Thursday, August 27, 2009

New Property Tax Bill will Affect Hawaii Kai Homeowners

O'ahu property owners who provide housing to low-income families would get substantial tax breaks under a bill approved by the Honolulu City Council. Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz said he proposed the measure as a companion bill to a plan by Mayor Mufi Hannemann to create a new property tax category for people who live in the homes they own. Dela Cruz said both owner-occupants and low-income renters need to be sheltered from the possibility of high property tax rates.

Opponents say the measure gives city officials a more politically convenient way to pass property tax increases on to businesses and property owners in other classifications.

City budget director Rix Maurer III said the city is anticipating a deficit in the operating budget of between $145 million and $150 million. Mayor Mufi Hannemann has said he is committed to ensuring that owner-occupants need not pay more next year despite falling property values and revenues.

Several council members asked why the city needs to have both an exemption and a separate classification for owner-occupants. Noting that the other three Hawai'i counties have a tax classification for owner-occupants, Maurer said, "I think it's prudent that we have as many tools as we can."

The measure now goes back to the Budget Committee. At the Wednesday meeting, the council gave the first of three approvals for what's being called a companion bill that would give tax exemptions to owners of affordable rental properties.If you have an opinion about this tax measure, contact your council member now.

Barbara Abe, Realtor

Foodland Farms Coming to a Store Near Hawaii Kai

Although we have a successful and pleasant Foodland in Hawaii Kai, they are going to remodel their Aina Haina store into the first "Foodland Farms" store in Oahu, after about five months and a multi-million dollar remodel.

With a planned reopening in February, the 25,000-square-foot Foodland Farms will offer an expanded selection of high-quality perishables and prepared foods, along with traditional full-service meat, seafood, deli, bakery and produce departments. The new store also will include a larger selection of of natural, organic and specialty items and an R. Field Wine Co. outlet, offering stiff competition to Down to Earth and Whole Foods in Kahala.

The renovated 'Aina Haina store will be modeled after the company's 10,000-square-foot Foodland Farms store at the Mauna Lani Resort on the Big Island. The Big Island store opened in December 2007.

It's great to have choices and this new store will just add to the ambience and quality of life in Hawaii Kai. Contact me for a free Relocation Package.

Malama Maunalua in Hawaii Kai

Malama Maunalua is a nonprofit group of neighbors, scientists, government officials, and environmentalists who have been working together for several years to restore the health of the East Honolulu resource, Maunalua Bay. They are using their expertise and energy to solve the complex problems degrading the reef and nearshore ecosystem of the bay.

Causes of the degredation come from excessive sedimentation, invasive species, overfishing, and other human threats. If Malama Maunalua succeeds, however, the project is expected to serve as a general framework for other Hawai'i communities trying to stem the deterioration of their coastal marine environments. "This is just a microcosm of what needs to happen statewide," said Alyssa Miller, coordinator for Malama Maunalua. Other marine conservation efforts across the state have concentrated on fishery resources in rural or less populated areas, but Malama Maunalua is focusing on the large suburban area of Hawaii Kai that is home to more than 60,000 people.

As funding for nonprofits has decreased substantially, both from the public and private sectors, neighborhood volunteers have teamed with scientists, nonprofit organizations and government agencies to leverage resources, gather empirical data and develop possible solutions that must be maneuvered through a potentially divisive political process.

More than 5,000 have participated in the Malama Maunalua project, removing algae, cleaning beaches, putting on education forums. At last count, 200 volunteers have removed 25 tons of invasive algae, or seaweed, over the last 18 months. The group has partnered with nearly 50 government agencies, environmental organizations, businesses and other entities to address a problem that experts acknowledge has no easy solutions.

Recently, the group has partnered with The Nature Conservancy, and secured more than $3 million in federal economic stimulus funding to hire dozens of full-time workers to pull invasive algae from the bay. Volunteers also are trying to bring changes to the mostly concrete-lined stream system that channels huge volumes of rain runoff and sedimentation from the mountains and valleys into the bay, further degrading conditions along the reef flat.

Bob Richmond, a University of Hawaii marine biologist and volunteer in Malama Maunalua, is establishing benchmarks to measure reforestation efforts. The biological markers being developed are intended to measure changes in months, not years, so Hawaii Kai can quickly learn what works and what doesn't.

Supporters of the group's efforts emphasize that if the marine environment benefits, Hawaii Kai residents and ocean users ultimately benefit from nicer beaches, higher property values, increased recreational opportunities, more abundant marine life and better quality of life. And Hawaii Kai residents likely will pay greater attention to protecting the environment and encourage others to do likewise.

I wholeheartedly support the efforts of Malama Maunalua and urge residents and tourists alike to help with their work to protect our spectacular Maunalua Bay. Read more at the Honolulu Advertiser.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Waldorf School opens a High School near Hawaii Kai

Waldorf School has opened its high school campus in a new location, after years of legal battles with the residents of Niu Valley. The high school, which serves about 80 students, was moved over the summer from a renovated house in Kahala to the old Trans Pacific College building on Kalaniana'ole Highway. The school acquired the remaining 30 years on the lease of the building after the college closed in December.

The school had been looking for an alternative site for its high school ever since it opened in 1994. Originally, the school rented two classrooms from the Japan America Institute of Management Science in Hawai'i Kai for two years. Then the school moved to a remodeled house in Kahala. The school's new building is a more ideal location for the high school, near the lower-grades campus in Niu Valley, and much larger — 22,000 square feet compared to 8,000 square feet at the previous location. There's now enough space for a dedicated music room, two science labs, wood- and metalwork rooms, and study areas.

The Honolulu Advertiser explains the history of the search for a place to site the school: "Waldorf had originally planned to build a two-story, 10,000-square-foot high school building on its Niu Valley campus. When its conditional use permit was approved in January 2007, some Niu Valley residents petitioned the Zoning Board of Appeals. The school then filed a lawsuit against the city and the residents, asking a judge to deny the residents' appeal. BonnieOzaki-James [chairwoman of the Honolulu Waldorf School's lower school] said that the school dropped its plans for a new building and reached an amicable agreement with the neighbors in Niu Valley."

This location for a private high school will give Hawaii Kai residents an alternative to the drive to Punahou or Kamehameha, and other private schools closer to Honolulu. Visit Waldorf School Directory for all their locations.

Contact me for information on all our schools, and request my free Relocation package.

Barbara Abe, Realtor

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hanauma Bay Closure in Hawaii Kai from - yes, Jellyfish

On Friday, park officials closed Hanauma Bay in Hawaii Kai from a high number of Portuguese Man-of-War on the beach and in near-shore waters. Lifeguards counted more than 2,000 Man-of-War in Hanauma Bay.

The monthly box jellyfish arrival, due today, is a different phenomenon. They arrive with the tides, about 10 days after every full moon. Jellyfish stings can be very painful, and for some, quite serious if you are allergic to the poison.

Hanauma Bay and Kailua Bay have both been closed in the past for jellyfish "invasions." Waikiki often posts warnings for beachgoers. So what do you do when you get stung? If lifeguards are present, they should have white vinegar to wash out the sting, otherwise you might have to get your own. Make sure you wash out the stinger with lots and lots of white vinegar. If the stinger has wrapped around your arm, don’t touch the stinger to rip it off. Instead, grab the jellyfish by the body and slowly unwrap it.

For information on ocean conditions, advisories, and warnings, the Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services Division provides a recorded report at 922-3888, extension 51. People may also see conditions at

This just reminds me that we share our paradise with creatures that were here long before us and deserve our respect. They don't lessen the beauty of our islands, or the desirability of living here. Contact me for a relocation package.

Barbara Abe, Realtor