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Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Corona Towers: Council Hides Behind Quarantine, Gives Development Deal to Convicted Felon
By Andrew Walden @ 9:50 PM :: 10698 Views :: Honolulu County, Ethics, Development, COVID-19

by Andrew Walden

Governor Ige’s March 16, 2020, Health Emergency Declaration waves many of the state laws ensuring public participation, transparency, and accountability. 

The implicit understanding is that elected officials will utilize these extraordinary powers only to combat the Corona Virus pandemic in Hawaii.

It only took two days to find out.

Honolulu Councilmembers, March 18, 2020, quietly voted 7-0 to give a convicted felon campaign contributor a package of development concessions worth up to $500 million dollars.*

And they lied about it.

Under the headline, “Upcoming Honolulu City Council agenda narrowed down to only essential items, Chairman Ikaika Anderson says” the Star-Advertiser, March 17, 2020 reported:

“Tomorrow’s City Council meeting agenda has been reduced to include only budgetary items and items that relate to the continuity of government,” Anderson told reporters at press conference in his office this morning. “At the conclusion of those items, we will then adjourn the meeting.”

That means all items pertaining to the city’s response to the coronavirus outbreak as well as a first reading of all fiscal 2021 budget bills will be heard, but not other issues.

But instead of limiting items as Anderson promised, the Council skipped down to page eight of the agenda to approve Resolution 19-224, CD1, titled: “Approving a conceptual plan for an Interim Planned Development-Transit project for the Keeaumoku Development Condominium and Commercial Project.” 

Thursday, March 19, 2020 the Star-Advertiser reported “Twin-tower Keeaumoku project wins Council OK”:

… Council Chairman Ikaika Anderson told reporters Tuesday that only matters pertaining to the coronavirus outbreak and the budget would be taken up and that other matters on the 32-page agenda posted last Thursday would not be taken up on Wednesday.

Anderson said after Wednesday’s meeting that he consented to requests made by area Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi and Council Zoning Chairman Ron Menor to allow the Keeaumoku project to receive its final vote.

Development planner Keith Kurahashi said he asked Kobayashi to make the request of Anderson because the issue has been stuck in the Council since September and has been delayed repeatedly for various reasons….

Resolution 19-224, CD1 approves the transit-oriented development “conceptual plan” for Keeaumoku Development, LLC, to build two 400 foot towers with 964 residential condos plus 88,000 sq feet of commercial on the 3.5 acre “CuzCo Site” along the Diamond Head side of Keeaumoku St Between Liona and Rycroft.

The area is normally zoned for only 150 feet.

To unravel this sweater, pull the thread at BREG:

Keeaumoku Development, LLC”  is ‘managed’ by Dong Woo Lee and “Sirinan LLC.”

Dong Woo Lee also manages, “CuzCo Development U.S.A., LLC.”  Fresh out of tangled trans-national bankruptcy proceedings, CuzCo owns the Keeaumoku Plaza site of the twin-tower project.

Sirinan LLC is managed by Nan Chul ‘Patrick’ Shin.

Nan Chul ‘Patrick’ Shin is a convicted federal felon also known as “Inmate #92972-022.”  Known for exploiting the federal 8(a) set asides for ‘disadvantaged’ businesses, Shin pled guilty in April, 2004, to submitting a false document to the federal government for the repair of a pump at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. 

Shin owns Honolulu rail contractor Nan, Inc, one of Hawaii’s largest general contractors, which is tied up in litigation over “allegations of fraud, deception and profiteering”. Nan is being sued by its former lawyer, Bosko Petricevic, who says he faced retaliation after he foolishly “warned Shin not to ‘double dip’ and charge both the city and Nan’s subcontractors for the same rail-related claims.”  As the Star-Advertiser, October 29, 2019, points out, “Petricevic expressed concerns to Nan owner Patrick Shin ‘regarding FBI interviewing our employees,’ according to the lawsuit. But when Petricevic asked Shin and Nan Vice President Wyeth Matsubara what was going on, Petricevic ‘was threatened and told to mind his own business….’”

Shin, Kurahashi, Lee, Matsubara, and Matsubara’s law firm, are all prolific campaign contributors pouring $294,060.00 into state and county level races over the last 12 years.

Their Recipients include: 

Mayor Caldwell – $21,500

All Nine Council Members:  $69,850

  • Ikaika Anderson – $18,750
  • Brandon Elefante – $4,100
  • Carol Fukunaga – $2,750
  • Ann Kobayashi – $8,250
  • Joey Manahan – $2,500
  • Ron Menor – $14,000
  • Kymberly Marcos Pine – $9,000
  • Heidi Tsuneyoshi – $6,500
  • Tommy Waters – $4,000

2020 Mayoral Candidates (in addition to Pine):

  • Keith Amemiya – $4,000
  • Coleen Hanabusa – $15,200

Opposition testimony was heard February 6, 2020 before the Council.  Honolulu resident Lynne Matsuow explained why developers might be in a hurry:

“This is premature and you should vote it down. On Jan. 30 the Mayor warned of another rail delay, with the FTA not sure the line will open on time. Until a better handle exists on federal funding and when the line might open, we should not be giving developers carte blanche.  If rail is not built, this is a dead giveaway that they should not have.”

But all those contributions paid off.  Resolution 19-224, CD1, introduced February 5, 2020, by Ann Kobayashi, gifts Keeaumoku Development with tens of millions of dollars in benefits not present in the original text, including:

  • Five years to obtain a building permit, instead of the original two years.
  • 3,000 sqft outdoor dining area instead of the original 5,000 sqft
  • Free bus passes for ‘some’ project residents and employees ending in 2026—instead of ‘all’ residents and employees with no ending date.
  • And the big one, a maximum of 1,571 parking spaces with only 225 ‘unbundled’ from condos – instead of 952 spaces all unbundled.

‘Bundled’ parking stalls will allow Keeaumoku Development to sell condos with one or two deeded parking stalls, thus dramatically increasing their value.

Keeaumoku Development’s 1,346 bundled parking slots will come at the expense of other developers within the same Ala Moana Transit Oriented Development (TOD) zone since there is a zone cap on bundled parking.  The Star-Advertiser March 19, 2020 reported:

The city Department of Planning and Permitting supported the project, but opposed the Council’s decision to allow units to be sold ‘bundled’ with parking stalls. DPP argued unsuccessfully that a bill before the Council would require the residential units at future projects that are similar to the Keeaumoku development to be sold without bundled stalls, meaning residents would need to park in common, unassigned stalls.

Those other developers obviously haven’t been making enough campaign contributions.

---30---

*1,000 units at $500K each (corrects previous $5B figure)

PDF: Campaign Contributions

Reso 19-224 Text, Status

Democracy Still Matters in Time of Pandemic

Is Convicted Felon Rail Contractor Patrick Shin a Recidivist?

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