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Honolulu City Council Committee Advances "Monster Homes" Bill

Wayne Yoshioka

The Honolulu City Council Planning Committee advanced a measure today calling for a moratorium on so-called Monster Houses. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.

The latest version of Bill 110 would temporarily limit detached residential structures to 3,500 square feet, regardless of the number of stories or lot size.   Department of Planning and Permitting acting director Kathy Sokugawa says approval of a building permit would also require that other conditions be met.

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Department of Planning and Permitting acting director, Kathy Sokugawa testified before the Planning Committee

“We would advocate for no more than 2 wet bars in a home and one laundry room.  Parking cars on the premises to make sure that they be able to move out of the lot in a forward manner so they won’t have to reverse into the street.”

Proposed building setbacks are 10 feet in both the front and rear and 5 feet on either side.  Owners must also file a solid waste plan.  The Honolulu City Council would approve any exceptions to the rules.  Gregory Spencer, who lives in Kaimuki, supports the moratorium.

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Gregory Spencer from Kaimuki testified in support of the bill

“I checked on one of these monsters.  They’re adding 14 bedrooms and 9 baths to an existing 5 bedroom, 2 bath home.  So that adds up to 19 bedrooms and 11 bathrooms. They built all the way out to the street line.  Zero set-back.   How can that happen?”

Sarah Chinen, also from Kaimuki, says what’s happening in her neighborhood borders on being criminal.

“Now a tidal wave of new cash buyers are buying old properties; putting up duplexes and then, somehow, they’re getting a permit or zoning and they subdivide the lot and sell.  So, then they get more money and they buy more.”

Councilmember Trevor Ozawa sat in on the hearing as a non-voting member and said the square-foot limit could be restrictive.

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Sarah Chinen, also from Kaimuki, supports the moratorium

“Part of my district would have a tremendous problem with it being 35-hundred square feet.  Because, if there’s any construction on a house in the Kahala area, it’s gonna be over that.”

Honolulu City Council Planning Committee chair, Ikaika Anderson, says he intends to fast-track the measure.  He also says he’s open to change.

“I will absolutely consider any proposed amendments that come forward from any of my colleagues as well as from any of the communities and various constituencies that they represent.”

The bill now goes before the full City Council January 31st.   Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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