Seventy-three percent of the proposed Diamond Head Tower’s mass is illegal under current zoning laws, which have been in effect for 35 years and were intended to protect Waikīkī Beach from the negative impacts of overbuilding and overcrowding.
Image: Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Kyo-ya project.

A public hearing on the controversial development at the Moana Surfrider


Fri, Aug 18

Development / On Wed., Aug. 18, the Honolulu City Council will hold a hearing to get public comment on whether to allow Kyo-ya Hotels & Resorts to build a new 26-story hotel/condo directly on Waikiki Beach next to Kuhio Beach Park.

The proposed Diamond Head Tower–40 private penthouse residences stacked atop 185 hotel rooms–exceeds existing height, density and shoreline-setback laws to such a degree that it renders those laws meaningless and sets a new precedent for the next wave of Waikiki beachfront construction (“Is the Sky the Limit?” Honolulu Weekly, 7/7/2010).

As conceived, the beach tower replaces the existing eight-story Diamond Head wing, built circa 1952, of the Moana Surfrider Hotel. It would be part of Kyo-ya’s $700 million redevelopment plan for its Moana Surfrider and Princess Kaiulani properties.

At the Aug. 18 council meeting, nine council members will consider four concurrent permit and variance applications that will allow the tower, as designed, to be built.

Council member Ann Kobayashi, for one, is torn: “It’s a big development,” she says. “I can see redeveloping the Princess Kaiulani, but that new tower is so close to the old Moana, which is very low. And it’s going to be a permanent structure right on the beach. I think a lot of people have concerns, but the economy is so bad that you want to help put people back to work…but still, you have to be careful. If it weren’t right on the beach, and so permanent…”

With little fanfare and less press coverage, both the city’s Department of Permitting and Planning (DPP) and the council’s zoning committee have already reviewed the applications and recommended approval to the full council.

Along the way, there have been a few smelly fumes:

• During review by the zoning committee last week, Council member Gary Okino raised questions about DPP Director David Tanoue’s recommendation that, in the course of granting the permits, the council require the applicant Kyo-ya to pay $125,000 to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 2011 Host Committee. Tanoue also recommended that Kyo-ya should pay $50,000 directly to the city to help defray costs of the Pro Bowl-related “NFL Experience” event.

Taking up Okino’s concern, the committee’s chairman, Ikaika Anderson, sent a letter to the Ethics Commission requesting a review of Tanoue’s recommendation.

• After publication of “Is the Sky the Limit?” Michelle Matson, a board member of Neighborhood Board No. 5 (Diamond Head, Kapahulu, St. Louis Heights) contacted the Weekly. She was surprised to read that her board was on record in support of Kyo-ya’s redevelopment plan. In fact, the 15-member board has never discussed nor voted on the issue; nevertheless, board chairman Bert Narita showed up and testified in support of the Kyo-ya project at a June 1 DPP public hearing on the project. According to the official transcript, Narita identified himself as chairman of Board No. 5 and stated, “We are in favor of this project.”

Matson says that when she asked Narita about his testimony, he told her that the city administration via the Neighborhood Commission Office had asked him to testify in support of the project. Narita could not be reached for comment.

• As blogger Ian Lind reported last week, several people connected to Kyo-ya are deeply enough involved in former Mayor Mufi Hannemann’s gubernatorial campaign to warrant monetary reimbursements from the campaign, according to recent financial filings. Among them, Kyo-ya exec Victor Kimura; Robert Iopa, architect for the Kyo-ya project; and Keala Dickhens, the wife of Kyo-ya Executive Vice President Greg Dickhens. On May 27, the Dickhens hosted a $1,000-per-person fundraiser for Hannemann’s campaign at their home.