Billionaire investor plans to change image of Kahala

Billionaire investor plans to change image of Kahala
Published: Feb. 18, 2013 at 6:36 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 22, 2013 at 5:49 AM HST
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Genshiro Kawamoto
Genshiro Kawamoto
This reporter speaks with Rose-Marie Rafael.
This reporter speaks with Rose-Marie Rafael.
Rich Turbin
Rich Turbin

KAHALA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kahala Avenue is like the Rodeo Drive of Oahu.  Genshiro Kawamoto owns 27 homes on that pricey street.  The city assesses the total value worth $150 million.  In total it's more than 15 acres of mostly beach front property and some of them have been demolished or trashed.

Many have dreamed about owning a house on Kahala Avenue.  And many would have never dreamed houses on the street would look like this.

This was a $12 million, six bedroom, nine bathroom 8,000 square foot house that squatters just loved.  We found drugs on the ground and graffiti and broken windows all around.  It is among the worst owned by Genshiro Kawamoto.

Time it right and you'll catch him surveying his properties or giving workers $100 to pick up lunch.  We asked him what's his plan for the properties?

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

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

"About. That's his plan," said Kawamoto through the interpreter.

We ask if he is trying to bring the property value down?

Kawamoto gestured with his hands up.

"He wants it to go up," said the interpreter.

Although that's hard to believe when looking at these once pristine properties.

"Are you going to buy more properties as well?" we ask.

"No," said Kawamoto.

"Not right now?" we ask.

"Too many," said Kawamoto.

"Are you going to sell then?" we ask.

"He still has plans to change the image of this town," said Kawamoto, through the interpreter.

The image has been changed.  He has added dozens of statues to various properties and says people tell him it looks good.

"He says most of the answers he gets, close to 95 percent they are happy with the change," said Kawamoto, through the interpreter.

Neighbors we spoke with think he's out of his mind and don't like what he's done with the place.

"Jealous," said Kawamoto.

"Jealousy. Yeah so it's possible it could just be jealousy. Who knows but in his view most of the people he talks to say they like the ocean view and they like this better than before," said Kawamoto, through the interpreter.

"It's really ridiculous stuff. It's not art," said Rose-Marie Rafael, Kahala Avenue neighbor.

Rose-Marie Rafael's home is surrounded by Kawamoto properties.  She calls him the biggest liar around because he says he'll make the land better, starts a project but doesn't finish it.  She says he tries to annoy neighbors to the point where they give up and sell to him and she says his realtor at Choi International has harassed her to sell.

"She came to me personally and came very close, and said you have to sell," said Rafael.

"I describe him as a person who is up to no good," said Rich Turbin, Kahala Avenue neighbor.

Rich Turbin is another neighbor who is standing his ground against Kawamoto.

"By wrecking the beauty of this community, by blighting this community he is blighting all of Hawaii," said Turbin.

Kawamoto's interpretation of Turbin is much different.

"Turbin-san. Very good friend," laughed Kawamoto.

"Good friend?" we ask.

"Yeah," Kawamoto replied.

"Are you sure?" we ask.

"Sometimes," Kawamoto replied.

"Sometimes changes mind. Sometimes good friends. Sometimes otherwise," said Kawamoto, through the interpreter. "There are always people who are, you know, like Mr. Turbin in any community, activists, trying to maintain homeowners association."

Make no mistake, many Kahala Avenue homeowners do not consider Kawamoto a friend, but a man who began the war of the wealthy.

"He gets away with it. And everyone is wondering how?" said Rafael.

That is the topic of part two of the war of the wealthy.  Hear how much Kawamoto has paid in fines and efforts by city and state lawmakers to change the laws.

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