Affordable housing project in Kailua draws community concern

Local News

HONOLULU(KHON2) — Concerns are brewing over how an affordable housing project in Kailua will impact the community.

Those opposed to the project said it will only hurt the community. While others welcome the opportunity to offer affordable housing in Kailua.

Affordable housing developer, Ahe Group wants to build an affordable housing project on the corner of Kawainui Street and Oneawa Street, an area in Kailua known as Coconut Grove.

Ahe Group President Makani Maeva said she’s really excited about the project.

“It would be rentals for 61 years so it’s real long term affordable housing and it’s right in the heart of Kailua,” Maeva said.

Maeva believes it will “enliven the corner” building up the community and will only benefit those around it.

“Housing is the foundation. It is fundamental in the community and then from there, if we can solve that problem, then people can participate in the community more.”

City Council Chair Ikaika Anderson said he believes this is a “genuinely good affordable housing project that’s needed in many communities.”

Not everyone agrees.

Toni Pedro, founder of Protect Kailua said it won’t enhance the community.

“There may be better places for an affordable housing complex of this nature, but for that particular location, it is just not the right place at all…There are some other vacant lots on the outskirts where maybe that would be a better location.”

Kailua resident Curtis Ramsey lives on Kawainui Street.

“Nobody wants this. We’ve already got well over 1200 signatures on a petition of people against it.”

Ramsey referred to the project as a ‘Monster Building’ and said it would ruin the neighborhood.

Current plans show the 73-unit building would be 47 feet tall (excluding photovoltaics) in an area with a 25 to 30-foot height limit.

“It exceeds all zoning regulations, all height limits, all sight-yard setbacks, everything. They didn’t follow any of the zoning rules here,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey said they are worried the project will also impact traffic in an area already prone to back-ups and accidents.

“Safety is one of the biggest concerns cause kids walk to school right here. There’s already an accident here at least every two weeks.”

Parking is another concern.

As of now, the project will only provide 53 parking stalls and no guest parking.

Maeva said parking won’t be a problem.

“I understand people’s concerns about parking but people, at this income level, they rarely have two cars. In a lot of cases they don’t even have one car so I believe the amount of parking is sufficient…In Kakaako, there was recently an affordable housing project approved with zero parking so that is the way of the future. We are trying to build housing and be housing first and housing forward.”

The department of planning and permitting granted the project a number of exemptions but Ikaika Anderson said City Council still needs to approve it.

“The City Council can either accept (the project application), accept it with amendments or the council can reject it. But the City Council ultimately makes the decisions,” Anderson explained.

“If the sentiment of the community is in opposition to the project, at the public hearing stage I am absolutely open to voting the community position in opposition to the project.”

Anderson said that he will, however, do his due diligence and go through the City Council process before making his final decision.

The project is on the agenda for the Kailua neighborhood board meeting Thursday, June 4. The board will vote on whether to hold a special meeting June 12th.

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