House negotiators on a controversial bill allowing residential development in Kakaako Makai are signaling they may be willing to compromise.

Rep. Cindy Evans told Sen. Maile Shimabukuro Tuesday at the State Capitol that the House wants “to move” on Senate Bill 3122 “and that definitely we need to find a solution.”

While the House supports “the idea” of authorizing the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to build condominiums on three parcels, Evans said there are still concerns about how passing SB 3122 might affect what happens in other parts of Kakaako that are under the purview of the Hawaii Community Development Authority.

The HCDA has been criticized by community members and some lawmakers for moving too fast on developing the mauka area of the neighborhood.

“We’re looking at making sure whatever we do on these parcels, we need to consider how it will influence other parcels in the makai area,” she said.

Shimabukuro proposed a conference draft that she said is consistent with the House’s version of SB 3122 but also “tweaks” the legislation by altering the bill’s preamble and making technical changes based on language in House Bill 1866, which calls for reforming how the HCDA operates.

For example, OHA’s buildings could not exceed 418 feet in height. HB 1866 also places additional public hearing requirements on the HCDA when projects are proposed.

HB 1866 has already passed both houses and is awaiting action from Gov. Neil Abercrombie. He has until May 1 to sign the bill — the last day of the legislative session.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Members of Halau Lokahi sing and perform hula in the Capitol Rotunda.

The OHA Kakaako Makai bill is far from a done deal.

Earlier this month, the author of SB 3122, Senate Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria, lambasted the author of HB 1866, House Majority Leader Scott Saiki, when Saiki seemed to suggest that Galuteria’s bill would not survive conference committee.

Saiki has been one of the most vocal critics of HCDA while Galuteria has been one of the most ardent supporters of developing Kakaako. Both represent the neighborhood, and both are up for re-election.

SB 3122 also has to be approved by House Finance, even though there is no appropriation in the bill. During the long slog that is conference committee, the fate of many bills remains uncertain until the money committees weigh in. Finance Chairwoman Sylvia Luke is a Saiki ally.

Opponents of SB 3122, worried that high-rises in Kakaako Makai will block access to one of the few oceanfront spaces in Honolulu, have lobbied heavily to stop the bill.

But supporters of the bill, who argue that OHA needs to build in Kakaako Makai to generate revenue to help Native Hawaiian beneficiaries, have also been fighting for their own cause.

Before Tuesday’s meeting, OHA organized a rally in the Capitol Rotunda, with most on hand wearing red shirts and hats that read “E Ala, E Alu, E Kuilima, Kakou!” Rough translation: “Wake up and rise together!”

“Everyone gets to live in Kakaako except Hawaiians,” read one sign. “Support Hawaiian management on Hawaiian land,” read another.

Galuteria and Reps. Jo Jordan and Kaniela Ing were among those standing with OHA.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Sen. Maile Shimabukuro shows her support for SB 3122 by wearing a hat that says, “E Ala, E Alu, E Kuilima, Kakou!”

“This building listens to numbers, and if we speak as one, there will be no denying us,” Galuteria told the SB 3122 supporters. “I need your support, your spirit, your unity.”

“This bill is about self-determination and correcting injustices,” said Ing.

Halau Lokahi performed hula and sang. After the speeches, the crowd ringed the Rotunda and sang “All Hawaii Stands Together” and “Hawaii Aloha.”

Many of the OHA supporters later attended the conference committee meeting on SB 3122, including Trustees Peter Apo and Oswald Stender. Shimabukuro donned one of the red hats, demonstrating her allegiance.

But Evans explained that preserving open space in front of the Pacific Ocean is a priority, too.

“We are trying to find a balance,” she said. “We want everyone to know we are really going to try and find one.”

SB 3122 conferees will meet again Wednesday afternoon to see if they are any closer to having a bill both houses can live with. Supporters of the legislation told Civil Beat that, if the bill can move out of conference committee, they believe SB 3122 has the votes to survive a final vote next week and head to the governor for his signature.

Contact Chad Blair via email at or follow him on Twitter at @chadblairCB.

About the Author