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 41 to 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:
4. Omnibus Bill 10 Relating to Land Use Regulations
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.