Cover image for Jan 5, 2011

Target / Remember Mufi Hannemann’s now infamous “Compare-and-Decide” mailer? It became a turning point in the primary race for governor and a “what not to do” case study in public outreach. Frontrunner Hannemann wound up being labeled divisive, vindictive and “the most dangerous politician of our generation.” The former Honolulu mayor–and union-backed shoo-in–ended up a 22-point loser to Neil Abercrombie.

Hitting the Buzz Saw

Target “pretty much ran into a buzz saw here in Kailua,” said Puna Nam, president of the Kailua Chamber of Commerce.

Just as Mufi Hannemann did in the face of eroding poll numbers, Target and its would-be landlord, Kaneohe Ranch, down play the strength and breadth of the community’s opposition. Both Kaneohe Ranch’s CEO, Mitch Dolier, and Target spokeswoman Sarah Bakken say they believe the community outcry is “over” and “waning.”

Meanwhile, state Rep. Chris Lee (D-51st), whose district includes Lanikai and Waimanalo, reports that his office has been flooded by more than 1,000 calls and letters from opponents. State Rep. Cynthia Thielen (D-50th), who represents Kailua and Kaneohe Bay, says that, in her 20 years as a legislator, no issue has generated a larger or more unified outcry from constituents. Nearly 1,500 calls and letters have come into her office opposing the project, just two in favor. Thielen says she has “asked Target to consider the community’s concerns and downsize and redesign the building to fit better into Kailua.

“I’ve gotten no response to that request,” she says. “They have stonewalled me.”

Lee reports similar difficulties communicating with Target. It’s clear that Target does not expect to keep the store afloat on the 55,000 Kailua-resident base and wants to draw shoppers from elsewhere. “The community,” he says, “is frustrated by not being able to get answers from Kaneohe Ranch and Target about sale versus lease of the land [and] impact on traffic. And numbers [on car and shopper volume] from other stores are also not forthcoming.”

Even Target’s recent attempts at dialogue with the community have been ill-designed. Thielen dismisses Target’s Nov. 20 community meeting at Kailua Elementary as “not an open, give-and-take kind of forum.

“They had stations spread out with executives you could go over and talk to,” she says. “It was like a wedding. You know how you have a tempura station over here and a sushi station over there and a carving station… In this way, they protected themselves from having to take and answer questions from the group as a whole.”

Lee and Thielen’s frustration with Target’s evasive communications tactics is shared by community residents and groups, whose requests for information and outreaches have been rebuffed.

“The anger and animosity that is building because Target has failed to be a good-faith partner to the community is not good for their entry into Kailua,” Thielen says. “The community concerns are very valid,” she adds. “I think it is such a mistake for Target to not come out and work with the community in a more cooperative manner.”

Traffic and a store size that is out of character for the Kailua area are not the only concerns that need to be addressed, she says. Target should also recognize concerns that its big-box store will hurt Kailua’s small-business community. “Bragging they were a ‘one-stop shop’ sends the message that people will stop shopping elsewhere,” she says.

Cascade of Events

Here’s how things went off target.

At a Nov. 4 meeting, the Kailua Neighborhood Board (KNB) passes a motion stating that it “does not support the development of the proposed 130,000-square-foot Target store in Kailua, and recommends that neither county nor state governments give any permits because this proposed development does not conform to the Koolaupoko Sustainble Communities Plan.”

This board conveys its recommendation to the city and Mayor Peter Carlisle in a letter dated Nov. 9, asking also that the city support implementation of the KSCP’s vision and intentions.

Three days later, on Nov. 12, the Target side pours the compare-and-decide gasoline on the sparks of community resistance. A letter signed by Kaneohe Ranch’s legal counsel, William C. McCorriston, of McCorriston Miller Mukai MacKinnon LLP, addressed to KNB chairman Chuck Prentiss, claims the board’s “request is both illegal and improper.” Then he drops a bomb: a threat of litigation. If the KNB’s request is implemented, he asserts, “we will seek compensation and damages.”

Alarmed, Reps. Lee and Thielen, on Nov. 19, co-sign a letter to Dolier reminding him that the KNB is elected to represent the community’s views, but that its recommendations are purely advisory. The city has jurisdiction over land-use decisions, and, if Kaneohe Ranch wants to sue someone, it should look there.

“This letter has been seen by many as an attempt to intimidate or bully the members of the Kailua Neighborhood Board,” Lee and Thielen say. They caution Kaneohe Ranch that it is in the company’s best long-term interests to deal with the community in good faith, rather than using strong-arm tactics.

In a Nov. 24 response to Lee and Thielen, Dolier says “the KNB’s action was directive and not advisory.” When asked on Dec. 9 if, in hindsight, it was fair to portray a “recommendation” from a purely advisory body as an issue of legal liability, Dolier explains that, at the time McCorriston’s letter was written, the company did not have a copy of the resolution; its intent, he says, was to point out that the KSCP is not an enforceable zoning instrument.

An Early Warning Unheeded

Almost prophetically, on Sept. 14, weeks before McCorriston’s letter and Target’s evasive public relations tactics fan the fire of community opposition, the grand-niece of Louis Kalapawai (yes, the one for whom the beach and store are named) Mahoe, Malia Peters, a fifth-generation Kailua girl, wrote to Kaneohe Ranch, respectfully reminding Dolier of the Hawaiian concept of “Kinaole,” which she describes as “doing the right thing, in the right way, at the right time, in the right place, to the right person (or people), for the right reason, with the right feeling, the first time.

“Kinaole,” she wrote, “can still prevail for Kaneohe Ranch and we ask that you consider this as you proceed to think about the legacy your decisions will have on this community. Kailua No Ka ‘Oi!”

You have to wonder. If not for Compare and Decide, might things have turned out differently for Hannemann? What price will Target pay in the long run if it and its local allies persist in behaving with similar heavy-handedness and divisiveness? What if they had consulted the community and voluntarily conformed to the KSCP, proposing one of their more compact, 60,000- to 90,000-square-feet City Target stores?

Beyond coulda, woulda, shoulda, two things are certain: Target does not need any discretionary permits from the city to move forward. But its success will, eventually, depend on loyal customers.

On Aug. 4, 2010, Kaneohe Ranch announced, “a new Target store in Kailua not only makes good business sense, but will meet the needs and wants of the community by providing a one-stop-shop experience, featuring high-quality products at a great value. Additionally, we feel this Target store will drive positive, long-term vitality and economic development for Kailua.” Since then, Target’s plan for a 135,000-square-foot Kailua store on the site of the 96,000-square-foot Don Quixote has been in the cross hairs of increasingly determined community resistance.

Target’s Tardy Response

Honolulu Weekly waited for more than a week for Target officials to respond to our emails and phone calls regarding specific community concerns about the planned retail store in Kailua. At that point, Targets’ non-response became the central issue. Then, Target’s landlord and real estate broker “made strong appeals to me to paint Target in a good light,” says reporter Donna Ching, who told them that she had received no information from Target. Shortly before publication, Target Communications Manager Sarah Bakken emailed these points:

Q. Will the city get a copy of the traffic study Target conducted? If so, when? Will it be made available to the public?

A. The city will receive a copy of the traffic study by year-end. Everything submitted to the county is public record.

Q. What changes has Target made to Kailua store plans as a result of the traffic study?

A. At Target, we know traffic is a major concern and have taken great care to thoughtfully examine the situation in and around our store site by completing a traffic impact analysis report. Based on key findings from local traffic engineers who analyzed existing and projected conditions, taking into account traffic generated by both Target and Whole Foods, Target commits to:

·Reducing the number of driveways on Hahani Street from five to two.

·Installing a new traffic signal at Hahani and Hekili.

·Constructing new, dedicated turn lanes and an additional pedestrian crosswalk.

·Conducting a post-opening traffic study.

Q. How many visitors or car trips are needed to make the Kailua Target store viable? Is it part of the traffic study?

A. Traffic generated by the developments analyzed, which included the Ironwoods project and the new Whole Foods development, was estimated based on trip rates contained within the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), Trip Generation, 8th Edition.

Q. What is the population of Kailua/Windward Oahu that Target used when considering building a store in Kailua?

A. Approximately 120,000 people. Essentially, this number is the combined population of Kailua, Kaneohe and Waimanalo.

Q. What Oahu communities does Target anticipate will shop at the Kailua store?

A. As stated above — Kailua, Kaneohe and Waimanalo.

Q. How often will trucks deliver to the Kailua Target store?

A. Target distribution center tractor-trailer trucks will deliver 90 percent of store merchandise: 5-7 per week, or approximately 1 per day. Local carrier and vendor short trucks, vans, or mail and parcel delivery trucks: 8-12 per day. Receiving dock hours for local carriers and vendors are 8:00 a.m. to Noon, Monday through Friday.

Q. Did Target look at other sites in Kailua?

A. We looked at a variety of locations on the Windward side, but there were no other sites that were viable or that we felt appropriate. The current site is the retail zoned site that can accommodate Target on the Windward side.

Q. There have been some misperceptions about the Target Kailua store. What facts are critical for local residents to know?

Don Quixote made an independent decision to close prior to Target acquiring leasehold interests in the property.

Target’s redevelopment of the property will not require any variances or discretionary permits to the zoning. Instead, reuse of an existing site takes advantage of current infrastructure without the addition of urban sprawl.

Our $40 million investment will revitalize already-developed land that has not seen improvement in years, as well enhance the quality of retail development in Kailua and be a positive catalyst for existing and new businesses.

The opening of Target in Kailua will create 250 permanent local jobs and approximately 250 temporary construction jobs.

In Kailua, we have designed a 130,000 square foot store that is significantly smaller than the typical Hawaii Target because we heard concerns from the community about building size. A new Target store in Kailua won’t change the use of the property. We’re simply replacing one discount general merchandise store with another while making a significant investment in the core downtown of Kailua. The Salt Lake store, which was a remodel of the old Costco in Salt Lake, is approximately 150,000 square feet, and the store in Kapolei is 160,000 square feet.