Developer of site near Sharks Cove tackles outcry from community
We’re sorry and we’ll start over.
That was the mea culpa two local real estate investors had for North Shore residents regarding an effort to develop land near Sharks Cove in a way some community members saw as sneaky and as a strategy to skirt stringent city environmental regulations.
Andrew Yani of Hanapohaku LLC apologized to roughly 100 people at a special meeting of the North Shore Neighborhood Board on Wednesday night.
“We certainly offer a big apology if we’ve offended anybody or we’ve done something that you think is unfair or wrong,” he said. “We should have engaged you sooner. I’m terribly sorry for that. We’d like to start with a clean slate.”
The neighborhood board organized the meeting to air community concerns raised in recent months regarding permitting for Hanapohaku’s commercial development plan for 2.7 acres next to Foodland in Pupukea — a plan that galvanized residents to print up and don light-blue “Malama Sharks Cove” T-shirts.
Residents also have been frustrated with how the property has been managed since Hanapohaku bought it for $5.5 million in July 2014.
The property, which is zoned for “neighborhood business” use, was proposed
for a roughly 50-tenant retail center about a dozen years ago by another developer, which ran into heavy community opposition. Since then the property had been somewhat neglected and occupied primarily by a dentist, a surf shop and two food trucks.
After the acquisition by Hanapohaku, whose other principal is Lawrence “Cully” McCully Judd III, the dental office closed and six more food trucks moved in, and illegal structures were built on the property.
Meanwhile, Hanapohaku applied for three “minor” special management area permits from the city so the company could add six cottagelike buildings to the property for retail use, plus a restroom and several individual wastewater systems.
SMA permits govern development in areas close to the ocean to control impacts on the shoreline and marine environment. Under city rules, minor SMA permits are for projects that cost no more than $500,000. For projects above that threshold, a major SMA permit is required and involves a more stringent review that includes a public hearing. An environmental assessment or more thorough environmental impact statement study also can be required for major SMA permits.
Hanapohaku applied for three minor SMAs each valued at about $500,000 for a total of $1.5 million, which was permitted because the 2.7-acre property is made up of three separate parcels. The city Department of Planning and Permitting approved the permits.
Yani, whose company trademarked the name Sharks Cove Village, said in an interview that the effort was an attempt to improve what had partially become a dumping ground in a cost-effective and relatively fast way.
“We wanted to make something nice quickly and help improve the community,” he said. “We thought we were just taking responsibility for doing the right thing.”
Yani added that the six buildings were to be 600 square feet each. “We didn’t want something that was high-impact,” he said.
At the meeting, Yani said Hanapohaku will nix the three minor SMA permits and apply for a major SMA permit after collecting more community input and deciding how the property can be developed to primarily serve residents.
The company also will seek one minor SMA permit so it can fix up what is already on the property and possibly add a bathroom so that food truck customers don’t keep overwhelming the public bathroom on the makai side of the highway.
Terrence Lee, a local attorney retained by Hanapohaku, said the developer would like to have someone open up a locally owned and operated coffee shop in the empty former dentist building. He also said other future tenants could be a pharmacy, urgent care clinic and a dentist. “These are just ideas,” he said. “Nothing is cast in concrete. It’s all subject to discussion and collaboration.”
Yani added that the food trucks could be part of a redeveloped property, and pledged to set up a website to share a draft of the major SMA permit application before it is filed so the community can see what gets proposed.
Many residents commended Yani for the commitment and apology, and seemed hopeful that Hanapohaku comes up with a plan that is sensitive to community concerns. Still, others appeared wary of what might get permitted next.
“Right now I’m really confused what the plan is,” said Denise Antolini, a University of Hawaii law school professor and North Shore resident.
Lynelle DaMate, vice president of the Sunset Beach Community Association, said the food truck site has become dangerous, with increased vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
“Someone’s going to lose a (car) door, someone’s going to lose a child,” she said.
Mike Lyons, a neighborhood board member, said it seems the food trucks operate more like permanent restaurants with seating areas, yet they lack restrooms that are necessary for operating a restaurant.
“We don’t get our plate lunch and leave,” he said. “We stay there and eat. It’s no longer a food truck, it’s a restaurant.”
Yani estimated that each truck serves between 100 and 200 meals a day, or 800 to 1,600 total. Liam McNamara, a North Shore pro surfer who owns about a third of the businesses on the property including the surf shop, said Yani’s estimate was high and that 1,000 food sales per day including shave ice is a better estimate.
As for development, the community generally doesn’t want to see a dense project aimed at tourists. Something along those lines was proposed a little over a decade ago by local retail development firm Honu Group Inc.: a 59,000-square-foot center called Pupukea Village with space for 53 stores, underground parking for about 200 cars and space for commercial buses to drop off tourists.
Some North Shore residents welcomed the project, but what was described as a vocal majority protested the plan by creating petitions, making signs and bumper stickers that said “No mall at Sharks Cove” and forming the nonprofit Friends of Sharks Cove.
Now an offshoot of the nonprofit, called Sharks Cove Coalition, has been formed amid Hanapohaku’s effort. This group isn’t opposed to commercial development on the site as long as it conforms to the B-1 neighborhood business zoning that the city’s land use ordinance said is intended to “provide relatively small areas which serve the daily retail and other business needs of the surrounding population.”
“This area is so precious,” said area resident Laura Parsons. “We’re caught between tourism and keeping our lifestyle.”
Board member Jack Reid expressed concern that Hanapohaku will pursue major retail, such as a Walgreens, given the costlier permitting process.
McNamara, however, bristled at some of the suggestions that a large-scale project is intended.
“These guys did not buy this property to make money,” he said. “They bought the property to keep the country country. It’s not going to be a Walgreens, and it’s not going to be a Longs. I care about the cove as much as anyone here. All you guys in light-blue shirts, I’m with you. I’m on your team. Let’s realize that Hanapohaku is the best people that we can possible have to buy this property. They might have made a few mistakes by not coming to you guys early, but at the end of the day, let’s work together and figure out solutions.”
Yani, who runs local solar power company Bonterra Solar, said part of the missteps stemmed from he and Judd, the other principal, not being professional real estate developers. He said Hanapohaku will work to do better both managing the property and crafting development plans.
“We want to work with you guys,” he said. “We would like to be good neighbors. We would like to be good stewards of the land.”
Washington state visitors Carolyn Nielsen, right, and Klaus Loos enjoy shave ice at a site where food trucks and other businesses are at Sharks Cove in Pupukea.