Should Kakaako development be handled by the city? Gubernatorial candidates disagree

Kakaako sits on a little more than 32 acres of land between downtown Honolulu and Waikiki and has become a hotbed of controversy.

Kakaako has been referred to as The Third City and almost everywhere you look, there are construction cranes and hardhats.

Development used to be under the control of the city until that responsibility was given to a state organization.

One candidate for Governor wants that control back at city hall and that has triggered a war of words.

Zoning and planning for Honolulu is normally the function of city hall, but back in 1976, the state created the Hawaii Community Development Authority, or HCDA, to take control of development in Kakaako.

Now, development is booming with permits for 16 construction projects and at least two more in the pipeline.

Mufi Hannemann, the Hawaii Independent Party’s candidate for governor, says the city should take back Kakaako. His Republican opponent, Duke Aiona, says he should have said so when he was mayor.

“Why didn’t he make the move at that point in time to have Kakaako become part of the city again?” said Aiona. “Maybe it’s because if he’s elected governor, he just doesn’t want the responsibility or the ramifications that go along with it? I don’t know. But the question is, why now?”

“It was a question of timing,” said Hannemann. “At that particular time, I felt that the city needed to basically allow the state to do the infrastructure work there… (Now) my vision for Kakaako is to return it back to the city, so that all of Oahu can be properly planned.”

In a statement provided to KHON2, the HCDA said it “believes that the ability to utilize zoning controls and mandate infrastructure improvements allows us to achieve the vision set out by the legislature in 1976.”

For its part, the HCDA says since it was created by state lawmakers, it will defer to the actions of the state legislature and the incoming governor, but it hopes the long-term vision of the area could be fulfilled — to redevelop and revitalize the area into a live, work and play community.

While Aiona says he will push for more affordable housing and rentals, he feels the HCDA, for the most part, is doing its job.

His opponents don’t see it that way. “We need to stop developing housing that are being sold to rich foreign investors and really focus on the needs of our our own communities first,” said David Ige, Democratic candidate for governor.

“Right now, it’s all about lifestyles of the rich and famous, many of them foreign investors,” said Hannemann.

“I think the bottom line is that the development that is being proposed, and the the development that is actually being done, is within the scope of the HCDA’s authority,” said Aiona.

The Libertarian candidate for governor, Jeff Davis, told KHON2 that Kakaako is not being planned with working families in mind, and that “it’s another sellout to development.”

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