homepage logo

Hawaiians raise concerns about Keawe Street Apartments at the Villages of Leiali‘i

By Staff | Aug 9, 2018

LAHAINA – Friday evening, July 27, the Hawaii Housing Finance & Development Corporation (HHFDC) came to West Maui and called an “informational briefing” at Lahaina Civic Center on the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the leasehold development of an affordable family rental project, “Keawe Street Apartments at the Villages of Leiali’i.”

HHFDC Project Manager Stanley S. Fujimoto advised the gathering of the estimated 40 in attendance, “about our proposed RFP and to get your comments.”

Nothing formal.

“The HHFDC is the owner of the Villages of Leiali’i,” Fujimoto said, including the approximately 436-acre parcel of land situated on the south side of the Villages of Leiali’i and on the north side of the of the Keawe Street Extension.

Further pinpointing the location of the 200-unit affordable family rental development, Fujimoto described: “As you are driving up Keawe Street from the Lahaina Cannery (Mall), after you pass the developed area, it is on left side. It is pretty vacant right now.”

Some of the major project requirements were detailed in the briefing agenda:

The developer shall be responsible for all offsite and onsite costs necessary to develop and operate the project;

The project will consist of approximately 200 units affordable to families at 60 percent or below the AMI (area median income);

Low-rise, garden-style, multi-family apartments with adjacent parking;

Developer to subdivide the project boundaries in accordance with his site plan as approved by HHFDC;

Project includes the development and construction of a public road to access the proposed site, as well as HHFDC lands beyond the project site, prior to dedication to the county;

Project must include a private package sewage treatment plant;

Conveyance of the project site will be by ground lease, 75 years, $1 per year;

The project shall remain affordable for the term of the ground lease;

The Development Agreement must be executed by May 31, 2019, unless extended at the sole discretion of HHFDC.

“This is basically the proposed RFP,” Fujimoto advised, noting the details.

The 2018 Hawaii Legislature allocated up to $30 million from the Rental Housing Revolving Fund to expedite construction by 2021. HHFDC has approved $5 million in the Dwelling Unit Revolving Fund for a pre-development and interim loan.

There were some in attendance who were not impressed.

“This is ceded lands,” Lahainaluna High School teacher Kika Ross asserted.

“Ceded lands are set aside for the betterment of Kanaka Maoli,” Ross continued. “So let’s get real: this is not for non-Hawaiians; this is for Kanaka Maoli.”

Ross was passionate, and she was deeply concerned.

“We have so many Hawaiians leaving Hawaii, because they cannot afford to live here. This is Kanaka Maoli first land.

“We don’t have enough housing for Hawaiians. It’s supposed to be Hawaiians first in the State of Hawaii. We’re not racist. We’re not prejudiced, but it’s taking care of your first people first, and everything else will fall in place. You will see.”

Patricia Nishiyama echoed Ross’s comments, adding background information to her testimony.

“First preference for your development is Hawaiian first,” the kupuna urged.

Twenty years ago, Nishiyama added, C. Brewer & Co. held a lottery for its homes (at Villages of Leiali’i) – 250 – and only two Hawaiians were pulled for that housing from that lottery.

“That’s why our kupuna was not very happy, so that’s why we demonstrated; we had lawyers, went to court and we won. We won!”

Fundamentally, it was on ceded lands.

This is the mana’o of our kupuna, Nishiyama asserted, “we still stand for Hawaiians only, Hawaiians first and to be living on Maui 20 years to be qualified.”

Kekai Keahi challenged the HFFDC’s legal title to the land.

He asked, “Can you prove to me, that you, the state, has clear title to that property?

“I guarantee you can’t.”

Others at the briefing shared their questions as well.

“When you put in a sewage treatment plant, where’s it going to go? Where are you going to pump this out? We don’t need this running from mauka to makai. Tired already. Our ocean is wasting away. Why? All this development going on, and everything is just going down the ocean. Go on down and see how many times they closed Canoe Beach,” local citizen activist Glenn Kamaka tasked, adding, “The kids come out sick. They come out sick.”

“Show us the water,” a shout from the audience called.

Public access to the project, to some, was an extreme safety hazard.

Kamaka was stunned.

“You don’t build a steep hill like that for a bypass, and where this project is going to go,” he suggested.

No one disagreed that affordable housing is a dire need.

“We have a very acute housing shortage, in particular, in West Maui compared to the rest of Maui; and it’s very difficult for those people who were raised in West Maui, who are employed having to live outside of West Maui and commute back and forth. I can see that perhaps there should be some allowance for preference to those who have lived here in West Maui,” Kaanapali Realtor Monte Fitts said.

Journalist advocate Gary Kubota had his opinion as well.

“When I listen to the comments here, I really agree with the Native Hawaiians. More needs to be done. I am not saying to take away from the project here, but more needs to be done somehow; because, if you don’t do it, you’re going to end up with lawsuits again,” he warned.

“”If we can get these kind of comments and incorporate it, and you figure how to accommodate, it’s a whole lot better than getting more lawsuits.”

“It is not about just criticizing; it’s also about proposing – trying to get some conditions,” Kubota recommended.

“We’ll write it down,” Fujimoto pledged. “We will take the comments down.”

Fujimoto can be reached at (808) 587-0541 or stanley.s.fujimoto@hawaii.gov.