The Honolulu Rail Transit Project is scheduled to start construction on the final city center segment through downtown Honolulu next year. But, Honolulu Councilmembers are still grappling with what to do with private property acquisitions. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.
The Honolulu City Council Committee on Zoning and Housing is considering Bill 30, which would enable the City to review and consider the purchase of properties partially condemned by the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation -- HART. These rail property remnants, as they’re called, would be purchased at fair market value through the eminent domain condemnation process. Hawaiian Electric Company project management principal, Kerstan Wong, opposed the measure.
“So, right now for the rail project there are two properties that are going through the condemnation process. One is the Honolulu Power Plant near Aloha Tower and the other is the Iwilei Substation that’s near where the IHS and Costco parking lot is located. So, we came to a mutually agreeable portion for the Iwilei property so it doesn’t impact any of the equipment that’s in operation. But, if the whole property’s condemned, we’d have to find another location for that equipment.”
HECO says the availability of land in urban Honolulu to relocate equipment would be a major challenge. The City’s Department of Land Management would review the properties and recommend any purchases. The City Council would approve funding. Sandra Pfund is the Department’s director.
“We do see a good opportunities along the transit rail line for affordable housing as we feel that, reserving for affordable housing along the transit station would be good planning as they would be the primary ridership for the rail.”
One property under contention is the Blood Bank of Hawai’i building on Dillingham Boulevard. HART needs a 10-foot strip of land next to the building for the rail project, but, the Blood Bank wants the city to buy the whole property and the building. City Council Chair, Ernie Martin, says funding is being provided in next year’s budget for the Blood Bank and an agreeable solution can be reached.
“We know the Blood Bank has come to us many a times indicating their willingness or eagerness to dispose of the whole property as opposed to a partial taking. It wouldn’t be a condemnation because they’re willing to sell the property. It’s a matter of asking price on their side and what we’re willing to pay.”
At last count, HART will acquire nearly 70 partially condemned parcels along the City Center segment, which includes 4.1 miles of elevated guideway, and 8 stations. Zoning and Housing Committee Chair, Kymberly Pine, deferred the measure for further discussion with Councilmember Joey Manahan, who introduced the bill. After the meeting, Pine said her number one priority is getting ahead of illegal vacation rentals.
“Everybody’s divided. It’s a 50-50 issue but I’m thinking long term of what this means for Hawai’i. This uncontrolled rental of our homes in residential areas when half the people don’t live there anymore. I do believe despite the conflict and disagreement that we have to be brave and take action to control the situation. Allow some, but definitely, for those that refuse to follow the law they have to have stricter punishment.”
For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.