On Sept 8, 2015 the Waikiki Neighborhood Board voted (15-0) against the latest Waikiki tower project proposed by another developer (to be built next to the Launa Hotel on the edge of Fort Derussy, at 2055 and 2057 Kalakaua Ave). A tower here would add more blockage of the green-belt views remaining for many properties in the vicinity.
Many of us stood up and spoke against this project. Just as we said all along, the DPP has set a precedent for all developers, – Zoning laws are made to be broken, and the Waikiki Special District Design Guidelines are “Just guidelines” (as quoted by the DPP in testimony at our previous city council hearings). Remember, this is who we pay our hard earned tax dollars to. People who ignore the community and roll over so the developers can scratch their tummy, and make large donations to the mayor and City Council.
Thankfully, the WNB is fully on board with trying to send an early, strong message to Mr. George Atta (director of the Honolulu Department of Permitting and Planning), and City Council that enough is enough! Zoning laws and the Guidelines are important and the city should stop ignoring them in Waikiki.
Today, the Star Advertiser is polling it’s readers with whether this latest tower should be allowed. The developer (Best Hospitality LLC – based in Japan) is seeking a zoning variance of 325 feet. Yep, they want to build another giant 350 foot tower on a lot that is only zoned for 25 feet. For this developer to get this far, they almost surely have been told by Rick Egged (president of the Waikiki Improvement Association) and Mr. George Atta (director of the DPP), that they have a chance, so go for it.
As Bob Finley (chairperson of the WNB) said at last week’s WNB meeting. “We might as well take the zoning map and shred it.”
Here’s a link to the Star Advertiser article in today’s paper:
We encourage everyone to answer “NO” to the poll on their website, and to add your comments for why the city should NOT approve this project.
Keep height limit for Waikiki parcel
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Sep 15, 2015
There are variances, and then there are what look like end-runs. The proposed height-limit exemption sought for a parcel in Waikiki, the site its owner wants for a condo-hotel, seems to fall within that second category.
The project, proposed by Best Hospitality LLC, would mean a 350-foot tower, dubbed One Waikiki, would go up in place of the Kyo-ya Restaurant, which closed more than seven years ago. But standing in the way is a significant barrier: The developer, who bought the property for $30.5 million, will have to persuade the City Council for permission to lift the 25-foot height limit on the site.
Approval of this plan would be a disastrous decision for those already worried about how the Waikiki environment will bear up in the coming decades.
That particular location is across Kalakaua Avenue from the Waikiki Gateway Park and near Fort DeRussy. The low-rise restaurant structure sits in the midst of a low-rise area adjoining some open space — providing a precious bit of breathing room in crowded Waikiki.
Giving that up would be no small loss, which is why the Council should remain firm that the height limit remain in place.
Waikiki is a special design district, which means changes need to come for review by the Waikiki Neighborhood Board. Recommendations by the advisory elected panel are not binding.
All the same, the wisdom of that requirement is that it brings community sentiment to the fore, which should be taken by the Council as critical information. Its economic impact notwithstanding, Waikiki also is a community, a place where people live and work.
It’s plain that the community doesn’t want this project. The board voted it down, 15-0, following a presentation last week. Board Chairman Bob Finley said the general feeling was that magnitude of the height increase by 325 feet simply pushed things too far.
“If we support their request, it sets a dangerous precedent,” Finley rightly observed. “We might as well take the zoning map and shred it because every single developer out there is going to want that same amount.”
For their part, the developer’s representatives have argued that approval would help to expand Hawaii’s hotel capacity. Best Hospitality projected that about 80 percent of the planned 172 condo-hotel units would be used as hotel rooms. Some economists have said Hawaii could do with more accommodations capacity for visitors.
However, the repercussions of the project would include some negatives, sure to offset the modest hotel-room gains for the industry. Critics also argue that what Waikiki needs is renovation and updating of the inventory, more than simply adding to the room tally.
A straw poll taken at the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s recent conference indicated that the biggest industry concern is not room inventory but homelessness and overdevelopment. An oversized project such as One Waikiki would not solve the first issue and would only make the second problem worse.
There is room for variances from Honolulu’s planning and zoning rules, but ordinarily they’re given when, on balance, the community benefits from the flexibility. Best Hospitality points to the economic benefits and jobs from the project.
But the downside amounts to a loss of open space so critical to Waikiki, and likely to diminish the satisfaction of Honolulu visitors. It’s all sounding less like a good deal for Waikiki and more like killing the golden goose of the tourism industry.