State ends lease with Moiliili tow company, eyes rentals for Native Hawaiians

News

Many neighbors were upset with a towing company for parking vehicles on the street in Moiliili.

Now the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, which owns the land, tells us it’s ending the lease agreement with Kuni’s Automotive and Towing.

Kuni’s has been leasing the old Bowl-O-Drome property on Isenberg Street for 14 years, but the state ended that contract and is giving the company until the end of March to move out.

We called Kuni’s Automotive and Towing for an interview, but the company declined because it’s still in negotiations to relocate to two properties in Kalihi and Kalaeloa.

So we reached out to the McCully-Moiliili Neighborhood Board. A member tells us the community would rather see homes for people than storage for vehicles.

“The neighborhood would be interested in seeing progress on this, obviously,” said vice chair Matthew Gonser. “It’s a recurring issue the past several months where the practices have spilled out of the property and impeded people’s access to either parking stalls or travel lanes.”

The property is a prime piece of urban real estate. So what will become of it once Kuni’s leaves?

Officials say an environmental review will be done and hazardous material, like asbestos, will be removed.

The department hopes to build a mixed-use building with housing rentals. According to a plan drafted in 2014, the building would have 126 units that would be open to Native Hawaiians with 50 percent or more Native Hawaiian blood.

We asked when construction will start, but DHHL said it didn’t have an answer, since it would depend on an environmental review and there’s no timeline on how long that could take.

“We apologize to residents of the area that this is taking a little bit longer than we both want,” said DHHL deputy director William Aila. “What you will see after the company vacates is some activity with consultants coming on property to do some environmental reviews in preparation for some archaeological and architectural studies. You may see some sampling of surrounding area with some excavation.”

If approved, the department could explore partnering with developers to create the rental housing units.

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