I recently met a charming couple from Southern California. She's an architect and former planning commissioner for her city; he is an editor and journalism professor. They read my blog, and so had some questions about our puzzling land use planning process that they hoped I could answer.
They arrived for lunch carrying a copy of The Garden Island that featured a front page photo of Councilman Tim Bynum seated outside the railing that separates the Council from the hoi polloi. “Why is he sitting out there?” they wanted to know. “Is he dangerous?”
Ummm, only if it's possible to inflict death by whining.
That wasn't their only question, and most of them weren't easy to answer, except with a shrug and one word: “cronyism.”
I know some people would've responded with a couple of other “isms,” like racism and sexism. Yes, I've heard the stories of Michele Hughes, and others, shaking their booty at the planning counter, and of the haole developers and vacation rental owners languishing in limbo because they didn't have enough dough or smarts to hire to hire an insider to shepherd their projects through.
Anyone who follows planning issues has seen it: the former county planners and attorneys who now shill for developers; the mayoral buddies named to the planning commission, despite (or perhaps because of) their inexperience and apparent lack of conscience and/or will; the political appointees within the planning department allowed to stay far too long — and then replaced by a fresh batch of mayoral boosters.
It's been going on for an awfully long time, as I came to understand while researching and writing the Kauai chapter of a book that chronicles Hawaii's land use struggles. So my ears pricked when Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura spoke at a community meeting on Grove Farm's plan to evict people from their lifelong homes at Koloa Camp:
”I feel I'm back in the '60s when the Niumalu tenants and Kilauea farmers were being evicted,” she said.
Yes, here we are, some 40 years later, and not much has changed, except some of the folks who were fighting for the people and the `aina in those early land use struggles have since crossed over to the other side to play a very different role in the battles waged today.
Consider the resort at Nukolii, now the Hilton. Citizens objected intensely, but still the county approved the rezoning. This was followed by lawsuits and finally a referendum in which voters rejected the zoning by a margin of 2-1. The developer, meanwhile, had continued to build, in the belief that his rights had been vested. Citizens demanded that the permits be revoked; the county refused. Kauai Circuit Court Judge Kei Hirano sided with the county and opponents appealed all the way to the Hawaii Supreme Court, which overturned Hirano's decision.
The high court found that the government had not taken final discretionary action — issuing a Special Management Area permit — prior to the referendum, so the developer had no guarantee the resort could be completed. It ordered all permits revoked and construction halted. A second vote came out differently, and that's why the resort remains.
Fast forward to this century, and the development debacle involving Joe Brescia. The county and state allowed him to construct a house atop 31 known burials at Naue, thus setting a precedent that a Burial Council's decision to “preserve in place” means a structure could be built atop iwi that have been capped in concrete. The Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. fought the project in court, and though Judge Kathleen Watanabe found that the state had acted improperly, she refused to halt construction, saying substantial work had already been done on the project.
Of course, that work — including capping the burials with concrete against the wishes of the Burial Council — was sped up precisely so Brescia could claim at the hearing that he'd already invested too much to stop.
But the interesting point in all this is that when attorneys petitioned the Planning Commission to revoke the building permit, which had been issued based on the state's faulty actions, Commission Chairman Jimmy Nishida — the same guy who had been on the frontlines, risking arrest in the Nukolii fight — said no. He was worried about Brescia's private property rights, about the county being sued, about doing a “taking.”
I didn't know then about the Hawaii Supreme Court ruling in the Nukolii case, although Jimmy surely did, and the county attorney's office. While the circumstances weren't exactly the same, the state's high court had already said, decades earlier, that a project far more valuable than Brescia's house could indeed be stopped if the process was flawed. The court had already approved a "taking," much to the shock of government and the business sector. The county didn't need to be afraid of losing a lawsuit. Commissioners could've voted their conscience. As I reported then:
Only Commissioner Herman Texeira said no, he wouldn’t go along with the planning director’s recommendation [to deny the petition]:
“It seems the developer knew what the situation was. He went into this with his eyes wide open and then seemed to deliberately circumvent what was on the land.”
All this ran through my mind as I sat in the meeting room, listening to JoAnn speak and residents object, as I've heard them object so many times before to what is happening to this place we call home.
And I thought, if we don't learn from history, or choose to ignore it, if we lose our moral compass, or choose to ignore it, how many more bitter land use battles will have to be fought? How many more lawsuits will be filed, protests staged?
How can we correct the flawed process that allows bad developments to move forward, at great social, environmental and cultural cost?
Our visitors, it seems, aren't the only ones puzzled by a process that tenaciously endures, even though it is so obviously faulty and flawed.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
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Joan -- though the exact details escape me, we should not forget that one of the "elections" on the Nukolii issue was bought and paid for by the Japanese construction company wanting to develop it (Hasegawa?)Bobbi Franklin (jose bulatao's sister) led the pr effort along with other local sell-outs. if it's any consolation, that place today sucks -- even Hilton bailed on it. Someone correct me if i'm in error. mahalo
Yes, according to Land and Power in Hawaii, 57% of the money spent on the second election came "from the developer [Hasegawa] by way of loans and outright contributions, with most of the rest coming from businesses and individuals involved with the construction industry."
Follow the money. It starts with the Kamehameha clan selling off Niihau and vast tracks of ahupuaa on Kauai. Princess Ruth sold off large sections of Kauai land to build her now defunct palace. Kalakaua basically gave away land to Lihue Plantation now Grove farm. The Great Mahele transferred land to haoles after common Hawaiians couldn't pay the real estate tax. Bottom line is that the common man gets screwed all the time.
We need to shut the revolving door of insiders who work at the Planning Commission and Planning Department who then in turn work for developers. Too many of our "leaders" have sold out to money...Kusaka, Agor, Tresler...There are too many to name!
You forgot to mention people like Will Smith who speculate on Kauai land. Turning a 50% profit of $6.5 million in two years just raises the value for common people who want to buy their first home. Affordable housing? What's that? The definition of affordable housing needs to be re-written because most people can't afford it.
you may call it home but you are just another occupir
Yes, but one who can spell "occupier".
Not a graduate of the Hawaiian school system.
unfortunately, it really doesn't matter - who does what within the government, the lawsuits, the court decisions, we, the TAXPAYERS, will continue to pay for their, OUR GOVERNMENT mistakes.
Did Mel or Kipu Kai pay their own attorney's fees or will they be submitting the bills? They claim to be representing the county in their concerns, however the court disagreed with even allowing them standing...
don't worry, we'll all end up sharing that cost in the end.
"the former county planners and attorneys who now shill for developers"
How many can you name?
Developers and speculators can only get away with it w/ help from local sell-outs. Sad but true. Jimmy Nishida needs to move on. He's been on the Planning Commission far too long. He's forgotten his roots and left his backbone somewhere along the way.
What are the names of the former county employees that can be hired, I have already bought the liquor!
"and then replaced by a fresh batch of mayoral (under-qualified) boosters."
if it weren't so obvious, it would be amusing
A real big mistake people make on Kauai is getting sucked into Yukimuraʻs dribble. Itʻs all intended to keep people voting for her and at bay.
Remember, the OPOSITE of what comes out of the side of her mouth (when she isnʻt posing for the hoike camera) is what needs to registered as her intention.
Truly what you could call a
And anyone that believes one word she says need to sit down and shut up.
Who cares if the county paid for Melʻs attorney?
I hope they did.
Heʻs the only one trying and responding to whiners like you that complain about the source of atty fees.
What do you want? To keep sitting on your fʻg ass and complaining to blogs or a councilman that TAKES ACTION?
So far itʻs the best use of county money Iʻve seen...so I hope he got reimbursed.
You nit-picking anal retentive haole.
The one who has nothing better to do than point out a misspelled word ʻoccupierʻ that was probably written in a hurry.
How pitifully small of you.
And if it was someone who as you so distastefully state: "Not a graduate of the Hawaiian school system."
Maybe thatʻs why the writer has common sense and a good conscience.
Keep in mind, before the haole rot arrived here, the Hawaiians could spin circles around your ignorance. And they starting to do just again.
Maybe thatʻs something that scares you.
Former county attorneys now shilling for developers: Belles, Graham, Chun, Nishimitsu, Loo
Former planners: Youn, Shigemoto, Kamm, Mamaclay
Yes. The root of all evil. Money.
From personal experience with Mamaclay, thought he was a man with a conscience.
Agreed, Jimmy Nishida is a big disappointment. It's as if they get sworn in to be dumb, promise not to research anything, not to ask questions, not to be smart, but instead to shut up, do as they are told, ask no meaningful questions, never do research, never bring laws into the discussion and absolutely always do as the county attorney says. In fact, i dunno why the Mayor doesn't just have the county attorney be the planning commission, oh almost forgot, he does, the Mayor appointed the planning director, the head of the commission, and it's the old deputy county attorney. naturally, the commissioners need not think, just do as they are told.
Since the Nukolii decision, zoning/taking law has "evolved" and has become more favorable to the interests of the developer/landowner. The Supreme Court, like the rest of the federal government, has shifted to the right. Commerce takes precedence over everything else, including the environment.
I'm sorry, I believe Jimmy is no longer a member.
He has not been to meetings since, when, can't tell because the minutes of the meetings have not been published, like since October.
Why are they so far behind on posting them? I guess since there is a webcast version available, no need?
Oh snap, if you want to read those minutes, be sure to be lying down or turn your head sideways while reading. Those that are posted are poorly posted, like sideways, instead of correctly.
Maybe that's just how they do things in the planning department, half way.
"Ummm, only if it's possible to inflict death by whining."
Kind of mean, but funny. I almost felt guilty when I laughed.
"Did Mel or Kipu Kai pay their own attorney's fees or will they be submitting the bills? "
Good question. What a waste of money. Suing everyone to object to your friend not getting a raise - on some hyper-technicality. I didn't consent to my tax dollars being spent on either the prosecution or the defense of this BS case. We didn't vote these guys a blank checkbook with our funds.
Mel is effective and active, but his loyalties to certain others tend to bring him down. This seems much more like it was about friends and enemies, that any real concern over salary process. And go figure, the County Attorney ended up having a better understanding of law - what a shocker. Wonder if they gonna waste more of our money on an appeal now.
Being Mel's friend has its benefits.
So John Isobe is retiring - will Mel / Kipu Kai continue to fight for a completely irrelevant issue?
Mel = Against the plastic bag ban; For the war on drugs; Against requiring solar hot water; For wasting $ on lawsuit ( he actually sued to keep the mayor from renouncing his pay raise?); Against marijuana for sick people; For wasting tax money on a survey of Lydgate Park( just 'cause enemy county attorney said 'no need survey')...
Time's up in November. Hope 2012 is to end petty squabble/vendetta politics and install fresh faces.
Mel sued so Shaylene could get her raise. He could care less about Bernard.
Mel sued so Shaylene could get her raise. He could care less about Bernard.
January 2, 2012 9:43 AM
yeah fresh faces no bynam. What about the term limit charter amendment that was approved by voters? Does it ever kick in?
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