City & County of Honolulu (C&C) should respond to the desires of the public
Currently, the Oahu Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation is busy responding to the sewage spills, and opposing two developments at Kaka’ako and Turtle Bay. The Kaka’ako development by A&B circumvents any involvement by the C&C of Honolulu, while the outcomes of the other two events are very much controlled by the C&C of Honolulu. While we very much oppose the total authority given to the HCDA on future developments at Kaka’ako Makai, the subject of this letter is how pressure from the Honolulu Corporation Counsel on both the Mayor’s administration and the City Council, has caused a less than adequate response to the island wide sewage problems, and also, has influenced the Honolulu Department of Permitting and Planning (DPP) to grant all permits requested by Oaktree regarding the Turtle Bay expansion. Both of these outcomes ignore the overwhelming public opinion that the sewage spills must be minimized and that the Turtle Bay expansion must be stopped until adequate research and planning take place to better assess the changes in the environment and infrastructure since the zoning approvals and associated unilateral agreement took place twenty years ago.
The C&C is hiring an expensive mainland lawyer for over 2.5 million dollars to defend against a benign lawsuit filed by the Hawaii Chapter of the Sierra Club, Hawaii’s Thousand Friends and Our Children’s Earth at the end of 2004. The lawsuit addressed sewage spills from the city’s wastewater system and persistent violations of minimum pollution standards from the EPA and State DOH. Rather than focusing on implementing needed improvements to the overall sewage system, the city is focused on defending itself against a suit brought on by citizen groups more interested in pressuring the city to comply to EPA and State DOH guidelines than in receiving any money from winning in the courts. The 2.5 million dollars would be better spent improving the wastewater system.
The DPP intends to grant all of Oaktree’s subdivision and associated permits with no public inputs because of the possibility that Oaktree will sue the city unless they get their permits based on a twenty year old unilateral agreement and twenty-two year old Environmental Impact Statement. The public believes that this would be a travesty of unequal magnitude. The City Council could take the appropriate action to void both the EIS and Unilateral Agreement because of the long time period during which very little compliance to the agreement has transpired. However, the Council appears to be caving under the threat of an Oaktree lawsuit.
What we see is a city government that is deliberately spending a large sum of money to defend against a benign lawsuit, while on the other hand bending to the threats of an aggressive developer while deliberately ignoring the wishes of a large majority of the public.