Pivotal Mayoral Race May Determine Kailua’s Future: Residential Community or Tourist-Resort Destination?

Kailua Beach
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Kailua Beach

REPORT FROM KEEP IT KAILUA – Most of the focus of the upcoming Mayoral election has been on the proposed 5+ billion dollar rail project. However, several other key issues also hang in the balance, one of which is the future of Kailua. The outcome of the election will be critical to determining whether Kailua will remain residential in nature or become a tourist/de-facto resort destination.

Keep it Kailua recently sent out a survey to Mayoral candidates Ben Cayetano and Kirk Caldwell asking them for their positions on three issues of major concern to many Kailua residents: 1) commercial visitor lodging in residentially-zoned neighborhoods, 2) commercial activity at Kailua’s beach parks, and 3) the promotion of Kailua as a tourist destination and de-facto resort area.   Keep it Kailua has also researched both candidates’ records and public statements regarding these issues.  Below are summaries of the candidates’ responses to our survey questions and our analysis.


Commercial Visitor Lodging in Residentially-Zoned Neighborhoods:

Ben Cayetano stated that he would oppose any legislation or administrative action that would permit visitor lodging, such as short-term vacation rentals, in Kailua’s residential neighborhoods. In contrast, Kirk Caldwell refused to give a yes or no answer to the question and commented that he would consider licensing visitor lodging in residential neighborhoods. Additional research by Keep it Kailua indicates that Caldwell does in fact have a position on this issue. On his campaign website, Caldwell stated in a speech to Ewa residents that he would support licensing vacation rentals on Oahu.

Tourism Businesses Utilizing Kailua’s Public Beach Parks:

Ben Cayetano stated that he would oppose any legislation or administrative action that would allow tourism-oriented businesses, such as kayak tour companies and tour buses, to operate in Kailua’s public beach parks. Kirk Caldwell, on the other hand, stated that he would support legislation or administrative action that would allow such businesses to operate in Kailua’s public beach parks.

Promoting Kailua as a Tourist Destination:

Ben Cayetano stated that he opposes any legislation or administrative action that would promote Kailua as a tourist destination or resort area. Kirk Caldwell also stated that he would oppose such legislation, but commented that merchants benefit from visitor spending and that Kailua should welcome visitors. Given this comment and his support for additional visitor lodging in residential neighborhoods and for tourism-oriented businesses utilizing Kailua’s beach parks, we must conclude that Caldwell would support legislation or administrative action that would promote Kailua as a tourist destination or resort area.

Keep It Kailua’s Assessment

Based on the responses to the survey questions and additional investigation, Keep it Kailua believes that Ben Cayetano would work to keep Kailua a residential community and would protect Kailua’s residential housing supply by not allowing homes to be converted into commercial visitor lodging units. In addition, Ben Cayetano would keep Kailua public beach parks residential in nature and not allow them to be exploited for the financial gain of the tourism industry.Cayetano commented that he supports the tourism industry, but that the proliferation of tourism-related commercial activities in residential neighborhoods and our parks and beaches are of great concern to him. Cayetano also stated that any commercial activity that erodes the character of residential neighborhoods must be strictly regulated and in most cases banned.

Keep it Kailua believes that Kirk Caldwell would allow visitor lodging units to proliferate in Kailua’s residential-zone neighborhoods, changing the land-use of properties from residential to quasi-resort. Caldwell commented that he was only concerned with noise and traffic issues. Keep it Kailua is disappointed that Caldwell did not express concern that visitor lodging businesses in residential zoning removes neighbors from our neighborhoods and diminishes Kailua’s social capital, or that using homes as commercial lodging reduces the supply of housing for residents and raises long-term rentals costs and property taxes. Caldwell’s support for the operation of tourism-oriented businesses in Kailua’s public beach parks is also highly troubling. Keep it Kailua is concerned that Caldwell does not understand that allowing visitor lodging businesses in Kailua’s residential neighborhoods and tourism-oriented businesses in our public beach parks helpspromote Kailua as a tourist destination and de-facto resort area and significantly destabilizes our residential community.

Keep It Kailua is a grassroots community group founded in 2004 whose purpose is to retain Kailua’s family-oriented residential character and quality of life.
Keep It Kailua’s goals are to:
• Protect residential zoning and promote permanent residency in our neighborhoods
• Preserve and enhance scenic, civic, recreational and cultural features that define Kailua’s sense of place
• Protect water resources essential to the health of the environment
• Preserve trees and maintain open green space
• Promote walking and the use of non-motorized bicycles as alternatives to automobile transportation within and around the town
• Promote businesses that serve the residential community
• Support other community groups with similar goals


FOR MORE INFO:     www.keepitkailua.com 





  1. Thank you Keep it Kailua for all of your efforts in protecting Kailua's residential neighborhoods!

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