- Special Projects
For more than a decade, Kuliouou Valley residents and local nonprofits have worked to preserve Paiko Ridge from development.
Back in 2013, then Honolulu City Council member Stanley Chang first proposed the city allocate $3.5 million to purchase 205 undeveloped acres of steep ridge land on the Ewa side of the valley, looming over houses on Kaeleloi Place. The Paiko Ridge proposal went through all the council’s approval processes.
However, that proposal is now on hold because last year’s charter amendment established a new Clean Water and Natural Lands Commission that must review proposals to use the Clean Water and Land Use Fund.
The commission, which is still being formed, will review five conservation projects — including Paiko Ridge — that are seeking $10,533,000, and make its recommendation to the city council.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of the story incorrectly stated how the review process works.
Sandra Pfund, director of the Department of Land Management, told the council during a meeting earlier this month that she can’t guarantee that money for the Paiko Ridge project will be on the initial priority list.
City Council member Trevor Ozawa said he fears that the price of the land will rise by the time the commission makes a decision. The land is in his district, and he has been working to secure the funds since he was elected in 2014.
“My fear of the current situation is that Sandra Pfund and the administration take too long to get the project back through this new process that was sprung upon us with surprise,” Ozawa said.
More than 200 acres of the land are already zoned for conservation. The property owners, LevRed Investors LLC., are considering building cluster houses on the 4 acres of the parcel that are zoned residential.
That’s triggered opposition from neighborhood residents and community members concerned that more development will worsen existing flooding and water runoff problems in the area.
On the top of the ridge, — outside of the residential zone — is what might be Oahu’s last remaining intact moku boundary, a dry-stack wall native Hawaiians used to mark the boundary line between districts, said Anne Marie Kirk, a local filmmaker and community activist. Kirk manages maunalua.net, a website that preserves native stories about the land that is now Hawaii Kai.
“When you’re up there you can see what our kupuna were seeing,” she said.
A previous proposal from a company called Paiko Ridge Partners to build a large luxury home subdivision was abandoned because of community opposition, said Ozawa.
LevRed wound up owning the ridge after the two companies that loaned money to Paiko Ridge Partners sued the company to foreclose the property and repossessed the land.
Paul Shinkawa, the project manager for LevRed, said the landowners are open to any viable option whether that is developing the property or selling it for preservation.
The owner has “been very patient on evaluating their options and the landowner has an appetite to work with nonprofits,” he said.
Livable Hawaii Kai Hui, a local nonprofit that aims to protect the land covered in the East Honolulu Sustainable Communities Plan, unsuccessfully tried to strike a deal to buy the land from LevRed in the past. A community group called Protect Kuliouou is now in the early stages of forming another nonprofit to raise money to help purchase the ridge.
In the 1980s, heavy rainfall caused a landslide on the same valley wall near the proposed development, said Waipa Parker, founder of the group Protect Kuliouou.
The curve of Papahehi Place still shows marks of that damage: The asphalt is cracked and filled with unpredictable dips. All that is left of the houses that were condemned by the state are the broken concrete slabs of what were once driveways.