There's conflict over what to do about landowners who could make big profits from the city rail project. A respected local realtor says the city should be charging developers impact fees to up-zone their land.
But the city is using a different approach aimed at encouraging affordable housing development around rail.
Kamehameha Schools is the largest private landowner along the rail route, with 828 out of about 30,000 parcels.
The Howard Hughes Corporation owns large parcels of land in Kakaako that rail will run through.
So in the case of land around the rail, it's not who's getting rich but who's getting richer.
Landowners with property near the rail transit route will see their land values increase because the city is up-zoning a lot of commercial and industrially-zoned land to what's called "mixed use," allowing residential apartments to be built.
Realtor Peter Savio wants those landowners to pay extra for that zoning.
"So it's kind of like an impact fee. If they want to the higher zoning, they have to buy it. And if they did that, mass transit would be free," Savio said.
Savio said since taxpayers are paying billions of dollars for rail, they should share in some of the increased land values along the rail line.
"The value on their land is being created because of mass transit. Nothing they did. They just happened to be in the right place at the right time," Savio said.
Harrison Rue, the city's transit-oriented development administrator, said, "We would share those concerns but we think we've effectively prevented that kind of absolute windfall."
Rue said the city is trying to encourage developers to build more affordable housing along the rail line without "giving away the store."
And he says developers will be able to build apartments taller than allowed by current height limits only if they build affordable units.
"In return for getting that TOD (transit-oriented development) zoning, you have to provide some of what the community has said they want: more affordable housing, safe streets, usable public space," Rue said.
Real estate analyst Stephany Sofos agreed with Savio that landowners should pay the city for better zoning along the rail route.
"If they're going to get a bonus and a benefit from it, they should pay some and balance out. Because, otherwise, all the taxpayers are going to going to paying up our nose for the rest of our lives for this rail," Sofos said.
Rue said the city and state normally require affordable units to remain affordable for ten years, but the city wants to keep units built around rail to remain affordable for 20 or 30 years.