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Without Bribes, DPP Permits Wait 3 Years
CB: … The situation is so bad that even simple projects drag on for months or longer.
It took six months for DPP’s former director David Tanoue to get the go-ahead to build a trellis over his deck, according to public records. Former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell has waited almost a year for a permit to renovate his kitchen. City records show the $33,000 project was submitted in October 2021 and hasn’t even made it onto a plan reviewer’s to-do list.
DPP data shared with Civil Beat illustrates the backlog. A quarter of the department’s positions are vacant, and permitting approvals are taking twice as long – and sometimes even longer – than they did a few years ago, it shows.
In August 2022, it took an average of over seven months to get a residential permit. In 2017, it took half that time….
It’s even worse for commercial applications. A project that five years ago would’ve been approved within five months, on average, now takes more than a year.
As of August, 8,000 projects were pending, according to data released by City Council Vice Chair Andria Tupola….
Since five current and former DPP employees were charged with bribery in March 2021, all residential applicants have to go through DPP’s ePlans system instead of submitting paper plans.
The idea was to make projects easier to track, but critics say the system is neither a tool for expediting permits nor a viable way to prevent corruption.
Kanani Padeken, a former building plans examiner, was DPP’s point person for the ePlans system and still managed to accept money to do favors. She pleaded guilty last year to accepting at least $28,000 in bribes from architect Bill Wong.
The transition to ePlans for residential projects has only slowed the department down, applicants said.
“It hasn’t helped at all,” said Eric Olson, a project manager and senior estimator for The Nakoa Companies.
On top of all the other delays, applicants say DPP staff often give them comments that are indecipherable or that could be cleared up with a quick meeting or phone call, but they’re unable to get through to the staff. Instead, they communicate – slowly – via ePlans.
“Ten years ago, you could walk in the door and talk with a plans examiner if they had questions or comments, and they’d help us,” but that’s not the case anymore, one draftsman said, also speaking on condition of anonymity….
Customers say it’s taking so long to get a permit, that by the time they get it, any number of factors needed for the project may have fallen through – their financing may have dried up, inflation and construction price increases may have put the project over budget, or their contractor may no longer be available.
Even when a permit is issued, if 365 days have passed since the application was submitted, DPP can cancel the permit, sending the applicant back to the beginning of the line. In those cases, the applicant has to wait – and pay fees – all over again. It’s something Tupola said she is planning to address with legislation, although it hasn’t been introduced yet….
Aina Haina resident Clayton Chang, 74, finally picked up his residential permit last week after three and a half years of waiting.
The Papai Street home that he shares with his wife was badly damaged in a devastating flood in 2018, which prompted the couple to apply to demolish the property and rebuild….
In June 2021, DPP canceled his permits and the process had to begin again, public records show. Chang isn’t sure why, though he wonders if has to do with the fact that his architect, Bill Wong, and the plan reviewer on his case, Kanani Padeken, were charged by the federal government for bribery a few months earlier….
CB: Game: How Long Does It Take To Get A Permit From Honolulu?
read … Efforts To Reform Honolulu’s Troubled Permitting Office Face An Uphill Battle. Here’s Why
With Ige’s time ending and no stadium plan, McCartney’s power attempt looks like a fumble
Borreca: … all clout is finite, and McCartney’s place in the sun is growing dimmer.
Just last week in a detailed piece by Honolulu Star-Advertiser reporter Andrew Gomes, McCartney said, “his agency is now in charge of redeveloping Aloha Stadium following more than a decade of work by the Stadium Authority, private consultants, state lawmakers and the state Department of Accounting and General Services.”
What McCartney thinks and what is reality are on different tracks.
It is as if after ignoring your homework for the entire semester, you are rushing to dream up some plan to salvage a passing grade. In this case: how to turn rebuilding Aloha Stadium from a promise into a plan with real details and timelines.
Not happening. Time is up. There will be no more working groups, call for studies, or time to touch any more bases.
Barring an amazing upset, Lt. Gov. Josh Green will be elected governor and take office in December….
When queried about the notion that “McCartney said he plans to hire an internal special project team within DBEDT to deliver a new stadium under a simple design-build contract,” Green basically had to pour some reality on the question. He appeared ready with the buckets of cold water for McCartney’s last-minute enthusiasm.
Green’s reply when asked for comment was: “The next governor will need to fully assess ALL of the recent stadium proposals and decisions to make sure they are in the best interest of the state.”…
read … With Ige’s time ending and no stadium plan, McCartney’s power attempt looks like a fumble
Hawaii Supreme Court applicants to be made public
SA: … For the first time, the names of applicants to sit on the Hawaii Supreme Court will be made public when the Judicial Selection Commission considers who will replace retiring Associate Justice Michael D. Wilson.
Commissioners agreed earlier this year to make public the list of applicants for seats on the high court and the state’s Intermediate Court of Appeals in a move toward greater transparency — long pushed by the public and advocates for open government.
“There was a concern that there was … a need for increased transparency as to the commission’s processes,” Nadine Y. Ando, commission chair, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “We are in the process of figuring how we are going to do that (release the names) and what period of time we are going to receive any comment (from the public).”…
He is one of three justices who will face mandatory retirement at the age of 70 in the next four years. Associate Justice Paula A. Nakayama turns 70 next year and Recktenwald makes 70 in 2025….
(CLUE: Sweet opportunity for Carpenters Union.)
read … Hawaii Supreme Court applicants to be made public
Former Hawaii football star accused of conspiring to sell methamphetamine
SA: … Soares is free on a $25,000 unsecured bond. Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Muehleck is prosecuting the case for the government.
Soares was indicted April 15, 2021, along with Lamar Lawrence Auwae Derego and Reinald Yamada.
According to federal court records, from at least 2013 and continuing until about June 22, 2016, Soares, Derego, Yamada and an unindicted co-conspirator allegedly distributed or intended to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine.
On May 3, 2016, Soares and Derego allegedly had 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, and FBI agents recovered $103,700.27 from a Waimanalo business linked to Soares that is subject to criminal forfeiture proceedings, according to the indictment.
read … Former Hawaii football star accused of conspiring to sell methamphetamine
Miske concealed his control of the M Nightclub
ILind: … Here’s what I wrote in that story, looking back at the formation of Leverage Inc.
A month later, Yokoyama registered Leverage Inc., which opened the M Nightclub in downtown Honolulu’s Waterfront Plaza in 2012. Yokoyama held 70% of the authorized 100 shares of Leverage Inc. stock, while Miske held 20%, and Aqui held 10%, according to Honolulu Liquor Commission records.
However, in March 2015, Aqui told the commission in writing that he had never owned any shares in Leverage.
“I have had no association with the establishment since May 2011 and was purely brought on as a consultant/Manager and never had any ownership of the business,” Aqui wrote.
First of all, this was all smoke and mirrors. It was clear that Miske was in full control of the business.
And in the original application, Yokoyama assured the commission, in writing, that while Miske was a minority shareholder, he “has no decision making powers with the company.”
In any case, the commission appears to have accepted the reported change, dropping Aqui from the list of owners, without questions being asked.
Here’s the problem. In its original liquor license application back in 2011, and continuing with annual renewals each year through 2014, Jason Yokoyama–who was registered as the president of the corporation–submitted a stockholder list that included Aqui.
And each submission was signed by Yokoyama, attesting to the truth of the included information.
Here’s the issue. State law appears to provide that the person who submits a liquor license application or other document containing “any false statement” is guilty of a criminal offense (see §281-52 HRS)….
read … Miske concealed his control of the M Nightclub
Commission Winnows out outsiders for Hawaii County police chief
HTH: … “The Police Commission still does not know the names of the individual applicants,” said John Bertsch, the commission’s chairman.
(IQ Test: Are you laughing?)
Bertsch told those in attendance he was informed unofficially county Human Resources received 44 applications from individuals seeking to succeed Paul Ferreira, who retired as police chief on Aug. 31. He added some were screened out for “not meeting minimal required standards.”
“The individuals that met the required standards were invited to provide additional input based on a questionnaire that was put out,” Bertsch said. “We received 22 responses … one has since rescinded.”
Bertsch said the questionnaires are numbered, and commissioners will not know the names of the respondents to make the evaluation process fair, impartial and unbiased.
He said applicants would be ranked “based on the questionnaire.”
“Once we … finish rating those applicants, we’re going to aggregate the score, and we’re going to talk in executive session about how to move forward based on those scores,” he said.
According to Bertsch, once the commission arrives at what they consider the best candidates based on the responses, they’ll request the names of those candidates from Human Resources. They’ll then send letters to the finalists and other applicants “notifying them of their status within the process.”
“So, they will be the first to know. And then, we’ll identify publicly who the finalists are,” Bertsch said. That would be followed by public testimony about the individual finalists, as well as by the finalists, themselves…..
read … Commission hopes to find new police chief by end of year
Charter School Oversight Retaliation Games
CB: … In a number of ways, Hawaii’s charter schools emerged from the pandemic ahead of the pack.
Enrollment at the state’s 37 charter schools grew slightly this year, despite an overall decline in the number of kids attending Hawaii public schools.
Charter students also fared better on standardized tests in 2021, with 66% of charter students deemed proficient in English, compared to 50% of public school students overall.
But behind the scenes, many charter schools continue to have a contentious relationship with the agency that oversees them….
A decade after its creation, the commission is failing to respect schools’ autonomy while simultaneously not holding schools sufficiently accountable, according to a performance evaluation finalized by the state Board of Education earlier this year.
Hawaii is unique in the national charter landscape in that there is only one entity in the state that can approve the creation of new charter schools. This means more than 12,000 students are depending on the BOE and the Charter Commission finding a better path forward….
Most states have multiple entities that can authorize new charter schools. Guidelines from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers state that plans should be in place for schools to transfer to another authorizer, should their current authorizer be shut down.
In Hawaii, there is no backup, much less a backup plan. BOE board member Lynn Fallin says that the BOE has not yet discussed alternatives, should the commission ultimately fail to improve operations and relationships with schools. However, Hawaii charter school law states that authorizers may be shut down if they persistently fail to adhere to nationally recognized principles and standards.
The BOE put out a call for authorizer applications in May, but Fallin said that no applications were submitted….
John Thatcher, who is a member of the governing board at public charter schools Kanuikapono on Kauai and Connections in Hilo, says the commission continues to operate with guidelines lacking in specificity, thereby setting the schools up for failure.
“It’s a moving target — we can’t respond to something they bring forward because they don’t have any policies on it,” he said.
Twenty three schools will renew their contracts in December, including Connections and Kanuikapono, and Thatcher says both schools are worried but are afraid to speak out against the commission for fear of disciplinary action or closure.
“It’s just a very hostile environment with a commission,” he said….
read … Charter School Oversight Is Still A Source of Contention In Hawaii
Rail: Prepare for Mass Casualties
SA: … Honolulu firefighters arrived in two Honolulu Fire Department ladder trucks and scaled ladders stretching approximately 55 feet into the air to get to the elevated guideway and then to both ends of a four-car train that theoretically derailed while slowing from 55 mph to arrive at the East Kapolei station.
The train was supposed to be traveling west from the University of Hawaii-West Oahu station with 50 passengers aboard when it ran off the tracks, leading to 24 injuries ranging from critical to minor….
responding to rail emergencies carries the additional need to turn off power to the affected portion of the rail line, especially the dangerous “third rail.”
In its response to the simulated injuries, EMS deployed its special “ambu-bus” designed to handle mass casualties, along with city and private ambulances that would transport the most seriously injured patients, Ireland said. The retrofitted, retired city bus is capable of transporting 12 patients in litters (stretchers used in rescues) and another 12 who can be seated….
plenty of potential problems lie ahead.
HART is undergoing testing of 144 scenarios, of which 54% have been completed.
The more complicated scenarios lie ahead, Kahikina said.
Similar simulated rail emergencies will be conducted annually after rail service begins…
read … Emergency crews respond to a mock derailment and mass casualty drill in Kapolei
Punaluu homeowners face high risk of shoreline enforcement
SA: … Prchal said he didn’t build the rock wall that was keeping the ocean at bay. According to his account, the rocks were buried under sand when he acquired the home in 2016 for $1.13 million. As the shoreline began pushing farther inland, he said, the rocks became exposed and locals later came along and stacked them into a nice wall.
But that argument failed to sway DLNR, which began imposing the $15,000 daily fine on Sept. 29, after giving Prchal a 30-day window to remove the rocks.
Prchal is among a growing number of coastal homeowners who have been selling properties with expired sandbags and other illegal shoreline hardening structures as DLNR tries to increase enforcement. They’ve found eager buyers who seem undeterred by the imminent threat that erosion and sea level rise pose to the sought-after oceanfront homes, or the legal challenges they are inheriting.
Just a few lots over, another oceanfront home that recently received a violation notice from DLNR hit the market….
Despite the mounting fines he was accruing from the state, he was able to attract a buyer from Las Vegas. He closed on the sale of the property on Oct. 14 after agreeing to cover the $225,000 in fines that he had accrued since Sept. 29 for the illegal seawall, as well as a $25,000 bond that DLNR was requiring in an attempt to ensure that the wall was removed. The fines were paid out of escrow.
Prchal says he sold the property for $1.3 million and walked away with about $900,000 after paying all the fines and fees.
read … Punaluu homeowners face high risk of shoreline enforcement
State to subsidize midpriced rental housing projects
SA: … Developers have blitzed a state agency to tap a special $150 million legislative appropriation for funding new rental housing aimed largely at middle-income Hawaii households.
Requests for the money appropriated in July total $331 million, or more than twice what’s available.
The response shows how much developers want subsidies to build moderate-priced rental housing, though there are concerns that satisfying this demand will come at the expense of producing rental housing for low-income households….
Under the program administered by the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp., developers are competing to obtain low-interest loans to build or rehabilitate rental housing for households earning up to a county’s annual median income, which on Oahu equates to $91,500 for a single person and $130,600 for a family of four.
Corresponding maximum monthly rents would be $2,287 for studios, $2,450 for one-bedroom units, $2,940 for two-bedroom units and $3,396 for three-bedroom units.
HHFDC’s traditional rental housing revolving fund is mainly used to produce apartments serving households earning no more than 80% of a county’s median income, including at least 5% of units in a project reserved for households earning no more than 30% of the median income.
The Legislature this year appropriated a record $300 million for this rental housing fund, but in a unique twist reserved half the amount for projects aimed at households earning between 60% and 100% of the median income….
read … State to subsidize midpriced rental housing projects