Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Naming the people’s dreams for housing in Santiago vs. dashing those dreams in Honolulu

This is how it worked. A developer bought an old house, tore it down, had an architect draw up plans for a high-rise. And then, Rodrigo stepped in. ‘And my job consisted of a very simple thing. I had to give a name to the building … I had to walk around a lot, know the different neighborhoods, and see what characteristics that neighborhood had. And what characteristics the people who could buy those apartments would be looking for in that neighborhood. People aspired to be something else. They wanted to have a better life. So they had a dream. And I had to walk around the neighborhood thinking of what kind of dream that person was looking for, and I had to devise a name for that dream.’

by Larry Geller

Episode 73 of the 99% Invisible podcast is they story of how Chilean poet Rodrigo Rojas named many of the high-rise buildings that resulted when the city of Santiago began growing upward. It’s an interesting story in its own right, but listening to the above segment shed some light on our situation in Honolulu, where people’s dreams are not realized—only the wet dreams of developers.

Who here cares about residents’ dreams or aspirations for housing?

The high-rise condo boom in Honolulu will not satisfy the aspirations of our people, who are priced out of any hope of owning (or renting) what amount to stacked-up mansions, each with expensive ocean views. One already includes a promise of its own sushi bar for those unwilling to spread a little of their wealth out on the economy, and a guaranteed source of pate de fois gras right on the premises.

That condo is the Ritz-Carlton Residences Waikiki Beach. See: Shucks, I missed the condo sale yesterday (6/23/2013):

Of course. Ritz-Carlton. The name is appropriate.

A select group of about 75 pre-screened potential buyers crowded the project's sales office and showroom on the aptly named Luxury Row stretch of Kalakaua Avenue on Saturday for the official release of a "reserve collection" of full oceanview units. The event was broadcast live to satellite venues in Tokyo and Shanghai — "an industry first," according to Grosfeld, and streamed via the project's official website.

[Star-Advertiser p. B1, Condo buyers indulge in luxe life, 6/23/2013]

Those buyers aren’t wearing aloha shirts, folks. Nor are the buyers in Tokyo and Shanghai.

A giant video screen tracked the sales, with unit numbers disappearing from a illuminated floor plan as customers staked their claims.

Some of the buyers will be investors. Maybe they’ve already sold today what they just purchased Saturday.

The article indicates that residents of the “Ritz” will have not a pool, but “pools.” They can shop not at Foodland but at an on-site Dean & DeLuca, or if turning on the microwave is too much hassle, dine at the downstairs sushi restaurant.

Far from fulfilling our citizens’ dreams, approval of a forest of high-priced high-rises in Kakaako and elsewhere steals away any aspirations we may have left in a city where home ownership is becoming increasingly expensive and out of reach. The knee-jerk approval of any developer’s proposal sucks away our ability to live and work on the island as it escalates traffic congestion and infrastructure demands that must be met by average taxpayers.

I really don’t know much about how development is handled in Santiago, and it’s true that Rojas’ excursions into neighborhoods was on behalf of his clients, who are the high-rise developers. But my take-away was the possibility of, and the contrast between, development for the benefit of the people already living in a place and Honolulu’s wholesale sellout to affluent outsiders who care nothing about the neighborhoods they will be invading.

The HCDA (Hawaii Community Development Authority), with its ability to run roughshod over zoning, environmental and other sensible controls, is the lynchpin in the state’s sellout to the moneyed interests that support politicians’ re-election campaigns. This explains the chasm between any dreams of our people and what we can expect if the HCDA is not stopped.

Awful HCDA

Maybe we just don't deserve to live in Hawaii.

Last week's announcement that the Hawaii Community Development Authority is mulling over leasing almost one-third of Kakaako Waterfront Park to a private corporation confirms the worst fears of public-private development.

The plan, as explained by Anthony Ching, HCDA executive director, is to lease out the Ewa portion of the park to a Japanese light show.

[Star-Advertiser p. A15, HCDA proposal so awful it seems like maybe a ruse, 8/27/2013]

As Borecca explains, the public would lose the use of 1/3 of the public park during the day, and at night would have to shell out up to $18 to “enjoy” the light show. He notes that the HCDA has already given approval for a boisterous amusement park to be located near quiet, peaceful, Kakaako Waterfront Park. Instead of the calls of sea birds, visitors seeking refuge from city traffic could face the howls of zip-line or waterpark users or the screech and smash of go-kart collisions.

I need to repeat that the amusement park has already been approved by those stewards of developer’s interests, the HCDA.

No, Richard: We do deserve to live in Hawaii, but a Hawaii without the HCDA.


Should not conflate the amusement park and the light show deal. The amusement park is on privately-owned land - Kamehameha Schools - while the light show is proposed for public owned lands. Yes, both are dreadful uses of scarce land but there is a difference.


Unless I'm wrong, (Please correct me if so), the HCDA could have rejected the idea of the amusement park even though it is to be built on private land. I agree they are not the same, but that doesn't make the location any better.

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