Members of the Honolulu City Council’s Zoning and Planning Committee are requiring developers of a controversial luxury hotel-condominium project in Waikiki to increase the space between their two towers, pay for sewer upgrades, improve landscaping and make the area more friendly to pedestrians.
Councilman Ikaika Anderson added the requirements to a resolution currently before the City Council that would allow Los Angeles-based Pacrep LLC to exceed a 300-foot height limit for buildings in the Waikiki Special Design District by 50 feet.
The resolution passed out of the committee on Thursday, with Councilman Ron Menor expressing reservations. There are five members on the committee, but the only other member at the hearing was Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi.
The resolution will now go to the full City Council for a vote next Wednesday.
The resolution passed over the objections of a handful of Waikiki residents who complained that the process was being rushed and that they wanted more space between the buildings.
The towers “are dramatically out of place, dramatically damaging to the center of Waikiki,” Mark Monoscalco told councilmembers. “We are building the Great Wall of Waikiki.”
Pacrep was granted a height exemption by the City Council for its first tower at 2139 Kuhio Avenue in January 2013, known as the Ritz-Carlton Residences. It announced that it was building a second tower at 2121 Kuhio Avenue a few months later, which would be attached to the first and share amenities.
Residents have complained they were caught off guard by the second tower, the buildings will be too tall and too wide, and they violate Waikiki Special District guidelines that require buildings to be angled in a mauka to makai direction to preserve public views and let trade winds circulate more easily. Both towers are designed to run parallel to the coast.
However, supporters of the towers say they will add much needed high-end hotel rooms to the Waikiki tourist district. Occupants will have expansive views of Waikiki Beach from lanais that overlook Fort Derussy Park. Gourmet store Dean & Deluca, a high-end Japanese sushi restaurant and an open-air eatery featuring fresh ingredients from farmers’ markets are planned for the Ritz-Carlton, according to the developer’s web site.
The Thursday hearing, scheduled for 9 a.m., attracted plenty of supporters and detractors, with people flowing out into the hallway of Honolulu Hale.
However, Anderson recessed the meeting until later in the afternoon to give city attorneys time to draft “concrete” concessions that the developer would have to abide by.
“It is my desire to ensure that these concessions that are offered are in writing and that they are concrete . . . so the public understands what is on the table, versus what might be on the table,” Anderson told the committee.
By the afternoon, only a dozen or so people remained and public testimony was short.
Casey Federman, one of the project’s developers, told council members that he had no objection to the resolutions, nor did Art Challacombe, deputy director for the city’s Department of Planning and Permitting.
Anderson said that he had hoped to gain more concessions from the developers, including a cash commitment to improve the Waikiki neighborhood and a requirement that at least 75 percent of the rooms in the new tower remain in the hotel pool.
But Anderson said city attorneys advised him that such amendments to the resolution would not be within the council’s legal bounds.
“In actuality, the council’s hands are tied on a number of different issues,” he said.
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