Choon James is a real estate broker in Hawaii and has a B.A. in English and TESL as a minor from Brigham Young University - Hawaii. She's the proud mother of four Eagle Scouts and one daughter.
Choon is originally from Singapore. She comes from a family of ten children. Her mother was the second of her father's three wives. In the Chua household, they have Methodists, Catholics, Buddhists, Mormons, atheist and Taoist believers.
"We're fortunate to grow up with diversity. My father’s best friend, Chandra, was a Hindu Indian who spoke Hokkien. My best childhood friends at school were Malay Muslims. We learned to focus on the merits and content very quickly and forget about the superficial exteriors.
Like many in Hawaii, our immediate household is quite chop-suey as well. My husband is a Caucasian born in North Dakota and grew up in Massachusetts. In our immediate household, English, Mandarin, Fijian, Japanese, Hawaiian, Tahitian, French, and Spanish can be spoken.
We love Hawaii. Its diversity and aloha represent the best in all of us!"
Choon's past and present civic involvement includes the following:
Defend Oahu Coalition - Founding member for Grassroots for smart planning
Save Oahu Farmlands - Founding member
Ko'olauloa Sustainable Communities Planning Advisory Committee
Kahuku Hospital Board of Director
Laie Point Community Association President & Board Member
Laie Community Association Board
BYU-Hawaii/CCH Alumni Association President
Sierra Club Member
Refugees Language Tutor Volunteer
Amnesty International Freedom Writer
Friends of "South Pass City", Wyoming, USA
Boy Scouts of America
Host - Country Talk Story - Olelo Public Television
North Shore News columnist
Huffington Post Hawaii Blogger
Bill 10 was introduced for First Reading on February 23, 2022 Agenda on page 15. Relating to use regulations. (Addressing the regulation of uses throughout Chapter 21, Revised Ordinances of Honolulu 1990 (“Land Use Ordinance”).
The proposed amendments are far-reaching. Bur it’s a very technical piece of document that covers 239 pages. Bill 10 (22) includes the following:
BILL 10 (2022) RELATING TO USE REGULATIONS. PART I. BRIEF SUMMARY BY SUBJECT MATTER
Transfer of development. The agreement running with the land for all donor and receiving zoning lots must remain in effect for a minimum of 60 years (instead of 30 years). Clarifies that for the transfer of development (floor area only) from a donor zoning lot with a historic site to a receiving zoning lot, or for the transfer of development (floor area or number of dwelling units only) from a donor zoning lot within the special management area to a receiving zoning lot, all other requirements and standards applicable to the receiving zoning lot and its underlying zoning district remain in effect.
What is the above proposed LUO amendment about?
Is the longer version below of “Transfer of development” easier to understand for the public?
This Blangiardi Agenda to amend and overhaul Chapter 21 is a sweeping action that contains 239 pages of fine print and technical knowledge. It will become the Bible for Oahu’s Land Use Ordinances for residents, developers and all property owners.
It appears that perhaps the City Council members themselves may not have the opportunity to study the entire document and its multiplier impacts on Oahu and its residents.
On July 18, 2022, the Zoning and Planning Chair Brandon Elefante requested input from other city council members. He even provided the format on how to submit amendments to Bill 10.
Ideally, wouldn’t it be helpful to constituents to hear from their City Council members about this sweeping Bill 10 that will literally affect their lives?
Considering that District 2 has many severe concerns in so many areas, it’s questionable why City Council woman Heidi Tsuneyoshi is only focusing on one little aspect of this Omnibus Bill 10 that relates to the future industrial turbines buffer zone.
Based on the city records, this is what District 2 City Councilwoman Heidi Tsuneyoshi contributed the following amendment to this Monster Bill 10 deliberation.
What about other critical amendments to protect the Oahu General Plan, the North Shore and the Ko;olauloa Sustainable Communities values? What about the agricultural-zoned land and the farmers? Neighborhood Business-zoned parcels? What about food trucks businesses?
These are the Bill 10 amendments provided by the Honolulu City Council members:
CC-237(22) – TUPOLA – Proposed Amendments to Bill 10 (2022), CD1.
CC-241(22) – WATERS – Proposed amendments to Bill 10 (2022), CD1.
CC-249(22) – ELEFANTE – Proposed additional amendments to Bill 10 (2022).
CC-268(22) – ELEFANTE – Bill 10 CD1 (2022), Relating to Use Regulations.
CC-273(22) – TUPOLA – Proposed amendments to Bill 10 (2022), CD1.
CC-274(22) – KIAʻĀINA – Bill 10 CD2 (2022), Relating to Use Regulations.
CC-275(22) – WATERS – Proposed Amendments to Bill 10 (2022), CD1.
CC-276(22) – CORDERO – Proposed Amendments to Bill 10 (2022), CD1.
CC-280(22) – TSUNEYOSHI – Proposed amendments to Bill 10 (2022), CD1.
CC-281(22) – WATERS – Proposed Amendments to Bill 10 (2022), CD1
D-0074(22) – PLANNING COMMISSION – Draft Bill to Request Amendments to Chapter 21, Revised Ordinances of Honolulu (ROH), 1990 Land Use Ordinance (LUO), Relating to Use Regulations.
Relating to ” Request for Amendments to Chapter 21, Revised Ordinances of Honolulu (ROH), 1990 Land Use Ordinance (LUO), Relating to Use Regulations”
This Monster Bill 10 at 239 pages has been been in the working since the days of Mayor Kirk Caldwell. DPP Katia.Balassianosaid that she also responded to questions at the Honolulu City Council Hearing on September 7, 2022.
But it hasn’t been our case.
We heard about the proposed changes to the City’s LUO being alluded to at the March 17, 2021 Planning Commission Hearing, I personally emailed DPP Katia.Balassiano on March 18, 2021 and did not received any response.
March 18, 2021
Choon James <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Mar 18, 2021, 3:11 PM
Aloha Katia, I was at the Planning Commission Hearing yesterday. I heard your presentation premises about the industrial turbines distance setbacks, of which many of us don’t agree with. On a side note, you also mentioned that you were currently reviewing Oahu’s zoning designations as requested by the City Council. Could you kindly share with us that Resolution or Bill or communications to point us to the primary source. It would be very helpful to us as we’re just unpaid concerned citizens of Oahu. Mahalo! Choon James
April 22, 2021 – I emailed again but no response from Katia.Balassiano again.
Choon James <email@example.com>
Apr 22, 2021, 2:12 PM
Aloha Katia, I’m trying to trace your presentation dialogue.Did you recall saying this? Any more info will behelpful. “On a side note, you also mentioned that you were currently reviewing Oahu’s zoning designationsas requested by the City Council. Could you kindly share with us that Resolution or Bill or communications to point us to the primary source.” Mahalo, Choon James
January 21, 2022
Two concurrent DEPT. COM 74 about Request for Amendments to Chapter 21 was sent to Tommy Waters, Honolulu City Council Chair. from the Blangiardi Administration and the Planning Commission.
It stated that the Planning Commission had their public hearings on November 24, 2021 and January 18, 2022 on the subject matter. It also stated that the public hearing hearing was closed on January 18, 2022.
Our bad. The first meeting was so close to Thanksgiving. And the second meeting was right after Christmas and New Years Day. I don’t usually keep track of the Planning Commission Hearings. I wonder who does.
One may wonder why this Monster Bill 10 did not begin at the Honolulu City Council first where there would be more public notice.
If the Mayor’s Request starts at the Planning Commission, the approval vote from the Honolulu City Council is 5 majority votes. However, if the request begins at the Honolulu City Council, the approval majority is 6 votes.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell use this same procedure for the Vacation Rental Bills.
Further reading into the beginnings of this Monster Bill 10 shows the intent and its organized procedure inside Honolulu Hale and at DPP.
I can’t see concerned citizens being easily able to track this Omnibus Monster Bill on their own outside of Honolulu Hale and the Planning Commission without some friendly assistance. Every City Council Hearing is also usually packed with many items.
Is there a way to be more public friendly and more helpful in informing the public?
” In 1939 there were no helicopters so people would have had to sail to the cliff and scale it. In an old article in Morgunblaðið, project director Árni G. Þórarinsson says in an interview, “The first thing we had to to was create a road up to the cliff. We got together of experienced mountaineers, all from the Westman Islands.
Then we brought drills, hammers, chains and clamps to secure the chains. Once they got near the top there was no way to get any grip on the rock so one of them got down on his knees, the second stood on his back, and then the third climbed on top of the other two and was able to reach the nib of the cliff above.
I cannot even tell you how I was feeling whilst witnessing this incredibly dangerous procedure.”Þrídrangar, the three pillars of rock are in fact four pillars named Stóridrangur, Þúfudrangur, Klofadrangur and the fourth one is nameless.
In 1938 a road was constructed to Stóridrangur and the following year the lighthouse was raised.
Many years later a helipad was set up on Stóridrangur where helicopters can land.”
This new private LLC who recently bought the 85.72 acreages for $910.000 on July 30, 2019 is exploring the possibilities of subdividing into smaller lots.
There have been questions and chattering about proposed development on this 85.72 acres in the mauka region of Hauula, Oahu. The topography is generally very steep. City records show the following land-use designations. It would be interesting to see how these delineations are actually recorded or are they?
What about Ingress and Egress?
Developments in large acreages like these always raise foundational questions amongst the affected residents.
Questions like ingress and egress are always a big deal as many parcels are land-locked or are connected to narrow country rural roads with no side-walks or street lights meandering through rural residential neighborhoods. Many times these rural roads are already congested with traffic and parked cars. Fire trucks also cannot access some of these areas.
The city records show the address as 54-131 Halai Street. The ingress and egress is from Kamehameha Highway to Hauula Homestead Road and quickly turning left into Halai Street and then towards the mauka end of Halai Street opening into the subject property.
Hauula Homestead Road may also be another ingress or egress option for this 87 acres parcel as seen below.
As is, the property will have a hard time being subdivided.
The subdivision needs DLNR’s assistance
Ho’ala Honua said it is in the process of purchasing (or leasing?) needed extra land from the Department of Land and Natural Resources to make their subdivision ingress and egress road meet the county’s basic standard.
Other questions would be the carrying capacity, traffic congestion, drainage, water flow, and whether the Ko’olauloa Sustainable Communities Plan (KSCP) is being adhered to and being implemented. There is also the General Plan that provides diversity in land use planning for the entire Oahu.
The KSCP values, also known as “Keep The Country Country”, include preserving the view plane of open space and the Ko’olau mountain range. The Plan includes preserving the kama’aina values of low-density urbanization, protecting agricultural lands, watersheds, cultural resources, and so on.
There was a presentation at the Ko’olauloa Neighborhood Board on August 11, 2022 starting at about the 2:15 time line. The video maps are not very clear. The sound is problematic at times too. This video is worth listening.
There appears to be 10 lots with 8 lots being proposed for residential dwellings. One of the lots goes all the way up to the tip of the mountain.
We hope to see more materials from the LLC. More to come.
Lt. Governor Josh Green and the executives of Nomi Health show a pattern of campaign donations that should be further scrutinized.
This is an excerpt from USA TODAY which has a paywall to read. However Civil Beat is in partnership with this article:
” Nomi, Chief Executive Mark Newman and others associated with the company have since December given almost $35,000 to Hawaii Democrats, with the majority going to Lt. Gov. Josh Green, the Democratic nominee and front-runner for governor, campaign finance records show. There were no contributions to Republicans, who have little political clout in Hawaii.
Nearly all of the campaign contributions to Hawaii politicians, including several running for the Legislature and lieutenant governor, came after Nomi announced in December that it had secured $110 million in new investor money. The company then purchased at least three more businesses, including Artemis Health, which gave nearly $5,600 to Green about six months after the acquisition.
Newman previously told USA TODAY that campaign contributions were made in part so that Nomi could continue to “be at the table” and compete for future health contracts against other businesses.”
Larry Noble, former general counsel at the Federal Election Commission who has practiced campaign finance law for 45 years, told USA TODAY that it appears Newman wants to sit at more tables.
“Money buys access,” Noble said. “It’s a big problem and leads to a distorted government, and it is part of the system we have right now. The fact that he is willing to say it out loud is how far we have fallen.”
What is interesting are also the observations from Congressman Kai Kahele:
“Kai Kahele, a U.S. congressman who lost to Green in the Democratic primary for governor, released a 47-minute video in late July that questioned why Nomi and Newman were invested in a political race so far away from Utah.
Kahele told USA TODAY that Newman will have allies in the governor and lieutenant governor should the Democratic ticket win in November.
He said that while the contributions from Newman and Nomi associates are much smaller in Hawaii than what was given in politically red states, the dollars add up, and open the door to political access for state contracts.
“It just smells fishy,” Kahele said, “Something is not right.”
Controversial DPP Director submitted his resignation from the position as of September 6, 2022.
When Rick Blangiardi became the Mayor of Honolulu, it was no surprise to the public that many of established interest organizations in town continue to have a big presence at City Hall.
Dean Uchida was appointed his Director of Planning and Permitting. Support came from Oahu’s building, construction and development groups.
Several controversies stood out that raised significant public mistrust towards the Blangiardi Administration, Director Uchida, and DPP itself.
1.The Department of Planning and Permitting’s chronic history of corruption
DPP has elicited many names from the general public – The Department of Permitting and Permitting Department, The Department of Pay to Play, The Department of Pilau Permitting and so on.
Recently, several DPP employees were indicted for bribery. Six individuals were charged with Bribery Schemes for Official Acts at the Department of Planning and Permitting of the City and County of Honolulu:
2.HB 1434 Relating Seeking Non-Judicial Foreclosure based on DPP Fines
The Mayor’s 2022 Legislative Package of asking the State Legislature for NON-JUDICIAL FORECLOSURE based on DPP’s fines raised alarm.
This agenda to ask for “Non-Judicial Foreclosure” powers based on DPP Fines was one of the most aggressive attacks on private property rights in Hawaii. The goal ought to be helping owners correct violations, not seize private properties without Due Process.
Fortunately, the Hawaii State Legislature deferred the measure. This “Non-Judicial Foreclosure” agenda should not see the light of day again. It’s over-reaching. It opens up to too much subjectivity and corruption as well as possibilities of abuse of powers. This attempt would turn the Aloha State into a Police State. Instead of helping property owners to address violations, the county wants to use the big stick of government to suppress private property rights without Due Process.
Every Property Owner automatically becomes a sitting duck. Based on DPP’s record and history, it opens up more room for mischief or even political retaliation. DPP had been known for such.
3.City Council Bill 41to address illegal vacation rentals
Illegal Short-term rentals have been a controversy for decades. The number has accelerated from about 800 legal properties with non-conforming use certificates to about 10,000.00 and more operations throughout Oahu.
In the process of this legislative process, DPP Director Uchida had been accused of having conflict of interests:
“Uchida’s wife, Joy Uchida, is an executive with Aqua-Aston Hospitality, which owns over a dozen condo-hotel properties in Waikiki and stood to benefit from the legislation’s passage. Asked about ethics concerns regarding his wife last year, Uchida said he didn’t view the situation as a conflict of interest.
The Honolulu Ethics Commission received at least one complaint about the matter late last year. It investigated and shared its findings with the complainant in a letter on March 30, according to a copy obtained by Civil Beat in which the complainant’s name is redacted.”
Unhappy owners and operators also filed a lawsuit against the City and County of Honolulu.
The Federal lawsuit against the City and County of Honolulu, Department of Planning and Permitting, and Director Dean Uchida alleges the following:
This huge bill that is made up of many parts and areas with about 200 pages -Addressing the regulation of uses throughout Chapter 21, Revised Ordinances of Honolulu 1990 (“Land Use Ordinance” . (Deadline: 10/29/22).
While the DPP Department may be working to amend this Land Use Ordinance (LUO) along with other insiders, the general public at large is not familiar with the many proposed changes involved. Bill 10 is confusing and demands detailed reading and digesting. The changes range from Agricultural land use to Commercial use ordinances to setbacks for industrial turbines to neighborhood B1 and B2 Zoning applications to designations of vacation rental areas in Kapolei to getting rid of “preservation” zones and so on.
Bill 10 was heard at the City Council Public Hearing on September 7, 2022. A public member is only allowed 3 minutes to testify about this omnibus bill. The Uchida Resignation Press Release from the Office of the Mayor’s was announced by the media around noon, before the Bill 10 decision-making hearing.
It’s fervently hoped that the Mayor will make sure that the culture of Aloha not be usurped by turning it into a Police State with hasty wielding the big stick of government through big fines and imposing non-judicial seizure of private properties.
Aloha does not mean the lack of efficiency and effectiveness in city management. Aloha means that Honolulu Hale will consistently serve the people of Honolulu in a helpful, fair and equitable ways across the board.
The Honolulu City Council is comprised of only nine (9) Districts. But its legislative powers are far-reaching for the entire island of Oahu.
The Council has a monthly Public Hearing throughout the year. There are also monthly committee meetings. Annually, there is a dedicated budget hearing session from March to June where all the budget deliberations are presented and decided upon. There can also be other Special Hearings held at Honolulu Hale or Kapolei Hale or any other designated site.
Its powers include real property taxation (it’s main source of revenues), approving or disapproving of budget items for the city’s operations and capital projects. It also legislate zoning and its related ordinances – where you can build a business shop or whether you can have a nursing home or set up a large scale farm. It regulates quiet hours, fireworks, shoreline setbacks, building codes, transportation like the Honolulu Rapid Transit Project, sewer plants, and so on. It also nominates and approve candidates to boards and commissions. In other words, the Honolulu City Council affects you life, a lot.
The 9 members have term-limits. Each can serve up to two consecutive four (4) years term. However, a former city council member can run again after a lapse of one term.
The city council alternates in the election cycle. One election would open up the even-number districts of 2, 4, 6, and 8 and the other set of 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9.
The most coveted positions, in order of significance, are the Chair, Vice-Chair, Budget Committee, Planning and Zoning Committee, Transportation, Sustainability and Health, Housing and the Economy, Executive Matters and Legal Affairs, Public Infrastructure and Technology, Parks and Community Services, and Public Safety.
The City Council is the legislative Branch which creates the policy-making, laws and ordinances. The Office of the Mayor is the Executive Branch where the Mayor is supposed to implement the legislative mandates from the City Council, besides managing the operations of the city and county of Honolulu.
We strongly encourage you to find out who your city council member is. Keep their email and telephone number. Feel free to communicate with them and ask lots of questions, offer suggestions and ask them to meet with you in your communities. Too often, huge and consequential bills are passed without much public participation. Often times, the customary hour session for recognition and awards are more packed with residents than the main decision-making public hearing session after.
A city council member is as active and responsive in the communities as you make them out to be. Hold them accountable. They need your vote. They are paid by you, the taxpayers of Honolulu.