A North Shore property owner that has racked up city fines for unpermitted construction and food truck operations is proposing to redevelop the site with more retail use after withdrawing a smaller development plan a year ago in the face of community opposition.
Development firm Hanapohaku LLC wants to build several one- and two-story retail buildings, space for eight food trucks and covered parking in a new bid to redevelop the 2.7-acre property across from Sharks Cove in Pupukea.
Hanapohaku, led by Andrew Yani and Lawrence “Cully” McCully Judd III, also intends to connect the envisioned complex to the parking lot of an adjacent Foodland store for shared use.
Yani said the new plan resulted from community input and going through a more expensive permitting process after abandoning prior approvals that some community leaders viewed as sidestepping rules to protect shoreline areas and shortchanging the public of participation.
The new plan is outlined in an environmental impact statement preparation notice that calls the project a “rural community-based commercial center” that conforms to the North Shore Sustainable Communities Plan.
Retail space in the proposed complex totals 27,500 square feet, more than the neighboring 23,000-square-foot Foodland.
A sketch of the plan identifies possible tenants as a couple of restaurants, a pharmacy, an urgent-care clinic, a copy and delivery shop, a yoga studio, a child care service, a gallery, a surf shop and other retail.
Yani said the aim is to serve area residents so they don’t have to drive through increasingly bad traffic to Haleiwa or Laie.
“It’s not a resort retail play,” he said. “It’s community-centric.”
Some residents, however, are skeptical about Hanapohaku’s intentions, given what it has done since buying the property in 2014 for $5.5 million.
“The trust has really been broken,” said Joe Wilson, a member of the Sharks Cove Coalition, formed to monitor Hanapohaku’s effort.
Hanapohaku has received five city violation notices over the past four years for unpermitted work, including construction of decks, plumbing, fencing and paving.
In January the city Department of Planning and Permitting notified Hanapohaku that commercial activities on the site must cease and that structures including food trucks, tables, benches, decks, fences, temporary bathrooms, septic tanks, shipping containers and parking must be removed because no special management area permit exists for them.
Yani said some violations were caused by tenants, like a deck built by North Shore Tacos and electrical violations by Sharks Cove Grill. Other violations were by Hanapohaku, such as grading that involved removing haole koa and California grass and covering the cleared area with crushed coral and concrete.
Three violations were corrected either by undoing work or obtaining a permit. But two remain and have led to fines. One pertains to a deck and plumbing, for which Hanapohaku has incurred $32,500 in fines. The other is for the illegal commercial uses that have drawn $12,000 in fines that continue to grow by $500 a day.
DPP has referred the violation over illegal uses to city attorneys.
Yani said he’s trying to solve this problem, which could involve obtaining a special management area permit. But he opposes shutting down operations, because that would hurt people who work there.
“These are wonderful people who depend on the paycheck to feed their family,” he said.
Wilson said it’s not right for Yani to hide behind his tenants. “He did not have permission to bring those food trucks on the property,” Wilson said. “He did it illegally.”
Wilson suspects that Hanapohaku will maintain operations and amass fines until it can redevelop.
Yani asserts this isn’t true and that he is working with DPP to gain compliance.
Wilson said Sharks Cove Coalition members are wary of Hanapohaku because of how it tried to obtain permits for a smaller redevelopment plan in 2015.
The prior plan sought to add six 600-square-foot retail cottages, a restroom and several independent wastewater treatment systems. Because the site comprises three subdivided parcels, Hanapohaku applied to DPP for three separate “minor” special management area permits that govern areas close to the ocean to control shoreline and marine environment impacts.
Minor SMA permits are supposed to be for projects that cost no more than $500,000. Projects above this threshold require a major SMA permit that involves more stringent review, a public hearing and possibly an environmental assessment or more thorough environmental impact study.
Hanapohaku submitted construction estimates of $445,000, $484,000 and $498,000 for its three permits, which were submitted seven months apart, and DPP granted them. But area environmental watchdogs mobilized to contest the city’s approval.
State Sen. Gil Riviere wrote to DPP’s director in January 2016 asking that the approvals be reconsidered.
“It is indisputable that the developer is building one unified project across these three parcels,” Riviere wrote. “As such, the project segmentation circumvents the spirit and the letter of Coastal Zone Management and the City and County of Honolulu SMA rules, and it clearly violates (state environmental law).”
At an April 2016 special North Shore Neighborhood Board meeting filled with public outcry, Yani apologized for not consulting the community and said he would formulate a new plan with community input and seek a major SMA permit.
Yani, former head of now defunct Bonterra Solar company, said at the meeting that some of the missteps stemmed from he and Judd not being professional real estate developers, and that Hanapohaku was trying to improve what had partially become a dumping ground in a cost-effective and relatively fast way.
“We wanted to make something nice quickly and help improve the community,” he said at the meeting. “We thought we were just taking responsibility for doing the right thing.”
Riviere now said he’s glad Hanapohaku is going through a proper permitting process that will involve a public hearing and environmental impact statement.
The state senator representing the area reserved judgment on Hanapohaku’s new development concept but said it needs to be appropriate for the community.
Wilson said there are concerns over traffic and whether the project is appropriate for the site zoned for “neighborhood business” use.
City regulations explain that this zoning exists to “provide relatively small areas which serve the daily retail and other business needs of the surrounding population.”
Hanapohaku’s property was once zoned residential, but that changed to business use in 1978, and two homes on the site were converted to a dental office and a real estate office.
In 2001 the property’s owner obtained a minor SMA permit for a trailer with a covered walkway to house Seamaid’s Sportswear and create a parking area.
A few years later, local developer Honu Group Inc. proposed a 59,000-square-foot retail center called Pupukea Village with space for 53 stores, underground parking for about 200 cars and a tour bus drop-off area.
Some North Shore residents welcomed the project, but what was described as a vocal majority protested the plan by creating petitions, making signs and bumper stickers that said “No mall at Sharks Cove” and forming the nonprofit Friends of Sharks Cove, which morphed into Sharks Cove Coalition after Hanapohaku advanced its earlier plan.
Under Yani and Judd, six more food trucks moved onto the site and increased concerns about traffic, pedestrians crossing the highway and overuse of a nearby beach park bathroom.
Hanapohaku said in its environmental impact statement preparation notice that more than 100,000 square feet of commercial space is allowed based on the parcel size and zoning.
“Following a similar development scale as the Foodland Pupukea grocery store, the project area could support roughly twice the commercial floor area,” the notice said.
If Hanapohaku can obtain necessary permits, it anticipates construction could start in 2019 and be done in 2020.