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OHA's Kakaʻako Makai housing development plan clears 1st Senate hurdle

Office of Hawaiian Affairs
An aerial image of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs' Kakaʻako Makai property now known as Hakuone.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs' plan for residential developments in Kakaʻako Makai is one step closer to becoming reality.

Two Senate committees advanced a measure Thursday that would allow OHA to develop residential buildings up to 350 feet high on its Kakaʻako lands, makai of Ala Moana Boulevard.

The Committees on Water and Land, and Hawaiian Affairs approved Senate Bill 736, which would lift a 17-year-old ban on residential development for the nine parcels in Kakaʻako owned by OHA.

The state transferred about 30 acres of land in Kakaʻako to OHA more than a decade ago to settle a long-standing debt over ceded lands revenues.

Sen. Angus McKelvey of West Maui was one of only two senators at Thursday's hearing who was in office when the original settlement with OHA was reached.

"I was here for the original compact. I felt it was rushed. I felt the Native Hawaiian community was being shortchanged. I went with reservations then," McKelvey said. "I think the graph of the $200 million, if it had been paid in cash then, shows that the fact that this is still the case."

"But I appreciate the work that you’ve been doing getting both sides to go outside and work on the bill. It’s not perfect but my underlying concern in so far as I think is that the Native Hawaiian community deserves more. And to reflect those views, and not reflect all of your hard work, I am going to go with reservations," McKelvey said.

Sen. Les Ihara of Oʻahu, the lone “no” vote at yesterday’s committee hearing, expressed concern over not having an environmental impact statement in hand before a vote on the measure.

Although it's not part of the bill, OHA has agreed to complete an EIS to address concerns raised by the Hawaiʻi Community Development Authority.

SB 736 will now go to a joint hearing by the Committees on the Judiciary, and Ways and Means.

Office of Hawaiian Affairs
A screenshot of OHA's proposed development of land parcels in Kakaʻako Makai.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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