Monthly Archives: September 2013

Choon James: Iconic Ewa Beach Post Office headed for Closure. Why?


WHY? Ewa Beach Post Office headed for Closure in Oahu

“Makes no sense at all”: Ewa Beach Post Office headed for closure

“The Ewa Beach Station is housed in a building owned by City, and the rent is just $4,404   a year.  The structure is in good shape, and there’s ample parking.  The proposal to close says that the post office building is “not listed as a historic landmark.”  It’s true that the building isn’t on the National Register of Historic Places, but it is a local landmark and many people like the old timey feel of the place, which is associated with the fact Ewa Planation goes back 150 years.  The post office structure It was built in 1958, making it eligible for the National Register, which uses fifty years old as a benchmark. ”

” The Ewa Federal Credit Union is next door to the post office and one of its best customers, so it’s putting up a fight against the closure.  The Credit Union would be severely impacted, since it would need to send an employee seven miles round trip every day to the next nearest post office.

Average citizens are joining in the fight as well.  Customer Vera Kaaikaula has started a petition drive, and she has gotten more than 500 signatures. “

Choon James: Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s assaults on free speech rights expand to Hau’ula




“Keep the Country Country” Protects Kama’aina Families

‘Keep the Country Country’ Will Protect Kama’aina Families


Many islanders are passionate in the cause to “Keep the Country Country” from Kahaluu to Haleiwa. There are countless good reasons to preserve the rural charm and finite resources — watersheds, waterways, forestry, agriculture, farms, animal husbandry, open space, view planes, cultural values, tourism, and lifestyle — of this region.

Another good reason to keep the country country is to preserve the economic viability and stability of kamaaina families, many of whom have lived in this region for generations.

This precious region lures land investors far and wide. Through their public relations mercenaries, they try to label the “Keep the Country Country” movement as “a vocal minority group of ornery haoles with NIMBY problems” or “people who are shutting the gates after themselves.”

However, the developers’ smear tactics are fast crumbling. The public can now clearly see the negative impacts of big developers playing out in Kahuku.

Today, the Kahuku Plantation Village of about 70 houses is in turmoil. Many are facing eviction from homes they’ve stayed in their entire lives. The sweat and equity of these inter-generational laborers; along with their heritage and roots are tied to this plantation camp.

Tubal sign

The entire Honolulu City Council, under the leadership of Chair Ernie Martin and Budget Committee Chair Ann Kobayashi, has allocated sufficient funds for the city to stem massive homelessness and social disruption by acquiring the plantation camp in cooperation with a non-profit group to manage it. But Mayor Kirk Caldwell refuses to respond to the pleas of the plantation residents or the wishes of the city council.

Who will win and who will lose in this high stakes game of profits and survival?

What is occurring at the Kahuku Village Plantation Camp has happened elsewhere and can be quickly summarized in one word — “Gentrification”.

In a nutshell, gentrification is the compressed evolution of massive development in communities that produces “winners” and “losers.”

It’s obvious the “losers” are usually the less affluent.

Gentrification chases the less affluent out of their communities due to the influx of new money and spending power. The less affluent are unable to pay rising rents, property taxes, real estate and the accelerating costs of living. Local businesses may lose their leases under competition or have to keep up with newly built commercial spaces with higher built-in expenses. Development will provide short-term construction jobs to some but what happens next?

Gentrification can alter lifestyle, values, and identity of communities when left unchecked. It inevitably creates disconnect and conflicts in communities. In Hawaii, it’s become a volatile struggle to protecting the local culture and values, environment, finite resources, and a chosen island lifestyle that many hold dear.

Fortunately, Oahu has had a visionary General Plan since the 1970s under the leadership of then Gov. George Ariyoshi. Oahu was divided into eight different geographic areas, delineating different land-use policies that include Primary urban center (Honolulu), Secondary urban center (Kapolei), Urban – fringe (Koolauloa Poko), and Rural designations (Koolau Loa, North Shore, and Waianae).

This Oahu General Plan is a careful compromise to preserve what we hold hear about Hawaii and to address development.

To prevent urban sprawl and inevitable gentrification, decision makers must respect and adhere to the existing Oahu General Plan. There has to be a line of demarcation to safeguard viability and diversity in land-use decisions for Oahu. If we don’t stand for something, we’ll fall for anything.

This Oahu General Plan that protects the Koolau Loa and the North Shore’s charm of old Hawaii, finite resources, food security, watersheds, open space, recreational spaces, view planes, rural lifestyle, and especially the stability of kamaaina residents, must continue to be the basis for objective Big Picture land-use planning. Decision makers must not allow big developers to hijack and amend this document to fit their own agenda.

“Keep the Country Country” — from Kahaluu to Haleiwa — is an integral part of needed diversity and versatility for a thriving and sustainable Oahu. This cause has never sounded so pragmatic and urgent for this iconic region as the first shoe of gentrification drops in Kahuku. “Keep the Country Country” is not about the past; it’s about the future.

About the author:Choon James has been a real estate broker for over twenty years. She’s lived in the North Nhore for over 30 years. She served on the Koolau Loa Sustainable Communities Planning Advisory Committee and hosts “Country Talk Story,” the most-watched public television program on Olelonet in 2012.

Choon James: Honolulu Transit Oriented Development (TOD) an Assault on Private Property Rights.



Rail’s Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) An Assault on Private Property Rights
By Choon James 11/03/2012  Published in Civil Beat.

How would you react if a stranger enters your home; goes into your bedroom and sleeps in your bed — without your permission?

The natural reaction would be one of disbelief and outright objection, right?
We would consider this intrusion an invasion of our privacy and space. We would dial 911 to get the intruder off our property.

Yet, we see no similar reactions towards the Honolulu city’s proposed Transit-oriented developments (TOD); we detect no deference to or respect for private property rights. The city’s planners and facilitators have successfully drowned this constitutional right in their public presentations.

On the other hand, the amount of giddy excitement and coveting of private properties (that the government does not own) for this Honolulu Rail’s Transit-oriented development (TOD) is very alarming.

We live in a Democracy; we are not China or Russia.

Private property rights is an integral part of free enterprise. We must not allow crony capitalism to stomp private property owners. Government and its cronies must not be allowed to plan as they unilaterally please.

At each of the proposed 21 rail stations, the city wants TODs “within half a mile radius” vicinity. The proposed rail stations are located at every mile; this means the whole land area along the entire 21-mile rail corridor is up for grabs. “Half a mile radius” sounds so harmless!

To covet and seize an additional 20 square miles area along this rail corridor on our small island pose a huge economical, social and cultural impact!

It’s not as if private owners can easily relocate down the road. Family inheritances, investments, and businesses built with sweat, equity, and sacrifices will be placed under the mercy of absolute powers of eminent domain. Kama’aina owners and businesses will be pushed out to pave the way for national and international investors.

Have we forgotten about Kelo vs. New London, the most despised eminent domain case in recent history The Fort Trumbull community had 117 private properties. The City of New London supposedly had carefully crafted a revitalization plan to spur new jobs and increase tax revenue.
To push this “revitalization” plan forward, New London City abused its eminent domain powers to seize private properties to transfer to its private partner.

As it turned out, the city’s private partner – Pfizer corporation – failed to deliver needed funds and abandoned the much-heralded project. The Pfizer corporation also left town.
The city and state spent $78 Million for the acquisition and bulldozing the Fort Trumbull neighborhood. The promised 3,169 new jobs and $1.2 million a year in tax revenues evaporated.

The municipal experts’ Revitalization Plan, the basis for the ill Supreme Court’s June 23, 2005 decision in deference to legislators, proved to be an elusive concept and not reality.
In early 2012, its newly-elected Mayor of New London extended an apology to the Fort Trumbull victims . . . what good did that do?

The priceless toll on the victims could never be compensated; lives were uprooted and constitution rights subverted while the bureaucratic and political perpetrators walked away scot-free.

Here in Hawaii, we observe a similar “revitalization” process has been set in motion. City “experts” are holding “Community Visioning” meetings to discuss “Neighborhood TOD Planning”.
The city wants to “take advantage of rail to its optimal level” and to “concentrate population” along this rail corridor.
The “experts” presented beautiful artistic renderings at these meetings but we’ve yet to hear the sounds of the Rail along the Honolulu High-Capacity Transit Corridor. Who will live along the noisy railroad tracks?
(The push to steer the low income population along the noisy rail corridor is “segregation déjà vu” and not social equity.)

The dangerous potential for the city to seize 21 square miles of private properties for transfer to private investors has to be reckoned with, today. The proposed Honolulu Rail is not only ugly, noisy, and a black hole for Oahu’s taxpayers; its accompanied TOD is a direct assault on private property rights.
No Oahu residents should sit idly by and condone such autocratic land-use plans for our island home. It is wrong. It’s dangerous. It’s unAmerican. It goes against the core tenets of our free society.

City planning and developments must conform within the constitutional parameters of private property rights. This should have been a big part of the public deliberations. Any “exemption” laws to skirt this right must be rejected. Too many big decisions have been manipulated and controlled by raw crony capitalism and special interests. Private property owners continue to trampled on and pushed aside by the big boys.
We must take our government back.

About the author: Choon James has been a real estate broker for over 20 years. She is a member of the Ko’olauloa Sustainable Communities Planning Committee and hosts “Country Talk Story”, a weekly community television show on Saturdays at 5:00 pm on Channel 55. Continue reading


Posted: 09/09/2013 3:03 pm

Paving Paradise

My mother’s maiden voyage to Oahu, Hawaii was a memorable one for us.

Her first knee-jerk observation of Oahu’s majestic Ko’olau mountains were these words in Hokkien, “Why don’t they raze the mountains to build more buildings?”

Keep in mind she had just arrived from Singapore after a thirteen-hour flight. Singapore was a concrete city-state of approximately 2.3 million people then. Most lived in high-rise apartments we call “flats.” Rural areas were systematically paved over for more concrete towns.

However, it didn’t take Mother long to change her mind about turning Oahu into another concrete jungle. She quickly fell in love with Oahu’s surroundings. She decided she really loved Oahu for its beauty, lifestyle, and sense of place — the fresh air, the ocean breeze, the open space, the mountains, the soothing scenery and the friendly people. She’s returned to the islands many times.

Today, Singapore’s population is about 5.3 million, squeezed and squashed onto 274 square miles of land. Indeed, hills have been leveled and new land reclaimed around its harboring shores for more development and more people. Singapore imports 100% of its food. This water-stressed country now depends heavily on expensive desalination plants and water from abroad. Its cash economy means the Everyman has to work for basic survival. The competition is stiff. The cost of living is high.

To try and soften the concrete urbanization, Singapore recently constructed solar-powered “super-trees.”

A Gallup poll reported that Singaporeans are the most unhappy people in the world.

The Singapore Straits Times reported, “Based on a poll of nearly 150,000 people worldwide conducted in 2011 — the same one that branded Singapore as emotionless — Gallup’s reading into the results put Singapore at the top of the list of countries where the fewest adults experienced positive emotions. Singaporeans were apparently less upbeat than the people in places like Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and Haiti.”

Why am I talking about Singapore on my very first dialogue with HuffPost Hawaii? Because I see Oahu, Hawaii as “a Singapore-in-embryo.”

Unless those of us who live here and those who live outside of Hawaii come together to define Hawaii’s identity, collectively decide what we want Hawaii to become, and together resolve to protect its unique identity and cultures, Oahu could end up like Singapore in fifty years — a concrete jungle with intense urbanization pressures that produce the most unhappy people in the world.

A wise mentor once counseled, “Be careful which wall we’re leaning our ladders of life on. We could be busy climbing up a ladder — only to find out the views at the top are not what we envisioned.”

I look forward to some friendly “ladder conversations” about Hawaii.