Dozens rally against bill that would allow residential development in Kakaako makai

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

KAKAAKO (HawaiiNewsNow) - Area residents, surfers, park users and others rallied against a bill in the state legislature that they say will turn parts of Kakaako makai of Ala Moana Boulevard into another Waikiki.

Residential development is currently banned in Kakaako Makai. The "Save Our Kakaako Coalition" waved signs along Ala Moana Boulevard at the Kakaako Gateway Park to protest House Bill 2819, which would allow such development.

"It's going to allow two parcels of land that just got transferred to OHA to allow residential zoning," said Ron Iwami, president of the group Friends of Kewalos. "We feel that sets a bad precedent by allowing more exceptions in the future."

The two parcels include the site of the current Department of Public Safety offices on Ala Moana, just makai of Ward Avenue. The other site as at the corner of Ala Moana and Forrest Avenue, just Ewa of the historic Kakaako Pump Station.

Members of the coalition and their supporters say the bill would open the door to high-rise development on what they say is urban Honolulu's last public oceanfront land.

"They want to pub residences for the rich along the front here, then they going block the road to go to the beaches. And once you get that, that's a no-no," said Kahu Manu Mook, who showed his support by blowing a conch shell at the rally.

"People that come here, I don't care where from, they get into the hotel or the condominium or whatever it is, they want and they need the recreation," said longtime surfer and waterman George Downing. "They need the feel of the grass on their feet."

According to the coalition, the parcels are part of the recent land settlement between the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the state, which was just signed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie. OHA said it did not solicit this measure. And in testimony before the legislature, the Hawaii Community Development Authority, which oversees Kakaako, said it had no position on the bill.

The coalition last got together in 2006, when they rallied against another residential development plan for the area.

"People want to build high-rises in Kakaako Makai because it's so prime. The land is prime," said Iwami. "But our feeling is -- the coalition's feeling is that we want to keep makai for the people to use."

"I owe it, I owe it, just like every one of us that live here, owe it to Hawaii to protect our parks," said Downing.

The bill is currently headed to a conference committee to hammer out differences between the house and senate versions of the measure.

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