City try­ing to rein in ‘mon­sters’ with rules

Mea­sures ap­proved by the Coun­cil tar­get home sizes

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - By Gor­don Y.K. Pang gor­don­pang@starad­ver­

The Honolulu City Coun­cil ap­proved leg­is­la­tion Wed­nes­day that di­rects the De­part­ment of Plan­ning and Per­mit­ting to come up with stiffer reg­u­la­tions on largescale houses and re­newed an ef­fort to im­pose a mora­to­rium on build­ing per­mits for such struc­tures un­til new rules are in place.

Res­o­lu­tion 17-276, which passed 9-0, in­structs DPP to come up with a bill that would re­strict houses to no more than a cer­tain size based on an as-yet-to-be de­ter­mined floor-to-area ra­tio or den­sity. It would also place a yet-to-be-de­ter­mined limit on the num­ber of wet bars al­lowed per dwelling, and re­quire each dwelling to have a min­i­mum of two park­ing stalls for the first 2,500 feet and one ex­tra stall for ev­ery ad­di­tional 500 feet.

Coun­cil mem­bers also gave ini­tial ap­proval to Bill 110, which would place an im­me­di­ate mora­to­rium on the ac­cep­tance or ap­proval of build­ing ap­pli­ca­tions for “new large de­tached dwellings” and for the con­ver­sion of ex­ist­ing struc­tures into large dwellings. The mora­to­rium would be in place for two years or un­til the Coun­cil adopts new reg­u­la­tions on the so-called “mon­ster houses,” which­ever comes first.

More than a dozen peo­ple tes­ti­fied in sup­port of the res­o­lu­tion, many of them of­fer­ing their own hor­ror sto­ries.

Ka­pahulu res­i­dent Steven Ya­mashiro said the large houses have re­sulted in ve­hi­cles from the dwellings crowd­ing onto the street. “Where I live, there’s so many streets that turn pseudo-bidi­rec­tional streets,” Ya­mashiro said. “Mean­ing to go out, I have to go out, wait for the next, and jump, leapfrog, leapfrog and jump. It’s very dan­ger­ous. You can eas­ily get into a car ac­ci­dent.”

Ya­mashiro also ques­tioned if the city has enough sewer ca­pac­ity to han­dle the in­flux of larger houses.

Kaimuki res­i­dent Sarah Chi­nen said she is a real es­tate in­vestor who will part­ner only with peo­ple who re­spect and im­prove upon the com­mu­ni­ties where they’re buy­ing.

The un­scrupu­lous home builders are gam­ing city laws and us­ing the loop­holes to get their way while le­git­i­mate prop­erty own­ers run into dif­fi­culty get­ting per­mits from the city.

“It doesn’t seem right to me that struc­tures that em­brace what Hawaii’s about — beauty and aloha — meet up with per­mit sna­fus and that struc­tures that feel and act like in­vaders are ap­proved so eas­ily,” Chi­nen said.

Manoa res­i­dent Robert Fox, a real es­tate bro­ker and con­trac­tor, said the con­cern about larger houses has been ad­dressed in Cal­i­for­nia by pro­hibit­ing new houses from hav­ing more than a “con­gre­gate” liv­able area of 3,500 square feet, in­clud­ing in mul­ti­level struc­tures.

His own re­search shows many of the work­ers build­ing the large struc­tures both in Cal­i­for­nia and Hawaii are im­mi­grants here on three­month tourist visas, not work ones, he said. “That’s why con­struc­tion is so fast,” he said. “It’s cheaper for them to bring in on a $2,000-a-flight round trip and pay $3 an hour to work­ers from main­land China with no work­men’s com­pen­sa­tion, with no li­a­bil­ity, with no any­thing, who work quick but they’re il­le­gal.”

For­mer state Rep. Corinne Ching said she’s see­ing her fam­ily’s Sierra Drive neigh­bor­hood ru­ined by large houses and dis­hon­est, greedy and dis­re­spect­ful in­vestors.

“These mon­ster houses are aptly named be­cause they rep­re­sent val­ues no com­mu­nity should cher­ish,” Ching said. “These homes are big bill­boards for ‘I don’t care what I do to you and your com­mu­ni­ties.’”

Af­ter DPP drafts a bill trig­gered by the res­o­lu­tion, it will need to go to the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion for ad­di­tional vet­ting be­fore go­ing to the Coun­cil for com­mit­tee ap­provals and three votes of the full Coun­cil.

As for the mora­to­rium bill, in­tro­duced by Coun­cil­man Ikaika An­der­son, it will now go to the Zon­ing Com­mit­tee and will re­quire two more full Coun­cil votes.

DPP Act­ing Di­rec­tor Kathy Soku­gawa said she does not op­pose a mora­to­rium.

An ear­lier bill that also sought a mora­to­rium was shelved in the Zon­ing Com­mit­tee.

Soku­gawa took ex­cep­tion to the sug­ges­tion by a tes­ti­fier that DPP does not re­spond to com­plaints. “We re­spond to ev­ery com­plaint,” she said, urg­ing res­i­dents to re­port pos­si­ble vi­o­la­tions.


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