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Monday, June 24, 2019
June 24, 2019 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:27 PM :: 1258 Views

Civic Engagement: Hawaii Ranks Dead Last

$10K Daily Fines for illegal vacation rentals may begin in August

SA: … Advertising of an illegal vacation rental on Oahu would become unlawful starting Aug. 1 under a bill that Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is expected to sign into law Tuesday.

That could expose thousands of operators of both whole-home transient vacation units (TVUs) and “hosted” bed-and-breakfast establishments (B&Bs) to potential fines of as much as $10,000 a day if they fail to include a valid permit number in their ads as specified in the bill. The exception would be for operators of vacation units in resort zones, where they are legal. Those operators would need to list the address of their unit to make clear it is in a resort zone.

The city Department of Planning and Permitting, in anticipation of Caldwell signing the bill, has already put up on its website a summary sheet, complete with frequently asked questions, at 808ne.ws/2X3ffP2 .

Kathy Sokugawa, DPP acting director, has said repeatedly that the key to enforcement of illegal vacation rentals is to go after their ads. That’s because many operators rely heavily on Airbnb, VRBO and other vacation rental hosting platforms to bring in renters. Instead of sending inspectors to examine and then determine whether there is an illegal operation, the city now would be able to scan the hosting platform sites and verify their permit numbers or addresses.

“The existence of an advertisement will be prima facie evidence that a bed and breakfast home or a transient vacation unit is being operated at the listed address,” the bill states. “The burden of proof is on the owner of the subject real property to establish that the property is not being used as a bed and breakfast home or transient vacation unit, or that the advertisement was placed without the property owner’s knowledge or consent.”

Under the bill, owners of units found to be advertising illegally would be notified that they have seven days to remove the ad if it is a first offense. Any ads up after seven days would subject owners to fines of $1,000 to $10,000 a day until the advertisement is no longer on display….

Most of the other key provisions of Bill 89 also don’t kick in until October 2020, including when DPP begins permitting a limited number of B&Bs across the island but no whole-home TVUs. The 1,699 permits would represent the first vacation rental permits issued by the city in more than three decades.

Under the bill, 0.5% of the dwelling units in seven of the city’s eight district plans would be allowed to obtain B&B permits. No permits would be issued for the North Shore because the North Shore Sustainable Communities Plan does not allow for B&B permits, Sokugawa said.

The estimated 1,699 allowable units islandwide is fewer than the 1,715 that DPP projected previously. The previous estimate included 35 units on the North Shore. DPP did not explain the reason for the change in the other numbers.

The total does not include the 816 nonconforming use (NUC) permits issued prior to 1989 — they would be allowed under a “grandfather” clause….

“TVUs will be almost completely eliminated,” said Scott Brazwell of the Oahu Alternative Lodging Association. “B&Bs will be heavily regulated and restricted.”…

read … Fines for illegal vacation rentals may begin in August

Honolulu Councilman Ron Menor calls on Gov. Ige to veto vacation rental tax bill

SA: … Honolulu City Councilman Ron Menor today joined Mayor Kirk Caldwell in calling on Gov. David Ige to veto a controversial bill that requires Airbnb, VRBO and other vacation rental hosting platforms to collect taxes from those operators who advertise on their sites.

Like other opponents of vacation rentals, the city officials say that having the hosting platforms collect the taxes provides a shield that would make it more difficult for the city to collect information about the vacation rental operators it wants to regulate. Two bills approved last week by the City Council and now on Caldwell’s desk would impose tighter rules on the hosting platforms and operators.

Ige is slated to decide today what he will do with Senate Bill 1292, as well as other measures from this year’s state Legislature for which he has not yet taken action…. 

UPDATE: Gov. David Ige places vacation rental bill on ‘intent to veto’ list

read … Honolulu Councilman Ron Menor calls on Gov. Ige to veto vacation rental bill

Don’t Scapegoat Airbnbs For Honolulu’s Housing Crisis

CB: … The recent passage of Honolulu City Council Bills 85 and 89 have been lauded as a win for the community against the scourge of illegal vacation rentals and the shortage of affordable housing. In reality, these measures will make it harder for struggling locals to make money, and they punish enterprising individuals for the crime of making money without the government’s approval.

Punishing vacation rentals in the hopes of helping the community and improving housing is nothing short of schizophrenic policy. We are a state that has, either by accident or design, chosen to make tourism our primary industry. The state spends millions of dollars every year in wooing the world to Hawaii as a tourist destination, only for the City Council to frustrate and insult tourists by passing legislation that makes it more inconvenient to stay in Hawaii.

Long gone are the days when we greeted outsiders with a kiss, a lei and an invitation to enjoy themselves on Oahu. Like third graders on a field trip, tourists today are warned to be seen and not heard, and there are even rules for where they should go, what they should do, and who they should do it with. ….

read … Don’t Scapegoat Airbnbs For Honolulu’s Housing Crisis

HGEA, UPW Obstruct Push for Airport Authority

SA Editorial: …airport authority bills have stalled in the last three legislative sessions.

The snag appears to be a tug-of-war over the reach of state procurement rules. The proposed legislation has envisioned an airport authority as exempt from procurement procedures that control how its budget is implemented.

Supporters want the flexibility that would come with exemption, but some labor groups have worried that without state-imposed procedures, their interests would be less protected by the profit-oriented authority. Also, it seems, some state lawmakers are simply reluctant to let go of purse strings.….

(Translation: An airport authority might slightly inconvenience an HGEA member.)

Big Q: Should Hawaii’s airports be run by a quasi-independent authority or corporation?

read … Airports need a new authority

Labor Force Count Drops to Four Year Low

SA: … According to the latest figures, released last week, May’s overall labor-force count in the islands fell to the lowest level in more than four years as the state’s economy continued to lose steam. The count, which includes the employed as well those in the unemployed-but-actively-seeking-work bracket, was 667,800.

Eugene Tian, the state’s chief economist, noted that in addition to the standard count of people who either give up on their job hunt or are simply not looking, the drop likely means a second group is moving to the mainland, as the economy — and various job opportunities — are now better there than here. …

read … Labor force looks weaker

Homeless Criminals Trash Oneula Park, Assault Park Workers

CB: … Oneula, which means Red Sand in Hawaiian, has long been a place to get away from it all. But over the years, it also turned into a magnet for crime, drugs and homelessness….

In emailed statements, both the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation and the Honolulu Police Department said they support night closure.

“This would help reduce the number of complaints and reports of illegal activity at night, the most common being alcohol and drug use, loud noise from parties, illegal dumping and illegal camping,” said HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu. “Generally speaking, closures have been an effective tool in reducing crime and complaints in the parks at night.”…

Soon after it was established, the park began deteriorating. Drug dealers sold their wares openly in the parking lot and their customers dropped used hypodermic needles into the soft white sand…

The park became a notorious dumping ground — for old car parts, abandoned refrigerators, tires, electronic equipment, patio doors, industrial solvents. And even worse.

“In the 1980s, you could dump a body there and know it would be a while before they’d find it,” Tynanes recalled. “Police didn’t want to go in because they would wreck their vehicles.”

Gangs ruled the park; a chop shop operated openly. Improvements, such as new restroom areas, were destroyed. By 1987, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin called Oneula Oahu’s most-vandalized park.

And also one of the most violent.

In 2007, a 36-year-old man was injured in a machete attack during a brawl. In 2008, a man arrested at the park in connection with a home invasion was found dead after an execution-style slaying, and in 2011, three men were stabbed on a single night. Early this month, on June 2, a 15-year-old was stabbed there.

“A lot of people go there knowing that officers can’t see if they are doing anything illegal, drinking, smoking, parking on the grass,” said HPD Ofc. Roland Pagan of District 8, at a neighborhood board meeting last year.

Some city officials were run off. According to HPD’s Pagan, a resident caretaker who lived at the park was assaulted and decided to retire.

Pine said she was told some city parks employees became fearful of working there after two of them were assaulted….

More recently the biggest problems have come from the homeless encampments. On a recent summer afternoon, numerous makeshift homesites were visible, including one guarded by a vigilant pitbull.

Local community groups have led an effort to remove the trash. Volunteers from 808 Cleanups, Ewa Beach Weed & Seed, Ewa Beach Lions Club, the Ewa Beach Surf Club and the Ewa Beach Little League hauled some 29,000 pounds of rubbish out of the park between February 2018 and February 2019. But each month, more stuff is deposited at the park….

Meanwhile: No help for Chinatown with liquor store license

read … The Only Way To Save This Popular Oahu Park May Be To Close It At Night

Iwilei: Massive Clinic to be Built to Divert Expensive Bums from Emergency Rooms

SA: … A public hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday at Kapalama Hale, Suite 200, on Resolution 19-144 authorizing the administration of Mayor Kirk Caldwell to enter into a lease with the Hawaii Homeless Healthcare Hui (H4) to build out and operate the Punawai Clinic for the next five years. Passed on Wednesday by the City Council Budget Committee, the proposal will come up for a final vote of the City Council early next month.

H4, a nonprofit co-founded by Lt. Gov. Josh Green, provides hygiene, health care, medical respite and transitional housing for the homeless. In addition to the urgent-care clinic on the mezzanine level, H4 will operate a 21-unit transitional housing facility on the second floor.

Caldwell said people in blue hospital gowns often can be found just outside the grounds of Honolulu’s major hospitals after being released from care. “Many times these patients are high-flyers: They come in and out every single week, expending huge sums of money and taking up emergency rooms from others on our island who need a room,” he said.

Facilities like the Punawai Clinic present a better approach, he said. “It’s for non-emergency needs. Obviously, if you’re going to have a heart attack, you’re going to Queen’s or Straub or some other hospital. But if you’re someone who has an infection, you could be taken to the Punawai Clinic and be treated.”…

read … Frequent Fliers

Soft on Crime: HPA to Determine Rapist’s Real Sentence

WHT: …  The Hawaii Paroling Authority, which is tasked with setting minimum terms for parole-eligible offenders, among other duties, has until early August to determine how much time Latrik has to serve before he can apply for parole.

Toni Schwartz, public information officer for the Department of Public Safety, under the auspices of which the Hawaii Paroling Authority lies, said a minimum term-setting hearing previously scheduled for June 6 had to be rescheduled after Latrik’s May 16 transfer from Hawaii Community Correctional Center to the Oahu medium-security and special needs facility.

The parole board will now take up the matter during a hearing July 8 at Halawa Correctional Center, Schwartz said.

His scheduled release date, if not granted parole prior, is Aug. 5, 2038.

Latrik was sentenced Feb. 4 by Kona Circuit Court Judge Robert D.S. Kim to up to 20 years in prison….

read … Rapist’s minimum sentence to be set

Stairway to Heaven Could Be Removed By 2022

CB: … In the 1970s, the U.S. Coast Guard owned the stairs and allowed access to about 75 people per day, according to the report. But after an episode of “Magnum P.I.” featured the attraction, visitation to the stairs ballooned to 200 people per day. The Coast Guard closed the stairs in 1987 because of vandalism and liability concerns, according to the report….

In 2001, then-Mayor Jeremy Harris’ administration had renewed interest in opening the stairway. The city spent $875,000 to fix damaged sections of the stairs with the intention of making them accessible to the public while it worked to obtain legal access.

By that time, the Board of Water Supply owned the stairs and was planning to transfer them to the Department of Parks and Recreation. But the city council did not approve the transfer, the report states.

The Board of Water Supply said in its report that it has again discussed a potential land transfer and takeover of the stairs by the city….

SA: City agency plans Haiku Stairs removal

read … Stairway to Heaven Could Be Removed By 2022

Salt Farming Used to Gain Control of Airport 

KGI: … The hearing on the zoning request relates to adding to Maverick’s existing facility, including bathrooms, storage and “associated improvements.”

A petition with 15,160 signatures is being circulated to present to the commission opposing the possible expansion.

“Maverick Helicopters, Smoky Mountain, is going before County of Kauai Planning Commission to apply for after-the-fact permits and permits that would expand operations. They are one of the biggest helicopter companies and expanding their facilities will have impacts on Hawaiian salt farming,” reads an online petition against the zoning request.

“The close proximity of Port Allen Airport to the Hanapepe salt ponds and its potential contribution to the pollution, noise and chemical runoff has been a longstanding concern for pa‘akai practitioners,” the online petition continues…. 

SA Editorial: Respect for salt making

read … Salt Farm

HPD trying innovative ideas to fill hundreds of vacancies.

CB: … Faced with hundreds of vacancies for police officers, the Honolulu Police Department is changing things up in its recruiting process in the hopes of attracting a more qualified and diverse pool of candidates.

Starting July 1, Honolulu police will do away with processing new recruits as a class and accept applications on a rolling basis. It’s also ramping up informational sessions, some of which target specific groups, and using new digital tools.

“Our challenge is trying to find quality applicants that would be suitable,” said Maj. Aaron Takasaki-Young, who heads the human resources division at HPD.

It’s not that there’s no one applying, he said, but that there are not enough who have what it takes to be a police officer. ….

read … The Honolulu Police Department is trying some innovative ideas to fill hundreds of vacancies.

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