For the second time, we attended a Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board meeting, driven by continuing concerns regarding the visual, traffic and sewage impact of the 7000 Hawaii Kai project on one of the last open plots of land at the very busy intersection of Hawaii Kai Drive and Keahole Street.

Once billed as an attractive “landmark” building, it appears to have morphed into a couple of dismal 90 feet high boxes with entry and exit plans that will almost certainly cause traffic problems. It also has plenty of potential to generate problems that go beyond aesthetics, including possibly sewage issues.

We appreciate the principled position taken by the chair, Greg Knudsen, who announced he would place on the agenda for the next meeting a motion to rescind the approval previously granted to the development. His action was prompted by the fact that he was “ashamed” that the Board’s approval appeared to have paved the way for a development that bore no resemblance to the promise of an aesthetically pleasing, “landmark” project.

Avalon development site hawaii Kai

The site of the Avalon proposed residential project at 7000 Hawaii Kai Dr.

Patti Epler/Civil Beat

Hoodwinked

“We’ve been taken advantage of,” he said.

Judging by what we saw of the proceedings, he is right.

He characterized the current developer’s actions in coming to the board in September to present plans for two tall boxes a couple of weeks before ground-breaking as “an intentional effort to make sure the Board did not have time to respond.”

He pointed out that the developer, Avalon, had known as early as February of this year what they were planning to do.

Knudsen remarked that the previous developer had come before the Board to review even minor changes. Yet Avalon apparently did not think the dramatically different twin boxes they were planning to build deserved Board review even though it bore no resemblance to what had been approved.

It was very disconcerting to hear a couple of Board members speak heatedly of the need for the developer to “make a profit” and characterize the expression of concerns by residents and the Board Chair as a “waste of time.” We thought the kuleana of the board was to safeguard the interests of the community, not serve as ambassadors for private developers or stifle discussion.

Given the sewage problems being experienced by some Kakaʻako residents, we do not understand why the studies that Avalon says were done are not available for public scrutiny. We are also baffled and frustrated that the CEO of Avalon who was present at the meeting made no attempt to address the concerns raised.

We have two questions: How was it possible for the developer to get permits when the current design clearly violates the agreement with the Neighborhood Board? What recourse does the community have to mitigate the impact on traffic and sewage before both become problems in search of solutions?

Respecting Democracy at the Neighborhood Board Level

Given the midterm elections and the lamenting about voter apathy, it is extremely disappointing to see the “frontline of civic engagement” thwarted and disrespected in the way it has been with regard to this project.

We asked the Neighborhood Commission Office how permits were obtained when the agreement with the Board had not been honored. We were told to:

  1. Email mayor@honolulu.gov with your specific questions about the permit etc.

The Mayor’s email account is triaged by several individuals who will forward your concerns to the appropriate department, in this case Dept. of Planning and Permitting.

  1. Attend the next Hawaii Kai NB meeting. At that time, you may ask the board to ask DPP for more information. There is also a Mayor’s Representative present at the Hawaii Kai board meetings. You may raise your concern to the Mayor’s Rep to be brought back in-house for review and response.

We have done as suggested and are still waiting for answers.

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