City blight measure pleases Kahala residents

KAHALA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The buzz in Kahala is over a new city bill that penalizes property owners who neglect their properties. Some residents of the upscale community hope Bill 3 rids their neighborhood of overgrown eyesores.

"I'd like to see it go back to representing Hawaii, not the joke that it has become," Sheri Gleason said.

She's talking about the 26 properties within a mile stretch on Kahala Avenue owned by Japanese rich man Genshiro Kawamoto.

"I can also call it 'Let's Save Kahala' bill," Waialae-Kahala Neighborhood Board member Richard Turbin said.

Under the new bill, negligent owners like Kawamoto could be fined up to $5,000 a day. Right now it's $50.

"I think with all of his various fines, he paid off $44,000 over some ten years. So what's that, $4,000 a year, that's nothing to a man like Mr. Kawamoto," Turbin said.

He said Kawamoto could easily total up fines in the millions of dollars in a very short time.

"If he doesn't fix up his property, the city can send in their own repair people, fix it up, and then they could send Kawamoto the bill," he said.

If he doesn't pay up, the city could slap a lien on his holdings. Kawamoto supporter Rodney Foth thinks that's unfair.

"Weeds, overgrowth. It rains, it grows. What are going to do? You live out of state and you got to hire good help. Some people say that they did the work. How does the man know that the work is even being done?" he said.

"I don't think the fines have made a difference," Gleason said. "I think he has enough money that he continues to thumb his nose at it. He doesn't pay his taxes in Japan. Why is he going to pay his fines here?"

The city thinks the bill will step up pressure on all property owners, not just Kawamoto, to keep things from getting overgrown and out of hand. Mayor Kirk Caldwell promised to sign the bill by May 1.

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