Prime land in Kakaako won’t be seeing residential developments anytime soon

Updated: Mar. 16, 2021 at 5:35 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The possibility of housing in Kakaako Makai has been shot down, at least for now.

OHA’s push to repeal a law that protects the area from development died at the State Capitol on Tuesday.

Supporters of ‘Save Our Kakaako’ rallied on the steps of the Capitol against Senate Bill 1334. The bill would’ve lifted the 2006 ban of residential developments in Kakaako, ocean-side of Ala Moana Boulevard.

It was a divisive issue among community members who felt such a development would change the face of the area too drastically.

“We wanted to bring the people to the legislators so they could hear our concerns,“ rally participant Ronald Iwami with Save Our Kakaako said. “We don’t want Waikiki to come to Kakaako Makai. I mean, it’s too late for Waikiki, but not too late for Kakaako Makai.”

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs received 30 acres of prime oceanfront property in the area nine years ago. It settled a decades-old dispute over ceded lands. The land is said to be worth $200 million, but OHA says it can’t generate enough revenue without housing there.

”The revenues from a successful development in Kakaako can help our people, and that’s what we need to do,” OHA Chair Carmen Hulu Lindsey said.

Their plans to develop the area included 400-foot tall residential towers. As Oahu’s severe housing issues drag on, such a project would’ve added condominium style units to the island’s housing supply, but opponents say Kakaako Makai is a public space that shouldn’t be touched.

“The developers are always going to want to develop. And we need development. This not an anti-development question. But this is a question of where we want development and what is the right way to do things,” State Sen. Gil Riviere (D) Haleiwa, Waialua, Kahuku said.

’Save Our Kakaako’ also invited to the rally House Speaker Scott Saiki who represents the area.

He showed up with a surprise announcement that the housing bill wouldn’t be advancing any further this session.

Saiki said, “There is not a compelling reason for the Legislature to reverse this prohibition,” but he promised to keep working with OHA on alternatives.

After news of the bill’s failure, OHA Chair Lindsey said they’re “saddened that Native Hawaiians were robbed of an opportunity to have their voices heard.”

She added that OHA hopes to return to the legislature next year to continue the discussion of allowing housing on its lands. Meanwhile, ‘Save Our Kakaako’ says they’ll also be back to make sure the ban isn’t lifted.

“It’s a landmark law that needs to be there for eternity,” Iwami added.

Copyright 2021 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.