Monthly Archives: October 2018

Laie Point Cliff Collapse – Erosion or Shoreline Set Back Violations?

Laniloa Point aka Laie Point in Laie, Oahu is a peninsula that juts into the ocean. Part of the Peninsula is connected at ground level by Clissolds Beach aka Bikini Beach.

The peninsula rises to higher elevation (40-45 feet) at the Laie Point Lookout. Several lower-elevation Point properties have carved steps into their backyards to gain access to the ocean. Friendly neighbors share access paths to the waters.

On October 1, 2018 a resident was walking along Clissolds Beach and noticed huge quantities of fresh naupaka foliage with its roots washed up along the shores. She had not seen this the day before. It was estimated that this cliff collapse triggered at 55-064 Naupaka Street happened in the early morning of October 1, 2018.

I live next door to this property. My house is the one on the far right. We built this home with our mason friend, Wahanui Elkington and other construction friends about 25 years ago.

Our next door neighbors then (subject white roof house with safety netting) were friendly and open. It was just the two of them senior citizens. They let the surrounding neighborhood children visit them at will. She loved children. They had a grand piano. They had a small Koi pond. We visited often. He even showed me the natural fissure in their shoreline set back  and suggested carving steps to access to the waters below, together. We both didn’t do anything about it. She passed away first. Her husband later sold the property in 2007 to the current owner from California.

This property would turn into an Airbnb vacation rental. Many illegal vacation rental impacts problems ensued.

We would be subjected to loud partying, be woken up by loud quarrels and so on. Their hot tub was first situated next to our yard boundary but would later be relocated even closer to the ocean. There would then be a fire pit with smoke coming our way.

We would hear jack-hammering. Sometimes I would even hear jack-hammering in the darkness but it would stop after I turned on our deck porch lights. These hammering, chipping, terracing and fillings into the  40 feet shoreline set back began around 2012. I heard the jack hammering and also felt the vibrations through the years.

As recently as last month, a local fisherman attested to hammering activities then in facebook comments. The local fisherman also commented he was told he was not allowed to fish from the cliff ledge.

Another local fisherman commented he could no longer fish there because of the cliff collapse. His fishing spot has disappeared. There was a parameter foot path along the cliff ledge  where local fishermen used. That path is now cut short.

Airbnb Guest reviews in 2013 also reveal the “carving” into the 40 feet setback on the cliff for a hot tub and other amenities to be closer to the ocean.

Photos of the Airbnb vacation rental website, closed as of October 14, 2018, also showed the encroachments and placement of amenities into the 40-feet shoreline setback.

Through the years, the operators of this illegal vacation rental encroached and violated Hawaii’s 40-feet shoreline setback. These continuing encroachments into the 40-feet shoreline set back crept closer and closer to the edge of the cliff and ocean.

I emailed the property owner who lives at Dana Point, California about this cliff collapse on October 1, 2018. His response was that it was an “erosion”.  He said to contact his property manager who also claimed “erosion” and that he was in no way responsible for the cliff collapse.  Their seven Airbnb online websites for Laie have been discontinued as of October 14, 2018.

As of October 15, 2018, the  Honolulu City and County Department of Planning and Permitting has issued a NOTICE OF VIOLATION to the owners in California – “Development work within the 40-ft shoreline setback, but not limited to, including a CMU fish pond, hot tub, and a circular stone fire pit-type structure are to be removed and so forth.

The Notice of Violation also stated for owners to “Restore the area immediately . . .”

How does one restore the irreparable carved out cliff top and portions of the collapsed cliff?

What is the relevance of the 40-feet shoreline set back in Hawaii?

What do you think?  Is it Erosion or did  the 40-feet shoreline set back violations through years of jack hammering, terracing, fillings, and other activities to get closer and closer to the waters contributed to the cliff collapse into the ocean?  

Additional Photos Taken October 3, 2018

Photos below expose the leveled area, fillings, and missing retaining wall at the trigger spot of the cliff collapse.

Photos below show portions of a natural vertical fissure (left) in this property.

October 17, 2018 Photos Taken BELOW Portions of the leveled area/retaining wall collapsed into the waters. A new bamboo screen and other accessories are seen. New palm frond debris now cover the surface edge of collapsed cliff top.

The hot tub below has been lifted up from its position onto the fire pit area, exposing  grading on cliff surface inside the 40-feet shoreline setback.  Other portions have further been terraced and leveled towards the ocean.

1-29-2013 Laie Point  Google Image (below) showed a “fisherman’s foot path” along the cliff’s edge known to locals.

April 2017 These images below were shared on YouTube, showing sprawl towards the natural fissure in the 40-feet shoreline setback.

Note: We welcome public input to this article. Please contact us at ChoonJamesHawaii@gmail.com

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#CON AM: Not all ‘investment real property’ owners are wealthy

EDITORIALISLAND VOICES

Column: Not all ‘investment real property’ owners are wealthy

  • An investor landlord incurs many expenses, including monthly mortgage payments, flood, hurricane, fire and liability insurances, maintenance/repair costs, appliance replacements, and utilities.

“Shall the legislature be authorized to establish, as provided by law, a surcharge on investment real property to be used to support public education?”

Voters will have the opportunity to vote on that proposed constitutional amendment this November. Unfortunately, this open-ended language provides unfettered taxing powers to the state on ambiguous “investment” real property.

Up to now, only counties are authorized powers to collect real property taxes.

Even then, it’s a fallacy that every investment property owner is wealthy and thus, low-hanging fruit for taxation.

Many “investors” are self-employed residents. They lead frugal lives and sacrifice in order to purchase an investment property. They have mortgages with monthly payments. They doggedly work on their fixer-uppers. While others take vacations to Las Vegas, they are home fixing or improving.

Their investment property is their retirement benefit. And let’s not forget, the benchmark used by Honolulu County for double tax on investment or Residential “A” is $1 million (an amount easily reached).

Since this constitutional amendment is a Hawaii State Teachers Association initiative, let’s use a public school teacher as example: Teachers have a guaranteed monthly salary, including a long summer, spring, Christmas and holiday breaks. Teachers generally get annually 18 days of paid sick leave that can be accumulated throughout their tenure. Each school year has 189 curriculum days. Teachers generally receive 80/20 EUTF medical benefits. At retirement, teachers could receive a $1,000 monthly pension, more or less, depending on the rate of pay and length of service.

On the other hand, an independent or retired property “investor” has no guaranteed fixed income, and no benefits like medical, pension or holidays.

In fact, the demands on an investor landlord are 24/7/365. The alternative is to hire a property manager who charges 12 percent of gross rental income.

An investor landlord incurs many expenses, including monthly mortgage payments, flood, hurricane, fire and liability insurances, maintenance/repair costs, appliance replacements, and utilities. Expenses can often include absorbing unpaid rents, legal fees to evict delinquent tenants, or costs for property damages.

Allow me to highlight just three categories of “investors” to present another perspective to this taxation issue. Not every investor is wealthy; many are trying to survive, just like our teachers:

>> Investor A is retired and depends on his second home income to help him and his wife in their retirement years. Both their million-dollar homes (on paper) need repairs and maintenance that they cannot afford right now. If they had to be in a care home, they’re hoping that the rental income could help. Currently, they’re barely making ends meet and worry about being priced out of house and home with increasing fees and taxes.

>> Investor B is now working on the mainland. He cannot find a comparable job in his field here. They want to come home eventually but they can’t afford to, yet. They’re renting their mortgaged home to a local family long-term. Their shack is now over the $1 million valuation, triggering increased “Residential A” taxes. They reluctantly will have to raise rents soon.

>> Investor C is a self-employed young man with construction skills. He maintains a million-dollar (on paper) second home that he fixes up through sweat equity. He depends on this rental income to pay his two mortgages, support himself and his growing family. They have no other income or benefits like medical or pensions for themselves and their children.

Most Hawaii’s residents, including such investors, are trying to make ends meet. Can we see strict fiscal discipline and tightening of waste and spending in our government before more taxes are imposed? Otherwise, more locals will be priced out of Hawaii.

Column: Not all ‘investment real property’ owners are wealthy

 

 


Choon James has been a real estate broker for 30 years and is a long-time community advocate.