In the end all c(r)apitalism does is destroy. And who foisted this system on Hawaiians?

Anonymous said...

class lll permits are at the discretion of the planning director whether it should go for public hearing or not...per CZO

Anonymous said...

"Or as KipuKai noted afterward, if Grove Farm is truly committed to building housing that is indeed affordable, why doesn't it form a nonprofit and do it?"

Uh gee well duhhhhh, kipu, if Grove Farm is truly committed to affordable housing, why donʻt they leave these people in their homes that ARE affordable to them?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crony capitalism at work! In the end all c(r)apitalism does is destroy. And who foisted this system on Hawaiians?

December 16, 2011 12:51 PM

Well I guess it was those godly people, you know, the missionaries. When they decided it was truly a great thing they latched onto, they called in back up...the marines and the US government, the great destroyers of all things.

Anonymous said...

December 16, 2011 11:50 AM

LOL. Try the whole island, ALL shores.

Anonymous said...

So let get this straight, the newly official planning director, with a thimbleful of experience decides 50 units does not need a public hearing?? Where was Tresler during the meeting? In the planning directors lap, or vice versa?

Anonymous said...

How is that ethical?

Anonymous said...

Oh pua ting Mr.Hinazumi had to live w/ his parents temporarily till he could afford a house. Many of us live in multi-family households because the cost of housing has skyrocketed in part due to outside developers/speculators. A lack of truly affordable housing inventory is the problem. Too many McMansions being built. All GF is doing is forcing these tenants into a already tight housing market where they'll end up living in a relatives home or out on the street.

US Census is more accurate regarding median income ruling these homes out of afforable range for displaced tenants and most of us.

Anonymous said...

How many golf outings, fee paid events or other small favors has GF reported or planning department personnel reported to the ethics commission? If it is considered ethical, does it make it morally correct to allow GF to pay the way?

Anonymous said...

How many bottles of liquor does it take to get a permit?

Dawson said...

Another appalling example of the cold-hearted greed of Grove Farm.

Kolea said...

I am surprised to learn about the planned evictions. In the aftermath of the resistance developers encountered at Waiahole-Waikane on Oahu, Niumalu-Nawiliwili and other communities in the late 1970s, most developers learned long ago to avoid evicting people if they could help it.

Since I live on Oahu and no longer visit Kauai regularly, I am unaware of how Koloa has evolved over the years. Are the people facing evictions longtime "local" residents or are they more recent arrivals to Kauai? If they are "local," it should be relatively easy to organize broad opposition to their evictions throughout the community, IF people are willing to do the step-by-step work necessary.

If, on the other hand, they are largely haoles, their "right" to remain will have less credibility, making organizing more difficult.

Good luck!

Joan Conrow said...

Kolea, these are all longtime residents. Some are seniors who have lived in the Camp their entire lives.

For more information, check out my
original post on the issue.

Anonymous said...

Grove Farm is not subdividing the property and the project does not require a public hearing. The Planning Department's role in the condominium process is minimal. All they do is verify density and notify the Real Estate Commission if there are any County violations associated with the property. If you have a concern about the abuse of the condominium law, go tell it to your state legislators, because it's a state law, not a county law.

Anonymous said...

Grove Farm = AOL = Case Bros.= Punahou = Kamaina Haole

Anonymous said...

GF is just giving a small example of what they can do with 514A. Unfettered growth is permissible under this state law with no developer ramifications. A real planning department's function is to protect and regulated growth, unless it is to sit in the back pocket of the plantation owners and to support a corrupt administration.

Anonymous said...

Why does Kipukai believe the purpose of the development is to provide affordable housing? The purpose is to make a profit.

Wake up, stop believing the lies.

Anonymous said...

Grove Farm is merely perpetuating its long history of getting rich off the backs of cheap labor. Mission hasn't changed just method. The disparity between the haves and have nots in Hawaii is a direct result of greedy Plantation owners who turned leases from the Kingdom into their own land after the overthrow. Kanaka were dying off from introduced diseases so they had to bring in cheap labor from Asia to slave in the hot sun for low wages. Camps were created to segregate workers to keep them from joining forces to protest against cruel conditions which worked for a time.

Today as they tear down these symbols of the past they're still using cheap labor in China to build a modern day camp minus the chickens & vegetable gardens mixed in with rich newcomers who will pay top dollar and will make sure the other 30% don't lower their property values w/ their local lifestyle.

Joan Conrow said...

In defense of KipuKai, he made that comment because he doesn't believe this project is affordable.

Anonymous said...

"Support a corrupt administration"

Nailed it!

Anonymous said...

Again, Grove Farm does not own the land.

All of this is an illusion.
People must change their plantation mentalities and I say that because, like it not, many of us who protest against this sort of thing and all the other stuff that goes on...we are guilty of plantation mentalities, deep down weʻve got some of that shit and need to recognize it in order to stand up to the ones that keep stirring the foul gruel.