Friday, November 12, 2010

A FINAL SHOT IN THE CHAMBER POT

A FINAL SHOT IN THE CHAMBER POT: The final “gift” from outgoing Council Chair Kaipo Asing was presented during his final meeting Wednesday.

Unfortunately it was a gift for the developers of Kaua`i Lagoons not people seeking promised affordable housing, who were left holding nothing but a bag of steaming turds.

Along with returning Councilmembers Derek Kawakami, Dickie Chang and presumptive new chair Jay Furfaro, they simply gave away at least 41 of the 82 Waipouli Courtyards affordable housing units, which can now even become transient vacation rentals (TVRs) should the developers so choose.

Outgoing Councilperson Lani Kawahara put it best saying “I can say this because I’m gonna leave- sometimes I feel like I’m sitting at a Chamber of Commerce meeting not necessarily the chamber of the people,” after a failed attempt to at least delay the measure which came as a legal document rather than an amendment to the zoning ordinance- the normal way to alter conditions.

Of course “Mr. Big Save” Kawakami said of Kawahara’s statement “I take that as a compliment”.

An ordinance change would have taken at least four weeks under normal procedure. A deferral would have seen the next council, which takes office December 1, vote on the matter.

The developers brought on the crocodile tears saying they couldn’t rent the units that were to be rented to people making up to $67,000 a year (120% of median income), so not only do they get to rent out the units at market prices to all comers- no matter what income and no matter where they currently live- but they were able to get the council to vote to chuck the whole “10- year affordability” clause.

The project is in a Visitor Destination Area (VDA) where TVRs are permitted, unaffected by the recent TVR grandfathering and ban in non-VDA areas.

Another simply astounding revelation came from the once and future, incoming Councilperson JoAnn Yukimura who urged deferral so that the council could do their “due diligence”- which was apparently extensive.

The shocker was that, despite the fact that 41 of the units are supposed to be rented to people who qualify for HUD Section 8 rental vouchers by making 80% or less of the median income, Waipouli Courtyards has been refusing to rent to Section 8 clients due to a dispute with the County Housing Agency over energy allowances for HUD clients.

The measure- which came from Mayor Bernard Carvalho’s office rather than county housing- was pushed on through by a 4-2 margin with councilperson Tim Bynum joining Kawahara in seeking to refer the measure to the Housing Committee for further due diligence, with lame duck Asing casting the all important fourth vote at his final meeting.

The most objectionable part was that all the councilmembers seemed to buy the developers argument that the affordable housing project- which was given to the county in exchange for the developers being allowed to develop Kaua`i Lagoons- was unable to turn a profit or at least break even “in this economy” so they should be let out of their commitment.

The fact that the Kaua`i Lagoons project as a whole is going to be immensely profitable and that “success” of the affordable housing component should, by all rights, be measured in combination with the resort development, was lost on everybody.

The fact that Waipouli Courtyards is one of the only low income rental housing givebacks the council has ever required (most are for sale) was not even considered, of course.

And just like the recent removal of an affordable housing requirement for Kukui`ula, it went way beyond what the developer had asked for- in this case, according to testimony, the removal of the 10-year buy back.

There was lots of discussion of how the county has first right of refusal should the project go up for sale and a lot of talk about buying it. But of course with the lifting of the condition, the value of the project and therefore the price to the county will soar, doubly screwing the county if and when that happens.

It wasn’t the first time a lame duck screwed the people and it won’t be the last. Voted-out Billy Swain cast the deciding vote in November 2002 for a General Plan update after he and lame ducks Ron Kouchi and Randall Valenciano amended it to put his bosses’ “Princeville Mauka development” on the official development map.

But as for Derek, Dickie and Jay, that’s what you voted for and that’s what you’ve got for the next two years- a developers dream team. All they need is one more vote and that shouldn’t be too hard to find.

1 comment:

Innocent Bystander said...

Curious to see if Ms. Eclectic is still enamored with Mr. Big Save now...