Thursday, January 6, 2011

AND THE WALLS CAME TUMBLIN’ DOWN

AND THE WALLS CAME TUMBLIN’ DOWN: It was a good news/really bad news moment when the Honolulu-based, on-line news venture Civil Beat launched a while back.

Many were excited over the prospect of whatever each envisioned was needed until we learned that it was going to be, in the words of Disappeared News’ Larry Geller, a “gated community” and would cost $240 a year to enter.

Worse yet, for Kaua`i at least, it meant losing ace reporter Big Mike Levine who moved on to become one of their “reporter-hosts”.

But we heard from Mike yesterday that there are going to be “some changes to civilbeat.com” and that “(e)verything we've been working on is now free for occasional readers.”

No telling what “occasional readers” means but we were able to read stories yesterday and again today.

We wonder what those who paid for a year are thinking... probably much the same thing we did when we got to Woodstock after having paid 18, 1969 dollars for tickets and found the fences on the ground.

Many have wondered how they were doing, especially since they’ve been tight-lipped about how many subscribers they have. And things might have gone from bad to worse recently with the blow back against CEO, Publisher and Co-founder Pierre Omidyar’s other venture, “Pay Pals,” after they banned Wikileaks from using the service- causing at least one notable cancelled subscription.

But really the prime subject of Mike’s letter was to point us to an article by one of his fellow “host-reporters” Adrienne LaFrance headlined “Obama's Winter White House an Illegal Rental”

According to her story:

Obama did not break the law by staying at the house, but the property owner who rented his house to the Obamas does not have the permit that would allow a stay of fewer than 30 days.

Although the owner claims he got around the law by leaving a 30-day window between rentals, the

explanation is one that's commonly offered, but that still represents an illegal renting practice...

"Maybe it's that the people are circumventing the law or thinking, 'Oh, I'll only rent it to one person in a (30-day) period," said Andrew Malahoff, a spokesman for Honolulu City Council member Ikaika Anderson, who chairs the city's Zoning Committee. "They say, 'Even though they're only going to stay there for seven days, I'll charge them for (30) days, and prorate that.' But as far as we know, that is also not legal. You will not rent for a period of less than 30 days. That's what's in the land-use ordinance. It's not just about multiple rental parties, it's the period of days."

It’s hard to see how, if the owner just rented it out for 30 days and the vacationer decided to stay there for only two weeks it could be illegal. But then again we’re not really familiar with all of the planning and zoning laws in Honolulu.

But one thing we are familiar with that LaFrance is apparently unaware of- something that occurred to us years ago when we first heard of the President’s beach house rental- is the fact that the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ (DLNR) Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement (DOCARE) has cracked down on vacation rentals in the state conservation district (CD) sending “cease and desist” letters to those operation in Wainiha on the North Shore of Kaua`i and in Kane`ohe on O`ahu- not far from the president’s rental.

According to an April 2007 article in the local Kaua`i newspaper

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources has issued notices to 16 property owners in Ha‘ena to halt alleged unauthorized use of multi-million-dollar homes as vacation rentals.

Most of the 16 homes are on makai, or on the ocean side, of Kuhio Highway, from the YMCA’s Camp Naue to Limahuli Stream. Most are clustered around Makua Beach, also known as Tunnels.

A condition in the state Conservation District Use Application, which a property owner secures before building in the state’s conservation area, stipulates a single-family home cannot be used for rental or any other commercial purposes, Peter Young, chairman of the Board of Land and Natural Resources, said in a March 23 letter to alleged violators.

In one case, the cease-and-desist order could force the owner to sell a property worth millions, and may be the scenario facing other supposed violators as well, said Gary Stice, a Kaneohe, O`ahu resident who received one of the letters.

At the time of the letters many of the operators shut down their rentals but according to at least one anti-vacation rental activist many have reopened and DOCARE has apparently dropped the ball.

It also brings up the question of whether the house has a Shoreline Management Area (SMA) permit- which generally include use descriptions- for a vacation rental. But that would also be a City and County of Honolulu issue.

So far the report hasn’t gotten any press either statewide or nationally. But whenever the president is involved, stories including the word “illegal” tend to grow virally.

And the vacation rental issue could certainly use a little viral publicity considering the disease they cause in otherwise quiet residential neighborhoods.

1 comment:

damontucker.com said...

I partied with Ikaika Anderson back in College.

He was a good kid compared to some of the folks he hung out with. Always had a straight head on him.

I know he was groomed by his father, but still... a good kid.

I haven't followed his legislative record at all... just remember kicking back and having beers in the dorm rooms with him.