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Thursday, February 02, 2017
Zuckerberg Steps In It In Hawaii
By Selected News Articles @ 1:48 AM :: 2893 Views :: Land Use

Zuckerberg Steps In It In Hawaii

No Aloha Spirit here.

by Charlotte Allen, National Review, February 1, 2017 

It's always fun to watch one segment of socially conscious progressivism light into another segment of socially conscious progressivism. Especially when the socially progressive target is Mark Zuckerberg, the $55 billion net-worth founder and CEO of Facebook who enjoys lecturing his fellow Americans on such topics as climate change and illegal immigration. In April 2016 Zuckerberg delivered a speech implicitly criticizing then-presidential candidate Donald Trump's plan to build a wall along America's southern border to deter illegal crossings. "Instead of building walls, we can help people build bridges," Zuckerberg said.

Hmm. In 2014 Zuckerberg and his wife spent $100 million to buy a 750-acre slice of beachfront property on the verdant and relatively undeveloped island of Kauai in Hawaii. He later added a couple more parcels totaling about 400 acres, apparently to ensure his privacy. His neighbors—along with local environmentalists—loved the idea, because the alternative was to subdivide the tract into multiple residences. But then—uh-oh--Zuckerberg's next step was to enclose his new property with, um, a wall. Indeed, a 6-foot-high stone wall said to be at least a mile in length that looks from photos as though it was constructed by the Emperor Hadrian to keep the Picts from raiding Roman military camps on the other side. Neighbors complained that the wall obstructed their view of the beach along the road outside it and also cut off the Pacific Ocean breeze that they'd previously enjoyed.

So much for building walls. How about building bridges? Shortly after acquiring the property Zuckerberg and his wife filed a number of lawsuits specifically targeted at native Hawaiians and their offspring who might have some claims to part of his land. It seems as though Zuckerberg's 750 acres contain eight parcels of kuleana land rife with potential claims from Hawaiian natives. The kuleana tracts were created in 1850 by Hawaiian King Kamehameha III. Kamehameha was in the process of transforming Hawaii's traditional communal and feudal land-use system into a Western-style regime of property rights. So Kamehameha decreed that Hawaiian tenant-farmers under the old feudal system could have title to their lands, along with such rights as farming, fishing, and residing, and that those rights would pass along to their descendants. The problem was that few native Hawaiians or their descendants even back then actually wanted to farm those tiny parcels in a rapidly changing economic landscape. So plenty of large tracts of Hawaiian property contain "hidden" kuleana lands occupied by no one but potentially claimable by native descendants coming out of the woodwork.

Which is exactly what happened to Zuckerberg when he filed eight "quiet title" lawsuits against potential kuleana claimants on plots embedded in his Kauai lands. The suits were designed to establish firmly and legally that Zuckerberg and no one else was the sole owner of the full 750 acres. The only known kuleana owners on Zuckerberg's land were the descendants of a man who had owned four kuleana parcels totaling two acres in 1894. Except that there turned out to be about 100 of those descendants, who claimed to have been fishing and raising cattle on the property ever since then—although only one of them was actually living there. They started raising victimological hell, complaining that Zuckerberg was using the suits to strong-arm them into selling their rights to their ancestral property for cheap. "I got a call from a lawyer (representing Zuckerberg), saying I was an heir and I can sell for $500 or I can be summoned to go to court and basically our land would be auctioned from there," one of the descendants told a newspaper reporter. The lawsuit defendants planned to stage an anti-Zuckerberg demonstration on February 4 right outside the already infamous wall.

Stunned by the miserable optics, Zuckerberg first averred that the lawsuits had been designed simply to identify potential co-owners of his land and then compensate them adequately for their property interests. But on January 28 he decided that using the court system had been a mistake and that he was dropping the suits. Henceforth he would "sit down" and "speak with community leaders that represent different groups, including native Hawaiians and environmentalists, to find the best path."

It's hard to keep up when you're socially progressive.


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