Kawamoto's Kahala neighbors demand punishment for dilapidated properties

Kawamoto's Kahala neighbors demand punishment for dilapidated properties
Genshiro Kawamoto
Genshiro Kawamoto
Jiro Sumada
Jiro Sumada
Rich Turbin
Rich Turbin

KAHALA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For eight years, Kahala Avenue neighbors have been at odds with billionaire Genshiro Kawamoto and in part two of our special report a solution between the war of the wealthy is difficult to find.

Real estate mogul Genshiro Kawamoto paid nearly half a million dollars a year in property taxes in 2011.

He's also paid $42,000 in fines. He certainly contributes more than most to the city coffers however it's not just his money but weak laws that allows him to come away clean.

Genshiro Kawamoto knows how to protect himself from the sun and from persecution. Kawamoto owns 27 properties on Kahala Avenue.

One was bought for $22 million and then demolished for a statue garden. Others were mansions that have been trashed attracting more drug users than investors.

So what is Genshiro's plan?

"By this summer he is going to have everything in order," said Kawamoto, through an interpreter.

"On all of them? All 27?" we ask.

"About. That's his plan," responded Kawamoto.

"If he says that to you he's not fixing up anything. You can watch it," said Rose-Marie Rafael, whose home is surrounded by Kawamoto properties.

Neighbors are fed up saying this type of neglect and dilapidation shouldn't be allowed anywhere, let alone on Oahu's premiere street.

"It's really ridiculous stuff. It's not art," said Rafael, referring to the dozens of statues Kawamoto has placed on many of his properties.

Even on the richest road the city cannot cite for poor taste.

But Kawamoto has been ticketed 64 times since 2005 for other things like letting weeds grow out of control and building permit and safety violations.

Kawamoto has racked up more than $42,000 in violations for all his Kahala Avenue homes, he stills owes $3,000 for overgrowth and litter from two properties. But according to the city he usually, eventually pays off all his fines.

Is there anything else the city can do with Genshiro Kawamoto's properties?

"I think the best tool we have are the ones we have in place as far as imposing fines," said Jiro Sumada, City Department of Planning and Permitting Acting Director.

Since Kawamoto is an egregious repeat offender his fines now start at the maximum amount of $2,000. But he, just like everyone else gets 30 days to correct the problem. If not on the 31st day he would get another $2,000 fine. And another $2,000 each day the violation is not corrected. However violators can avoid the additional fines by fixing the problem within the 30 days and Kawamoto does.

"It happens but he fixes it whenever there is an issue," said Kawamoto through the interpreter.

As for the trashed homes, technically he has boarded them up and made it unable to get into. So despite being ugly it's not a public hazard.

Neighbors argue his homes attract vermin and insects. The city says that's a Department of Health issue.

Furthermore the city says they can't treat Kahala any different than Kalihi.

"Why not? He has bought so much property. You know he is up to no good. You know his goal is to trash the neighborhood," said Rich Turbin, Kawamoto's neighbor.

"We know that the community wants increased enforcement action against him, however like I said we want to make sure we treat every property owner fairly and consistently regardless of the neighborhood they are in," said Sumada.

There is an effort by the City Council to raise the maximum fine from $2,000 to $5,000.

The State is also considering a bill that would let people sue other homeowners if their property value drops because of a public nuisance.

The city could go in and trim the weeds and fix the problems on its own, then bill Kawamoto, but it hasn't done that.

Here's some perspective. The city has only 14 inspectors for the entire island to respond to complaints and spot property violations.

While it's certainly not blighted, the city has struggles keeping its own Honolulu Hale in order. So forcing a mogul to keep Kahala standards is a tall task. Especially when he says it will be better.

"All happy," laughs Kawamoto.

"And after it changes everyone will be happy," said Kawamoto through the interpreter, referring to the work he is doing on the properties.

"Don't listen to what he says. Listen to what he does," said Turbin. "Actions speak louder than words and his actions here has been to terribly blight one of the most beautiful areas in Hawaii."

In the past Kawamoto said he planned to open a public museum inside one of his homes. However the city says that would be virtually impossible because he would need to get the residential property rezoned which isn't likely to happen.

Some of his homes are already set up like a museum featuring several collectibles including statues, trinkets and deer antlers. However it is not open to the public.

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