Tag Archives: DPP

Honolulu City Council Votes to Shut Down Short-Term Vacation Rentals With Bill 41

The Honolulu City Council voted today at its monthly Hearing with 8 “YES” and 1 “NO” vote to adopt Bill 41. This April 13, 2022 action presented a much stricter approach to this decades-old controversy for the island of Oahu, Hawaii.

Predictably, the Opposition against Bill 41 came from the Board of Realtors and short-term vacation rentals operators. Support came from die-hard community activists and community groups who had been protesting for decades. Labor Union Unite Local 5 and housing advocate groups also supported Bill 41 on the argument that affordable housing is being usurped by the more affluent.

However, there were accusations of corruption, conflict of interest, and it being a “rush job”. There were questions as to who made the decision to draw the boundaries or decide which building was included and which building was out. There were also accusations of “insider trading”; did people in the know invest in these properties before hand?

The Director of Planning and Permitting Dean Uchida chose to recuse himself and was not seen today at the Council Hearing. However, several testifiers mentioned that the DPP Director should have recused himself at the onset. His wife is an Executive Officer with the Aqua-Ashton Hospitality which has interests include short term condo-tel in Waikiki.

I hope the Department of Planning and Permitting comes out with a Q & A information so it it will be easier to understand.

For now, those who have their Non-Conforming Units Certificates ( (NUC) will be grandfathered in. They will have to pay yearly registration fees and probably higher property taxes. This list here shows the exceptions that were provided by DPP in 1987. Other than this list, operators in residential areas are ruled out as illegal.

Notably, the 30-day contract (instead of the 29-days short term rental category) that many vacation rental operators use will no longer be allowed. It’s now changed to 90 days.

Operators can be fined up to an initial fine not to exceed $5,000 and a fine not to exceed $10,000 for each day thereafter that the advertisement is on public display. (This raises questions here too. Not every operator needs to use the standard platforms. What about private alumni or business groups?)

Here are the areas that will be permitted to have new operations:

In the North Shore of Oahu, both the Kuilima West and Kulima East Estates are allowed. Note that this area is zoned “Apartment “, not “Resort” :

Below is the west side of Oahu in Ko’olina. However, certain Makaha areas do not appear permitted even though it was designated as “resort” in the recent Oahu General Plan. However, note the Apartment-zoned areas are now allowed in Bill 41.

Below is the Waikiki area. Note again that these are Apartment-zoned, not “Resort”.

If you wish to read the fine print, here is the council approved Bill 41 document. Note the underlined language.

Enforcement is the buzzword for both sides of this issue.

At the Hearing, City Councilwoman Andria Tupola who casted the lone “NO” vote and expressed her frustrations about getting correct data and clarifications. She noted that the Deputy Director was new and trying to educate herself on this issue. This was a valid point. With our years of observing and participating at Honolulu Hale, one can see the uncertainty, lack of experience, and institutional knowledge. The former Acting DPP Director Kathy Sokogawa knew the DPP workings inside and out through her decades of employment.

The DPP Deputy Director told the City Council that they would be hiring seven new inspectors. The big question is how DPP is going enforce its long list of requisites, besides registrations and so forth. And how DPP is going to handle the thousands of illegal vacation operators?

I believe that the city can expect challenges because there appears to be irregularities, inconsistencies, and discrepancies. But as the City Council likes to say of any bill, ” This is not a perfect bill, we can improve in the future.” Any lawsuit expenses against the city will be paid for by the taxpayers of Honolulu.

Prior to Bill 41, there was Bill 89 that adopted and signed by Mayor Kirk Caldwell on June 25, 2019. Bill 89 would have allowed an approximate 1,700 new vacation rentals through lottery. However, there was no traction from the Caldwell Administration despite holding rule-making discussions.

Upon being elected, Mayor Rick Blangiardi nominated Dean Uchida as the Director of Planning and Permitting. Former Acting DPP Director Kathy Sokogawa resigned and a lot of institution knowledge left with her. Bill 41 was then proposed with this first version that included the Gold Coast. It has since been taken out from the final version. There had been amendments along the process.

What is my take on this?

Before Bill 89 was finally approved and adopted, I initially testified that DPP should start by addressing the most egregious cases first. DPP did not appear to have the organization to enforce so much so quickly. It should take the bite of the elephant incrementally.

Also, I objected to making mom-and-pop bed and breakfast rentals pay more fees and taxes. How would it help our local residents if they had to keep paying more?

Will Bill 41 work? Again, the devil is in the enforcement. How is DPP going to clam down? Through the use of fines and then non-judicial foreclosures? We’ll have to wait and see how this is rolled out.

On the other side of the coin, real estate agents are already farming neighborhoods to list properties to sell. It’s a fact that luxury homes are not going to be affordable even if it’s a long-term rental. There are quite a bit of those in Oahu where properties are owned by LLCs and out-of-state investors.

Will vacation rental owners sell or will they hold? Chances are high that many will hang on because Hawaii is still a politically stable place to invest in. We should see more rentals open up to create a little more rental inventory. Even then, the value of real estate does not need to come down.

Choon James has been a real estate broker for over 30 years. She’s been involved in environmental and social justice activism since her high school years. She was a Honolulu mayoral candidate in 2020. She can be reached at ChoonJamesHawaii@gmail.com 808 293 8888

Resolution 22-11: STRONGLY OPPOSE -Selective Targeting With Hostile Taking of Private Property

There is no question that the subject property owner Taufa needs to correct his violations. But these violations take time to cure. A city council member should especially make the efforts to reach out to those in trouble and try to help them. Immigrant families especially need more education and understanding in addressing Hawaii’s land use issues.

I’ve known many immigrants here for over forty years. Some may be here for a while but still need understanding due to inherent cultural perceptions or lack of knowledge or carelessness. For example: I continue to help educate our Southeast Asian farmers that “Round-Up” must be used very carefully, if at all. Many think that “Round-up” and other chemical fertilizers are simply “Good medicine”.

Even some from the Continental Mainland have misunderstandings of Oahu’s land-use ordinances. In places like Idaho, Tennessee, or Upstate New York, there are still counties with no land-use designations. A property can do as they wish. They can drill a well, build an air-strip, do a quarry business or build a residential home side by side of each other. Hawaii fortunately has a wonderful land-use designations on paper.

It’s a known fact that many contractors store their equipments and do their businesses out of their ag-zoned parcels whether it be roofing, trucking, and so on. I’m not saying that these owners are correct. But parts of the islands do not have “industrial” zone area for such business activities. But I’m saying that it is a very common occurrence in Oahu to mix ag-land with construction businesses.

Thus, if such a quick severe punishment is imposed on one particular owner and not the others, there should be at least a fair and objective outreach by the city council member first.

Some neighbors near this property have complained about this property. They have the right to do so. The Hauula Community Association President Dotty Paddock has weighed in. This activism began to snow-ball to include a few north shore environmentalists, who in turn has solicited for testimonies from around the island for DPP to do its job in enforcement.

I understand the frustrations with DPP. But we cannot allow this anger against DPP’s chronic lack of enforcement by turning this small property owner into a whipping boy. This is grossly unfair. There is no question that the property owner has violations to cure. Enforcement by DPP is important. But social justice is important too, especially when dealing with minorities and immigrant families.

Unfortunately, instead of granting some outreach to the property owner, City Council Member Tsuneyoshi initiated her first step with this Resolution 22-006.

RES22-006

Measure Title: STRONGLY URGING THE DEPARTMENT OF PLANNING AND PERMITTING TO IMMEDIATELY ADDRESS OUTSTANDING VIOLATIONS RELATED TO THE PROPERTY AT 54-406 KAMEHAMEHA HIGHWAY IN HAU’ULA (TAX MAP KEY 5-4-004:021).

Date Introduced: Jan 7, 2022 Introduced By:HEIDI TSUNEYOSHI

Committee: ZONING AND PLANNING (ZP)

Resolution Status

Voting Legend: * = Aye w/Reservations

DateTypeDescription
01/07/2022INTROIntroduced.
01/13/2022ZPReported out for adoption.CR-007 (22)4 AYES: CORDERO, ELEFANTE, KIAʻĀINA, SAY
01/26/2022CCLCommittee report and Resolution were adopted.9 AYES: CORDERO, ELEFANTE, FUKUNAGA, KIAʻĀINA, SAY, TSUNEYOSHI, TULBA, TUPOLA, WATERS

After persuading the entire City Council to adopt her Resolution 22-06 on January 26, 2022, despite flawed information, City Council Member Heidi Tsuneyoshi quickly introduced another Resolution 22-11 to use eminent domain on the Taufa’s property at the Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee on February 8, 2022.  

Resolution 22-11

Measure Title: URGING THE CITY ADMINISTRATION TO ACQUIRE THE PROPERTY AT 54-406 KAMEHAMEHA HIGHWAY IN HAUULA (TAX MAP KEY 5-4-004:021) IN ORDER TO PROTECT THE PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY FROM ENVIRONMENTAL DEGREDATION, INCLUDING, IF NECESSARY, TAKING STEPS TO ACQUIRE THE PROPERTY BY EMINENT DOMAIN.

Date Introduced:Jan 20, 2022 Introduced By:HEIDI TSUNEYOSHI

Committee: EXECUTIVE MATTERS AND LEGAL AFFAIRS (EMLA)

Resolution Status

Voting Legend: * = Aye w/Reservations

DateTypeDescription
01/20/2022INTROIntroduced.
02/08/2022EMLAReported out for adoption as amended in CD1 form.CR-168 AYES: CORDERO, ELEFANTE, FUKUNAGA, SAY, TSUNEYOSHI, TULBA, TUPOLA, WATERS1 EXCUSED: KIAʻĀINA      

The Star Advertiser prepared and published an article on the proposed takings in the morning of February 8, 2022 EMLA ( Executive Matters Legal Affairs) Committee.

District 2 Council member Tsuneyoshi as quoted to Star Advertiser’s Ashley Mizuo:  

Hopefully, it isn’t seen as coming after a property owner. … It was hopeful that we could have come to a resolution where he would have complied with all that’s been told to him to do, but unfortunately, after five years that wasn’t the case.” ( Note that the owners acquired the property in November 2019.)

TSUNEYOSHI’S WORDS TO THE STAR ADVERTISER CONTRADICT HER ACTIONS

A close look at the timeline shows that Tsuneyoshi was already lining all the ducks in a row despite her words to the Star Advertiser that it ” shouldn’t be seen as after a property owner “.

February 26, 2020. Note Resolution 22-006 was adopted by the Honolulu City Council.

January 20, 2022. However, note that her new eminent domain Resolution 22-011 was prepared and introduced six days BEFORE Reso 22-006 was adopted.

It’s hard to buy her public statements that “Hopefully, it isn’t seen as coming after a property owner …”.

MORE TARGETING BY TSUNEYOSHI

The discrimination and targeting mounted when Tsuneyoshi persuaded the EMLA Committee to amend her Eminent Domain to Judicial Foreclosure. This action was completed in about an half hour period.

There were other little changes like a spelling error in her Resolution 22-11 with the word correcting “degredation” to “degradation” in the title of her resolution and miscellaneous technical and non substantive amendments.

But other far more substantial errors in the Resolution’s contents were untouched. Contrary Information and concerns submitted by the public did not appear to be considered by her.

EVEN MORE TARGETING of PROPERTY OWNER THROUGH INCONSISTENT TREATMENTS

At the Executive Matters & Legal Affairs Committee, there was more targeting of the property owner through inconsistent treatments.

There were three (3) Resolutions relating to Eminent Domain takings. It’s important to note that the 1.Taufa Resolution 22-11 is the only hostile taking of property. Tsuneyoshi stated his compounded DPP fines was about $400,000.00 (However, statement to the news media on February 21, she changed the news media that his fines were about $300,000.00 ). During the EMLA meeting, the Taufa’s eminent domain action was the only Resolution that was changed to Judicial Foreclosure in a very short period.

2. Resolution 21- 280 for eminent domain relates to an abandoned property in Pensacola with Fines of about $900,000.00

3. Resolution 22-22 involves a property owners in Waianae who told the City Council members that she would be so happy if the city would acquire her property.

NO CONSISTENCY

These actions should be alarming to any private property owner. There is no consistency in the application of Due Process. There appeared to be no clear understanding of the differences of Eminent Domain versus Judicial Foreclosure but it was quickly decided upon anyways.

So, what is the threshold to take someone’s property by Eminent Domain or Judicial Foreclosure?

Is it $900K as in the the Pensacola Street property?

Or is it $300K or $400k as in the subject Hau’ula Property?

Since the Hau’ula property is now solely targeted for Judicial Foreclosure takings, how is this process going to play out?

Judicial Foreclosures is generally a mortgage delinquency issue. We know that the county has powers to auction off a private property owner who has trouble paying their real property taxes. We also know that the City County of Honolulu has practiced forbearance in helping private properties solve their financial problems by allowing them TIME.

In this case here, we’re talking about county land-use violation fines. Some of violations were incorrect but the owners were fined.

There are still many OTHER unanswered questions relating to this issue.

Why is City Council member Heidi Tsuneyoshi rushing this hostile taking of this property?