(Hawaii News Now) HFD responds to fire from makeshift boat or raft in Keehi Lagoon

(Source: Hawaii News NowHFD responds to fire from makeshift boat or raft in Keehi Lagoon
Nearly a dozen fire personnel responded to a boat fire in Keehi Lagoon (Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) – Nearly a dozen firefighters responded to a blaze that erupted from a makeshift boat or raft in Keehi Lagoon on Friday morning, the Honolulu Fire Department said.

The vessel was about 200 yards offshore when it burst into flames around 5:20 a.m.

The fire has since extinguished on the water.

Rescue crews searched the area by air and by boat after a first responder thought two people were seen in the water, but there were no signs of anyone in the water.

The search was called off and crews left the scene shortly after 6:45 a.m.

This story may be updated.

Copyright 2019 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

(Star-Advertiser) Lt. Gov. Josh Green opposes use of National Guard troops at Mauna Kea

(Source: Honolulu Star Advertiser)

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Law enforcement officers relaxed on Mauna Kea Access Road Thursday on the fourth day of opposition to the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea. The protest continued today with no confrontations with law enforcement this morning.

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UPDATE: 10:40 a.m.

MAUNA KEA >> Hawaii Lt. Gov. Josh Green says he opposes the use of Hawaii National Guard troops to cope with the protests on Mauna Kea.

Green, who is traveling in Chicago, described Mauna Kea as a “sacred mountain” in a Facebook post, adding that “first and most important in my opinion, there must not be any violence on Mauna Kea.”

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“I want to recognize the Protectors (opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope) right now for their peaceful approach to date. I have enormous respect for that. This is also why I have stated in the past my opposition to using the National Guard on Mauna Kea for TMT matters. I trust and respect the National Guard, however my belief is they should only be used when there is no other way to protect life and safety.”

Green also pledged to meet with anyone with an interest in the issue.

“In my opinion no single project, not any, is important enough to allow ourselves to damage the fabric of our Ohana in Hawaii,” he said.

Gov. David Ige has said unarmed National Guard troops will be used in support roles as the state attempts to move ahead with TMT construction.

State Sen. Kai Kahele (D-Hilo), meanwhile, has asked Ige for an immediate 60-day moratorium on construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope, saying in a letter to the governor sent Thursday that he has grown “increasingly apprehensive that the State of Hawaiʻi is not fully prepared for the situation on Maunakea.”

Kahele went on to write that Ige’s decision on Wednesday to issue an emergency proclamation giving law enforcement more flexibility on the mountain was not the solution and that activating the National Guard beyond the role of transporting personnel and equipment would only heighten tensions.

Kahele, who is challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard for her Congressional seat, is an officer in the Hawaii Air National Guard.

He also offered to help facilitate ho’oponopono discussions between the Ige administration and leaders of the TMT opposition. Ho’oponpono refers to a Hawaiian process of conflict resolution that aims to heal relationships.

“If culture and astronomy are to co-exist on Maunakea in the future, meaningful conversations about management, stewardship, access, revenue and decommissioning need to occur,” wrote Kahele. “The status quo is unfortunately unacceptable.

The Ige administration did not immediately respond to a request to comment on the letter.

Halting telescope construction for two months could add to the hurdles of getting the TMT built. The project’s conservation district use permit requires that construction begin by Sept. 26. It’s possilble that TMT would have to return to the Board of Land and Natural Resources to try to extend that date.

8:25 a.m.

MAUNA KEA >> Democratic socialist candidate for president Sen. Bernie Sanders said that “we must guarantee native people’s right to self-determination and their right to protest. I stand with Native Hawaiians who are peacefully demonstrating to protect their sacred mountain of Mauna Kea.”

In a Tweet posted shortly before 6:30 a.m. Hawaii time, Sanders was replying to a comment on Twitter by former state Rep. Kaniela Ing in support of the activists who oppose construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea.

The tweet was later deleted from his verified Twitter account.

Tweet

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MAUNA KEA >> Protest organizers are making preparations for what they say is an inevitable confrontation with law enforcement, naming the National Guard in particular.

>> Click here for more TMT coverage

During the daily morning meeting in front of hundreds of protesters, organizers practiced their human blockades and gave instructions on what to do in event of a confrontation, including removing children from the scene right away and never resorting to violence.

There are minors on Mauna Kea Access Road.

Gov. David Ige’s emergency proclamation on Wednesday means National Guard personnel could be deployed to clear the access road to Mauna Kea.

(Star Advertiser) Ige issues emergency edict as number of Thirty Meter Telescope protesters balloons

(Source: Honolulu Star Advertiser)

  • A total of 33 kupuna (Hawaiian elders) were arrested Wednesday morning during a sit-in on the Mauna Kea Access Road. Oahu Thirty Meter Telescope opponents showed their solidarity Wednesday, while Gov. David Ige issued an emergency proclamation over the ongoing protests.

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Gov. David Ige issued an emergency proclamation on Wednesday afternoon as the number of people gathered at the base of Mauna Kea to protest the Thirty Meter Telescope swelled to roughly 1,000 and crews were blocked for the third day in a row from accessing the telescope construction site.

Ige said the proclamation would provide law enforcement with more flexibility and authority to close off areas of Mauna Kea and better restrict access to the mountain. The proclamation suspends various state and county laws, including land management ordinances, expedites compensation for members of the National Guard, and allows for mandatory evacuations of civilians.

Ige stopped short of saying the state intended to use the proclamation to help forcefully clear the area of opponents of the telescope.

>> Photo Gallery: Police begin arresting Thirty Meter Telescope opponents

“The number of protesters has swelled and their blockage of roads and highways creates a dangerous situation,” Ige told reporters in announcing the emergency proclamation. “This affects the ability of first responders to address emergencies and disrupts the public’s ability to move freely and safely. The protesters’ activities affect our local businesses, their ability to use Saddle Road and operate. The conduct of the protesters also diverts our law enforcement resources from the protection of the broader community.”

Telescope opponents, who refer to themselves as “protectors” of the mountain, have been congregating near the intersection of Daniel K. Inouye Highway (commonly called Saddle Road) and Mauna Kea Access Road where their numbers appear to have increased from a few hundred on Monday to the state’s estimate of about 1,000 on Wednesday.

Law enforcement officers arrested 33 kupuna, or Hawaiian elders, on Wednesday morning, setting off a steady stream of emotional images and video via news outlets and social media. Officers looked poised to begin arresting more protesters who were blocking the road to the construction site mid-day, but backed off.

Protesters have made clear that their goal is to stop construction of the telescope, calling it a desecration of sacred land, and have said they will not relent, setting up an impasse with law enforcement agencies that have worked to avoid aggressive or violent confrontations.

However, efforts to avoid a clash have made it unclear what the state’s plan is to gain access to the construction site and state officials have refused to comment on anything that relates to their strategy.

Supporters of the project have begun to express frustration with the state’s reluctance to enforce the law and arrest everyone who is blocking the road.

Dan Fox, a 78-year-old Oahu resident, said the state’s action’s were illogical.

“Why did they waste all of this manpower bringing cops from other islands and the National Guard? Why are they doing all of this if they are not going to do their job? I don’t understand. It doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

“The protesters, their goal is just to be arrested … So why don’t you accommodate them? I’m shocked that they didn’t clear them off this morning.”

Ige defended law enforcement’s handling of the situation, calling their actions to this point commendable.

“They have been patient. They have been professional. They have dealt with kupuna who are stating their opposition to the project,” he said. “And I have encouraged law enforcement to be respectful, but enforce the law. So certainly we are looking at what is necessary to ensure that we can get project equipment and personnel to the construction site so that they can begin construction of the project.”

Asked if he thought construction crews could make it to the site today , Ige said there is no specific timetable.

(Star Advertiser) Homeowner surveys Kalihi fire damage, mourns death of her sister

(Source: Honolulu Star Advertiser)

  • DAN NAKASO / DNAKASO@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Loreto Sacramento, right, and her former tenant Jason Tolentino tour her two-story home in Kalihi that burned July 5. Sacramento’s younger sister, Adela Bumanglag, 75, suffered second-degree burns to her face and torso and died at Straub Medical Center on July 11. A memorial serv­ice is scheduled for Aug. 16 at Valley of the Temples.

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Loreto Sacramento toured her charred home in Kalihi in disbelief on Wednesday, even as she made funeral arrangements for her younger sister who was injured in the fire and died July 11 at Straub Medical Center’s burn unit.

The home on Haumana Place near Middle Street shared a common wall and part of a roof with a similar two-story home on Owene Lane, where the fire started on July 5.

Fire officials have not been able to determine the cause of the blaze, Honolulu Fire Department Capt. Scot Seguirant told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Wednesday. “It started on the Owene side but there wasn’t enough evidence to say … exactly (what) was the cause of it.”

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In an email Seguirant wrote on the day of the fire, he said that, “Cries for help were heard and (fire) personnel located a 75-year- old female in a bedroom on the second floor in the left front corner of the structure.”

On Wednesday, the white outline of a cross remained on a scortched wall of what was once Adela Bumanglag’s bedroom.

“She was very religious,” Sacramento said. “She was Catholic.”

Bumanglag, 75, was in critical condition with second-degree burns to her face and torso when she was found. A neighbor — a 27-year-old woman — suffered smoke inhalation.

Fire officials said that 17 people lived in the Owene Lane house and 14 were home at the time.

But tenant Jason Tolentino said the number is inaccurate.

“Not 17 — more,” Tolentino said. “More like 20.”

He’s now staying with his sister in Kalihi Valley.

Sacramento bought the two-story, six-bedroom, one-and-a-half bathroom Haumana Place home so her parents did not have to move back to the Philippines.

After they died, Sacramento let her sister live in one of the rooms rent free. Sacramento rented another bedroom to Tolentino for $450 and another bedroom to a couple for $650.

Now Sacramento is dealing with her insurance company while mourning Bumanglag’s death.

“She was my sister,” Sacramento said.

(Star Advertiser) At least 20 people in custody as arrests of Thirty Meter Telescope protesters continue at Mauna Kea

(Source: Star Advertiser)

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Law enforcement officers began arresting protesters this morning on day three at the base of Mauna Kea.

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UPDATE: 9:25 a.m.

The first vanload of arrestees departed for Hilo, and the protesters circulated trays of fruit and croissants under their tents while they waited.

“I would implore on the powers to be that perhaps after they’re removed that they not be prosecuted,” said Kaleikoa Kaeo. “They should not be prosecuted as criminals at all. They should be looked at as heroes. They show the people of Hawaii and the world how we should behave in this instance.”

Arrests resumed at 8:54 a.m. and several members of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I in black suits and capes stood and walked to a waiting van.

>> Click here for more coverage of the Three Meter Telescope protests

The arrests then paused again while a medic was summoned for Abel Lui, 76, a longtime Hawaii island activist who had intended to be arrested but began feeling ill.

At least 20 protesters have been arrested so far.

8:45 a.m.

The protesters waited calmly to be arrested one at a time, with teams of officers stepping forward for each of them in turn.

After seven people had been taken away, the arrests paused for a time at about 8:15 a.m., with one organizer joking that it was time for a water break.

8:10 a.m.

The next of the kupuna activists was carefully held under each arm by DLNR officers and led away, chanting.

“Thank you, Uncle Richard,” a woman called from the surrounding crowd as protest leaders and camera-wielding activists pressed forward.

A grey-haired “auntie” was pushed in her wheelchair to the waiting vans, and a man in the crowd called for “unity.”

Some members of the crowd were openly weeping, but the organizers thanked the protesters for remaining calm and demonstrating “Kapu aloha.”

8 a.m.

The crowd began to clap and sing, with the kupuna rocking from side to the strains of Hawaii Aloha, and the first two kupuna lay on the ground.

Another nine officers and deputy sheriffs came forward with stretchers and carried the first protesters to the waiting vans at 7:56 a.m.

7:50 a.m.

After some brief negotiations between protests leaders and DLNR personnel on Mauna Kea Access Road, several officers waded into the crowd to address kupuna, or elder protesters.

The kupuna were seated with family and supporters in four rows of folding chairs under tent shelters on the road.

At about 7:15 a.m. officers provided the elders a few minutes to use the restroom or make any final arrangements, and enforcement officers said they would return shortly for those who chose to be arrested.

Protest organizers then herded the crowd back on one side of the tent to make room for two police vans, and one organizer warned the artists to stay out of that space “unless you like take a ride.”

The kupuna chatted cheerfully with one another and with supporters while they waited.

At 7:45 a.m., organizers again pressed the crowd back to make way for about 30 enforcement offices on foot. Those officers took up positions in front of the kupuna and prepared to make arrests as activist Pua Case said a prayer.

6:40 a.m.

Protest organizers instructed both the media and activists to shut down their live feeds as protest leader Pua Case briefed the crowd on the tactics the activists plan today.

Dozens of enforcement officers from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources watched the crowd from about 100 yards up the road toward the mountain, and a drone buzzed over and around the gathered protesters.

A spokesman from the state warned the media to stay off the road during police activities.

6:20 a.m.

In a ceremony to start the day, members of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I in black suits and capes crossed from the camp or puuhonua set up near the Mauna Kea Access Road to tell the protesters that “we stand behind you.”

PREVIOUS COVERAGE

Both police and protesters have bulked up their presence in anticipation of conflict on Mauna Kea this morning, with more than 300 cars lining the highway near the activists’ camp.

Hawaii County police had gathered near the Daniel K. Inouye Highway just above Hilo by 3:30 a.m., suggesting that rumors that the highway will be closed at 6 a.m. may be true.

Several hundred shivering protesters have gathered at tents set up on Mauna Kea Access Road to shelter the kupuna or elders of the protest, who say they are ready to be arrested rather than allow heavy equipment to pass.

The state announced it would close Mauna Kea Access Road Monday morning, but it is the protesters who have taken control of the lower portion of the road so far this week.

As the sun began to break through the mist on the mountain at 6 a.m., about 300 activists chanted and sang to welcome a day they expect will feature the first arrests of this round of protests against the Thirty Meter Telescope.

The protesters consider the $1.4 billion TMT construction project be a desecration of sacred land. Astronomers say it will advance mankind’s understanding of the origins of the universe.

(Star Advertiser) Reopening of Arizona Memorial moves closer

(Source: Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

  • Video by Bruce Asato / basato@staradvertiser.com

    If you’re visiting Pearl Harbor this summer, you won’t get to step inside the USS Arizona Memorial. Repairs resumed Tuesday to restore walk-on access to the sunken battleship memorial.

Twelve new synthetic straps are anchoring the USS Arizona Memorial’s boat landing dock in place, and a contractor has 30 days to adjust the tension, leaving the National Park Service optimistic that the reopening of the iconic memorial to walk-on traffic is getting closer.

“We are pleased with the progress that’s being made, and as I said, we do expect to be open, as we have informed the public, no later than October of this year. But once again, as soon as we have more information and we’re able to set a specific date, we’ll make that public,” said Jay Blount, chief of interpretation and education at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial.

Blount provided a rare media visit to the memorial Monday. The distinctive walkway over the sunken battleship and grave for over 900 men has been closed to foot traffic since May 2018 after the anchoring system for the adjacent 105-foot floating concrete dock was found to be failing.

The dock serves as the disembarkation point for the 4,000 to 5,000 visitors daily who normally spend some time in quiet contemplation on the memorial.

Chains attached to concrete blocks that sat in sediment and may have been dislodged during king tides have been replaced by helical pilings that were screwed into the seafloor — some upward of 100 feet — that are expected to provide a stronger anchor.

While the tension is adjusted — Blount likened it to tuning the strings on a guitar — the park service is using the time to conduct maintenance on the memorial, including fixing its terrazzo tile floor and doing some painting.

“We’re having a contractor replace portions right now of that floor,” Blount said. He also emphasized the visitor center remains open.

“We have two wonderful free museums,” and the Navy is “doing a great job doing harbor tours of Battleship Row,” he said.

A Navy floating crane will be used to reinstall the 30-foot, 4-ton metal bridge that spans the distance between the floating dock and the memorial itself.

(Star-Advertiser) Council’s office move to Alii Place hits a snag

(Source: StarAdvertiser)

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Pictured is Ali’i Place (S. Hotel St. entrance) located at 1099 Alakea St. in downtown.

The Honolulu City Council’s plan to temporarily move into offices at the downtown Alii Place tower has hit a snag that likely will push the renovation of Council offices at Honolulu Hale into 2021.

Alii Place, which also houses the city Office of the Prosecuting Attorney and the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, is bounded by Alakea, Hotel and Richards streets. It’s about a half-mile from City Hall, and Council leaders have been negotiating with the building’s real estate agents.

Council Chairman Ikaika Anderson said last week that the landlords of Alii Place, The Bristol Group, want a five-year commitment from the Council, something the Council is reluctant to give because it would tie the hands of future Councils. By then five of the current nine Council members will be out of office due to term limits.

Nonetheless, Council members said Friday they want the renovation plans to continue, insisting that the second-floor offices of Honolulu Hale continue to be a health concern for them and their staff aides.

Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi said she and others who work on the second floor develop a cough whenever they’re working there.

Kobayashi, along with Anderson and members Joey Manahan, Ron Menor and Kym Pine, will be finishing up their second terms at the end of 2020.

“Even if I’m gone, I’d still would like to see (renovations) done,” Kobayashi said. “I don’t want to see any more people get hurt.”

Pine said her staff members have been hit with so many illnesses that she’s told them to work from home whenever possible.

“I would support anything that would put my staff in healthier conditions,” Pine said. “We’re having this constant disruption.”

Anderson said former Councilman Rod Tam, who died in May due to complications from leukemia, is just one of a string of people who worked in the Council offices who was diagnosed with cancer. Tam was on the Council from 2003 to 2010.

“Far as I know, Rod had no health issues prior to coming to the Hale,” Anderson said. “He always told me that since coming to the Hale, his allergies were horrible.” That was one of the reasons why he met with con­stituents at Zippy’s or in the community, Anderson said.

“Currently, the main sticking point is necessary language that must be included in any lease the Council signs,” Anderson said. “Specifically, we must include a clause that would allow for the Council to terminate the lease at-will due to the fact that the Council cannot, legally, bind a future Council to a financial obligation.”

As a result, “this gives the landlord some consternation as the whole point of a multiyear lease is to provide a degree of certainty with respect to rental income,” Anderson said. “Thus, while we are, technically, still in negotiations, I’m not sure that we will be able to overcome this particular hurdle.”

The relocation is supposed to be for approximately two years, which is about how long it’s supposed to take for the city to renovate the second-story offices of Council members, part of the city clerk’s office and the Office of Counsel Services.

Anderson declined to say whether Council leaders are looking at other potential relocation spots. “We’d like to go forward with the renovations; that’s all I can really say,” he said.

Council officials previously told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that they were eyeing a 19th-floor space containing about 19,940 square feet, and a 20th-floor space with about 18,548 square feet.

In its legislative budget for the fiscal year that began July 1, the Council set aside about $2 million for rent and relocation costs. It budgeted about the same amount last year.

Discussion about renovations and a possible relocation began several years ago under former Council Chairman Ernie Martin. A string of Council chairmen have continued to endorse the action.

But Mayor Kirk Caldwell and his administration have raised “serious concerns” about the necessity and cost of relocation.

In October, Caldwell sent Martin a letter that included summaries and full reports of four studies conducted on various health issues raised about Honolulu Hale since 2012. None of the four studies call for significant repairs or renovation.

“Environmental assessments do not justify an immediate relocation,” Caldwell wrote, adding that he instructed the Department of Design and Construction not to help the Council in planning the move.

(Hawaii News Now) To curb vandalism, nearly 200 security cameras will be installed in Oahu parks

(Source: Hawaii News Now)

New security cameras on Oahu

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) – The City and County of Honolulu plans to install nearly 200 more security cameras at its busiest parks under a partnership with the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

The HTA has agreed to pay $204,000 for the installation of the cameras, which aims to curb vandalism and crimes at 13 parks around Oahu.

“These cameras I think are really going to help fill that gap in terms of providing some additional eyes on these areas,” said Keith Regan, Chief Administrative Officer at the HTA.

“I know how challenging it is for the parks departments to make sure their bathrooms are protected, that their facilities and community centers are protected from vandalism.”

Some park users believe the added security is needed.

“Yeah, definitely. I feel like it will make people safer because there are always eyes watching,” said Ben Triana, a Las Vegas resident who visited Ala Moana Park today.

But others raised privacy concerns.

“Especially as a girl, you’re here with your family and friends and you want to enjoy yourself. I don’t like the idea that people can watch me do those things,” said Alina Tril, also visiting from Las Vegas.

The city said signs will be posted to alert park users about the cameras and that the cameras do not view inside the public restrooms.

Each year, vandalism at the parks costs the city about $200,000. Crimes against residents and visitors at the parks are far more costly.

The city said it plans to install 18 new cameras at Ala Moana Park and 16 at Kapiolani Regional Park, both heavily used by tourists and locals.

But it also plans to install 34 cameras at the Patsy T. Mink Central Oahu Regional Park and 30 at the Waipio Peninsula Soccer Complex, which are predominantly used by local residents.

The city said it will begin installing the cameras early next year.

Copyright 2019 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

(Star-Advertiser) State agency to study transferring control of Kakaako to city

(Source: Star-Advertiser)

Gov. David Ige last week vetoed a controversial bill that would have altered future development and governance in Kakaako.

But state lawmakers still got some of what they wanted in the bill, which sought the production and execution of a plan under which the state agency that regulates development and infrastructure investments in Kakaako would transfer its responsibilities to the city.

One day after Ige issued his veto Tuesday, board members of the Hawaii Community Development Authority overseeing Kakaako voted to spend up to $100,000 for a private consultant to produce a study on transferring the agency’s Kakaako responsibilities to another entity or entities, despite concerns that such a transfer would be premature and unwise.

The requirement to produce a transfer plan was floated in early April toward the end of the last legislative session when the House Finance Committee, led by Rep. Sylvia Luke, deleted the contents of a bill aimed at facilitating redevelopment of Aloha Stadium and replaced it with the HCDA Kakaako transfer plan.

Senate Bill 1350, HD 2, threatened to withhold pay for about half of the authority’s staff in the next two years if a “comprehensive” transition plan that shifted HCDA’s role in Kakaako to the city wasn’t produced before the Legislature convenes again in January. The bill also mandated that the transfer to the city be completed before the end of 2023.

Lawmakers, who used a different bill to achieve the stadium redevelopment initiative, passed SB 1350 on April 30 in a vote that drew only one dissenter.

Ige vetoed the bill in part because he said the short timeline to complete the work could threaten funding for 13 HCDA positions.

However, lawmakers also included a provision in the state budget signed by Ige that calls for production of the transition plan 20 days before the Legislature convenes in January.

Michelle Matson, a founding member of a community advisory group that helped HCDA produce a master plan for Kakaako makai of Ala Moana Boulevard, characterized the effort by lawmakers as blackmail and urged the HCDA board at a meeting Wednesday not to go forward with the desired plan.

Some HCDA board members said it would be useful to lay out what the agency has yet to complete in its mission for Kakaako.

Board Chairman John Whalen said there is some public perception that HCDA’s work is done because so many high-rise buildings are rising in Kakaako. But the agency has other responsibilities besides increasing residential use in Kakaako, including zoning controls and improving substandard road and sewer infrastructure. The agency also owns property, including land under affordable-housing projects and Kewalo Harbor.

Substandard infrastructure in Kakaako and the city’s avoidance of improving the blighted area were reasons the Legislature created HCDA in 1976.

In more recent years the Legislature expanded HCDA’s planning and regulatory duties to cover Kalaeloa and Heeia, which stretched agency resources. Earlier this year the area around Aloha Stadium was added to HCDA’s jurisdiction.

HCDA is transferring ownership and management of its biggest Kakaako parks to the city, but concern was expressed at Wednesday’s meeting over how the city might change zoning rules or whether the city would even accept a transfer.

Whalen said any transfer would be complicated. “There’s just a lot of questions to address,” he said.

(Star Advertiser) State backs affordable-housing towers

  • COURTESY HALAWA VIEW HOUSING PARTNERS LP

    A rendering shows a 24-story tower next to a 22-story tower in a $130 million plan to provide 302 low-income rental homes in Halawa. A third tower with 156 homes could be a future phase and is shown in silhouette. An existing 14-story tower on the site also is shown in silhouette.

A state agency is inclined to provide $130 million for a developer to build two apartment towers near Aloha Stadium for low-income households despite contentious community meetings over much of the project earlier this year.

Board members of the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp. gave unanimous preliminary approval Thursday to finance the plan containing 302 homes with monthly rents as low as $568.

The approval followed three Aiea Neighborhood Board meetings earlier this year where the project encountered opposition, got scaled back and then attained neighborhood board approval even though there were lingering concerns.

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Joe Michael, a principal of Halawa View Housing Partners LP heading the project, was gratified by the state’s commitment to provide tax-exempt bonds, low-interest loans and state and federal tax credits.

“This is a huge milestone, and it’s exciting to be kind of a catalyst for the neighborhood to spur redevelopment of the area around (transit-oriented development),” he said after the HHFDC decision.

Halawa View Housing figures it could start construction in April and be done by September 2021.

The project considered by HHFDC represents two of three pieces in a bigger development plan by Halawa View Housing for three new towers. The plan entails a total of 458 homes next to an existing Halawa View Apartments complex that has 121 low-income rental homes in a roughly 140-foot tower, and two three-story buildings about a half-mile from the stadium.

Halawa View Housing’s three-tower plan encountered heated opposition from residents living near the project site during Aiea Neighborhood Board meetings in January and February, largely over fear that it would produce an overflow of cars from tenants trying to park in the surrounding neighborhood filled with single-family homes.

The development partnership, formed by Michael’s California- based Pacific Development Group and the local nonprofit Hawaiian Community Development Board, had initially proposed 524 predominantly affordable homes in three towers each rising 250 to 276 feet, which would exceed the property’s 150-foot height limit. The initial plan also provided for 652 parking stalls that didn’t meet a city minimum.

But even after trimming the number of homes to 458 and reducing tower heights to between 211 and 229 feet as well as adding enough parking (658 stalls) to comply with city requirements, the neighborhood board balked at a requested endorsement in February. Then on Monday the neighborhood board voted unanimously to endorse the project, which would help address Hono­lulu’s chronic undersupply of low- income housing.

Under state law, developers can obtain zoning exemptions through HHFDC that allow affordable- housing projects to exceed building heights, density limits and other limitations.

Halawa View Housing said its project warrants the extra density and height in part because it is within a half-mile of a planned city rail station near the stadium, though the project site isn’t within a zone providing development bonuses under a draft city zoning plan for transit-oriented development.

The developer considered seeking an amendment to the city plan, but Michael said the exemption process under HHFDC provided a quicker route.

Much private and public land near the stadium is expected to be redeveloped over the next several years in anticipation of the rail line opening from Kapolei to the stadium late next year.

The state also enacted a law earlier this month to provide $350 million for replacing Aloha Stadium with a new facility that could be tied to residential, retail and other commercial development on the roughly 100-acre stadium site owned by the state.

Halawa View Housing acquired its 3-acre site in 2014, and renovated the existing affordable- housing apartments on the property with HHFDC financing.

For the planned addition endorsed by HHFDC, most of the 302 apartments would be two- bedroom units with monthly rents between $705 and $1,493. There also would be studios, one-bedroom units and four-bedroom units. The monthly rent range for all units is forecast to be $568 to $1,898.

Tenants would be limited to earning no more than 60% of the median income in Honolulu, which equates to $50,640 for a single person or $83,880 for a family of six. Some units also would be limited to households earning half these amounts.

The affordable rents and income restrictions would have to last 56 years under terms of the state’s financing arrangement.