BY JIM DOOLEY –A bill that would lift development restrictions on two prime real estate lots along Ala Moana Boulevard is pending at the Hawaii State Legislature.
The parcels are part of package of real estate which the state intends to convey to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to settle an unresolved dispute over ownership of “ceded lands” which once belonged to the Hawaiian Kingdom.
The two large lots, at 653 and 919 Ala Moana Boulevard, are in the same Kakaako neighborhood of Honolulu where community protests erupted in 2006 over a large residential high-rise development proposed by Alexander & Baldwin.
The Legislature ended that dispute by passing a law that outlawed new residential developments on the ocean side of Ala Moana Boulevard.
Now a measure pending in the state Senate, SB682, would lift those development restrictions for the OHA lots fronting Ala Moana.
OHA and Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s administration cautiously endorsed the measure, but only if it does not endanger the overall ceded lands settlement deal.
“OHA appreciates what we understand to be the intent of this measure, which is to add value to two parcels of land,” OHA chair Collette Machado told senators in prepared testimony.
“The right to develop residential structures on these two lots would add significant value,” Machado said.
But she also urged senators to ensure that the measure “is acceptable to both the Senate and the House and does not impair passage” of the larger settlement bill.
Similar testimony was delivered by Attorney General David Louie.
Strong opposition to the bill was delivered by the Outdoor Circle.
“The Outdoor Circle believes that the people have spoken loud and clear that they do not want residential development in Kakaako Makai,” said Bob Loy.
“Yet here we are, once again, fighting to prevent residential development in Kakaako Makai!” Loy testified.
Residential development of the lots would “forever change” the unique nature of the area, he said.
The measure was heard in a joint meeting of the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee and the Water Land and Housing Committee.
Two ranking members of those committees, Sens. Clayton Hee and Malama Solomon, are Native Hawaiians and delivered strong defenses of the bill during the hearing.
“I don’t know if OHA is going to do residential,” said Solomon, D-1st Dist., vice chair of the Water land and Housing Committee.
“But I feel a respect of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs as representing the sovereign entity of the Hawaiian people. They should be given all of their options,” Solomon said.
When a member of the Kakaako Makai Community Planning Advisory Council expressed support for a continued
ban on new residential development, Sen. Hee, D-23rd Dist., said, “What OHA chooses to do with their property is OHA’s choice.”
Hee, chairman of the Judiciary and Labor Committee, continued: “We leave that choice to them, no matter what we think is best for Hawaiian people. My whole life I’ve been told what’s good for me as a Hawaiian.”
Hee said he was part of the protests against the A&B development proposal but that project was in a different location from the two OHA parcels.
The bill “does not force OHA to do residential” but allows OHA the discretion to act “for the benefit of Native Hawaiians,” said Hee.
The committees are scheduled to vote on the bill tomorrow afternoon.