Lawmakers hear testimony on bills to curb Kakaako development

Red-clad opponents of the HCDA at the state House Water and Land Committee hearing
Red-clad opponents of the HCDA at the state House Water and Land Committee hearing

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An overflow crowd jammed a state house committee hearing on several measures that would put more controls on the Hawaii Development Community Authority, the agency that is responsible for development in Kakaako.

Opponents of the agency turned out in force at the State Capitol, wearing red t-shirts. Most of them are concerned about the accelerated pace of development in Kakaako, and that the HCDA is not listening to their concerns.

"My impression is that the HCDA conducts those hearings just to check the box that says yes, we engaged the community and listened to what they had to say. But I doubt that they did any engaging or listening," said Kakaako resident Grace Ishihara.

Others say the HCDA is necessary to manage development in the area, where 22 or more residential towers are planned for construction.

"It's attempted to the best we can, knowing that there is going to be growth, knowing that there is going to be more cars on the road," said Kika Bukoski, executive director of the Hawaii Building and Construction Trades Council, which is opposed to the measures.

"We believe that the population of the island is growing, and that much-needed housing should be placed in the urban core, where the infrastructure's already in place and where the jobs are," said David Striph, an executive vice president with the Howard Hughes Corporation, which is the biggest landowner and developer in Kakaako.

"We have a personal investment," said Kakaako resident Eddie Johnson. "I don't know where the vice president, executive director of Howard Hughes lives, but I don't think he lives in Kakaako."

HCDA Executive Director Anthony Ching as in the hot seat, with committee member Rep. Scott Nishimoto asking Ching why the agency's board didn't submit any testimony.

"If these bills are heard in the future, will the board be taking a position?" asked Nishimoto.

"I will certainly communicate that message that this body would appreciate their proper action and vote and their position," Ching responded.

"The residents are saying that HCDA is unresponsive and that basically you're not engaged," Nishimoto told Ching. "When you come before us and you don't have a position from the board, that seems to only -- it only seems to back up what the residents are saying." Red-clad HCDA opponents then broke out in applause.

Another committee member supporters one of the measures, which would suspend development approvals for a year.

"I propose that we just do a moratorium, have nothing being done until we all can get back and get a grip of what's happening," said Rep. Faye Hanohano.

The committee is expected to vote on the measures Tuesday.

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