At a rally this morning at the state Capitol, opposing a Senate bill that would change existing law to allow residential development in Kakaako Makai by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, House Speaker Scott Saiki promptly knocked the wind out of its sails by announcing the legislation would not receive a hearing in the House.
“I want to inform you that I spoke with the Chair of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to inform her that the House will not advance S.B. 1334,” Saiki said on the Capitol steps, addressing through his face mask and a megaphone an audience of about 100, all in masks and many wearing red t-shirts emblazoned with “Save Our Kakaako,” the name of the coalition that organized the event.
“As you know, the prohibition on residential development in Kakaʻako Makai has been in place since 2006,” Saiki continued, adding, “there is not a compelling reason for the Legislature to reverse this prohibition.”
The bill had passed the Senate and a first reading in the House, where it was referred to committees on Thursday.
After attentively listening to the soft-spoken Saiki’s remarks, and to a brief summary delivered in a louder voice by coalition member Ron Iwami, the crowd broke into applause and exuberant cheers.
“It was very nice, very positive,” said Sen. Sharon Moriwaki, who also opposes residential development in Kakaako Makai, after the rally. “A lot of people came out, and lots of young people, a good sign that (Save Kakaako Coalition members) are transmitting to the next generation about caring about this place.”
Looking to the future, Moriwaki said she will continue to seek passage of SSCR 216, a resolution she introduced Friday in the Senate, requesting that Gov. David Ige convene a task force to discuss future development plans in Kakaako Makai, including identifying public lands of comparable value for a possible land exchange with OHA for some or all of its 30 acres in Kakaako Makai.
“I think that (OHA proposals for residential development) will come up again as it did in 2012, 2014, so now it’s really important for the community to come together, to.find a way forward together and stick to it this time,” Moriwaki said. “This is makai, this is for all of us.”
Saiki said he would join Morikawa in attempting to work with OHA to explore alternatives to developing Kakaako Makai, noting that while it lay within his district, “Kakaʻako Makai is a statewide issue for all of us, the last remaining parcel of viable open space between Waikīkī and the airport,” and “preventing residential development will prevent uncontrolled development and preserve this open space for the next generation and the next-next generation.”
OHA Chair Carmen Hulu Lindsey said in a statement the agency “is deeply disappointed that a bill that would allow Native Hawaiians to develop housing in Kakaʻako Makai appears to be dead,” and “saddened that Native Hawaiians were robbed of an opportunity to have their voices heard in a single hearing in the House of Representatives.”
Lindsey said OHA would continue its planning for Kakaako Makai and looked forward to returning to the Legislature next year “to continue the discussion of allowing Native Hawaiians to build housing on our lands.”