Peter Greenberg News: “When A Destination is Too Popular: The Problem With Overtourism”

When A Destination is Too Popular: The Problem With Overtourism

Travel and tourism accounts for 10.2 percent of the world’s GDP. That’s the equivalent of 7.6 trillion dollars, and one in every ten jobs on the planet is related to the tourism industry. So it’s easy to understand why every nation wants a piece of the pie—especially when those numbers are expected to continue to grow. But what happens when it becomes too much of a good thing? In this segment from season four of The Travel Detective, Peter Greenberg explores the growing problem of overtourism.

Continue reading “Peter Greenberg News: “When A Destination is Too Popular: The Problem With Overtourism””

The Maui News: “Waikapu project gets approval of Land Use panel”

Waikapu project gets approval of Land Use panel

Zoning change for Waikapu Country Town development

The nearly 500-acre Waikapu Country Town project has received unanimous approval from the state Land Use Commission for critical changes. A state district boundary amendment allows a change from agricultural to rural for 150 acres and from agricultural to urban for 335 acres for development north and south of the Maui Tropical Plantation.

The commission’s action came Thursday during a videoconference call.

In early December, the commission met for two days at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center to hear public comments and testimony from project consultants. Nearly all the comments were favorable to the project that several said revised its development plans in response to community and environmental concerns. Continue reading “The Maui News: “Waikapu project gets approval of Land Use panel””

Available Now: Hawai’i Sea Level Rise Vulnerability & Adaptation Report

The Hawai’i Sea Level Rise Vulnerability & Adaptation Report (2017) is available now! This important report illustrates why we need better long-term planning on Maui – no more building in the tsunami evacuation and coastal flood zones.

Excerpt from Maui section of the report (pages 90-91):

The Island of Maui, known as “The Valley Isle,” is the largest and most populous island in Maui County. Maui boasts a varied geography with coastal communities and mountainous areas in West Maui, small towns and agricultural communities in Upcountry and East Maui, and the more urbanized areas of Central Maui (County of Maui 2012). With 148,403 residents (State of Hawai’i 2015), the Island of Maui accounts for 10.6% of the State’s population. Since the 1970s, Maui has experienced significant growth in both resident and visitor populations. A near tripling of Maui’s population over the last 50 years, coupled with a growing tourism industry—over 2.6 million visitors came to Maui in 2016 (State of Hawai’i 2016) —has placed ever increasing demands on natural resources, critical infrastructure, and basic services. Continue reading “Available Now: Hawai’i Sea Level Rise Vulnerability & Adaptation Report”

Civil Beat: “Economists: Financial Challenges Are Looming For Hawaii”

Economists: Financial Challenges Are Looming For Hawaii

Hawaii needs to build a lot more homes and tourists need to spend a lot more money to keep the economy growing in the coming years.

That was the message to lawmakers from some of the state’s top economists during a daylong briefing Tuesday at the Capitol.

With the Legislature set to convene Jan. 17, members of the House and Senate money committees, chaired by Rep. Sylvia Luke and Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, called on Eugene Tian, the state economist; Carl Bonham of the University of Hawaii’s Economic Research Organization; Laurel Johnston, Gov. David Ige’s acting budget director; and others to paint them a picture of Hawaii’s financial future and discuss budget priorities.

“There are a lot of short-term ups, but it looks like we should be prepared for some long-term downs,” Dela Cruz said after the briefing. “There’s no doubt that if we don’t take some action the budget will be much, much tighter in future years.” Continue reading “Civil Beat: “Economists: Financial Challenges Are Looming For Hawaii””

Civil Beat: “Why Hawaii Residents Can’t Build Their Own Private Power Grids”

When R.J. Martin was planning a small subdivision of seven homes, each powered with photovoltaic solar cells and large Tesla Powerwall batteries, there was one idea that was quickly dimissed: the notion of linking the homes together with a small power grid that would let the homeowners share surplus power with one another.

It was a good idea, says Martin, who is developing the Green Homes Hanalei Street project with engineering assistance from the Honolulu solar company Revolusun. Continue reading “Civil Beat: “Why Hawaii Residents Can’t Build Their Own Private Power Grids””

Hawai’i Independent: “Ho‘opili: The fate of prime agricultural land in Hawai‘i”

Ho‘opili: The fate of prime agricultural land in Hawai‘i

By Will Caron, September 4, 2013

Ho‘opili, some of the best land for farming in the State, has been arbitrarily exempted from Important Agricultural Land protection and seems doomed to be paved over and turned into a housing development.

Leon Sollenburger has worked with soil for decades. From Pearl Harbor to the North Shore, he’s worked on everything from the former Del Monte lands in Kunia to the former Dole lands north of Wahiawā and yes—Ho‘opili too.
So respected is Sollenburger’s opinion on soil that he was appointed to the advisory committee for Important Ag Land (IAL) designation on O‘ahu. IAL designation protects agricultural land from being converted to other land use designations. In the 1970s the State began to require each county to designate its IALs. None of the counties has ever complied with that rule, including Honolulu county, until now. On O‘ahu, we are finally in the process of designating these IALs. If it were up to Sollenburger, Ho‘opili would be priority one for IAL protection in Honolulu county, but unfortunately it isn’t up to him.
“The first night the advisory committee met we were informed, in no uncertain terms, that no land within the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) would be considered for IAL,” says Sollenburger. “That specifically excludes Ho‘oplili. So, when you hear that Ho‘opili is not ‘Important Agricultural Land,’ that’s the reason why.”

A place like no other in the State
There’s no doubt that Ho‘opili is important ag land, even if it isn’t IAL.
“I personally think that this is some of the most productive agricultural land in the State and if there’s any piece of ground that ought to be designated as Important Agricultural Land, it should be this piece,” says Sollenburger. “But it is not eligible for consideration.”
So what makes Ho‘opili such a unique place?
“There are lots of places on O‘ahu that have good, level soils,” says Sollenburger. “There are lots of places on O‘ahu that have water. There are lots of places on O‘ahu where various crops will grow. Ho‘opili is unique because it has a combination of those factors that no other place on O‘ahu, and really very few other places in the entire state, can put together in one package.”
1. Ho‘opili is flat. It’s easy to work with large equipment on and most of the land there can be put in to production of agriculture.
2. This is a part of the island with very little cloud cover. In the list of requirements to grow a crop, sunshine is right there at the top. However, this does mean that irrigation will be required for Ho‘opili.
3. Water is the next ingredient. While it’s true that rainfall is lower here than it needs to be, the water table at Ho‘opili is not all that deep. Therefore a supply of good quality clean water can be put into use here at a reasonable cost through wells which wouldn’t need to be all that deep.
4. There is one more factor to consider, and it’s a factor that Ho‘opili beats nearly every other piece of agricultural land in Oahu on: Its proximity to the markets. The Wai‘anae coast, the North Shore and Waimānalo are all much farther away from Honolulu. Farmers in these areas have to factor in the cost of transportation, gas and time stuck in traffic (which is time away from making the fields productive).
“Let me repeat something I said to the Land Use Commission,” says Sollenburger. “If we have the most fertile soil we could ever ask for, abundant water, but we don’t have sunshine, we’re not going to get a good crop. You can’t compensate for the lack of sunshine by adding more nitrogen fertilizer. You can’t compensate for lack of nitrogen by adding more water. None of those things will substitute for the other. You have to have the whole package and Ho‘opili represents that whole package.”
Currently there is a PR campaign underway on the part of the landowners, D.R. Horton-Schuler, to convince us that part of Ho‘opili will be set aside for agriculture.
“If you look at the map, the areas that are being designated for ag-use in Ho‘opili are the gulches,” says Sollenburger. “These areas are not suitable for agriculture and setting them aside as such is really a sham.”
These areas are too steep to drive a tractor on. At the bottom of the gulches, where it’s flat again, you encounter rock, not soil. The only way to grow plants in the gulches would be with terracing, or green housing or some other hydroponics system that would control light and water levels and keep them adequate (all of which are expensive choices).
“That’s not really agriculture, and it’s certainly not cost-effective when you compare that to open field production,” says Sollenburger.

Water concerns
Every single piece of land that was proposed as replacement ag-land for Ho‘opili during the Land Use Commission’s hearings is at a higher elevation, has higher cloud cover and, in most cases, has less available high-quality water.
Practically every piece of ag-land from Wahiawā to the North Shore is irrigated with water from Lake Wilson. Lake Wilson is an artificial lake outside Wahiawā that captures water from two streams that come out of the mountains.
“It would be good, clean water, except for one thing,” says Sollenburger. “The Wahiawā waste-water treatment plant discharges its effluent into the lake.”
That effluent is classified as R2, a category of waste-water that is acceptable for certain forms of agriculture, but has restrictions on what it can be used for. It can be used to grow plants as long as the part of the plant that is used or consumed does not come in contact with the water.
“For example, you can use it to grow banana trees or sweet corn,” says Sollenburger. “In either case the water is applied to the ground while the harvested part of the plant grows above ground. You could not use it to grow potatoes, carrots, onions or anything that grows below ground.”
Any water supply that has any part of it contributed from an R2 source renders the entire water supply R2. From Wahiawā to Hale‘iwa—all that land is watered by Lake Wilson and therefore considered off limits to many different kinds of vegetable and fruit production.
Ho‘opili has clean ground water that can be extracted cheaply. Ho‘opili has tons of sunshine year-round. And for a farmer working in irrigated fields, that’s a huge advantage. In other places, even Kunia, during the winter the rainfall can be sufficient to make it almost impossible to farm those fields for weeks or even months at a time.
“I don’t care who farms it. I don’t care what they grow on it either. That doesn’t really matter,” says Sollenburger. “What matters is this: A productive piece of soil, with water and infrastructure, has the potential to grow just about anything. And in years to come, that potential is what we need to save. If that potential is gone, it is gone and you’ll never get it back.”

The Maui News: “Progress made in converting old sugar cane lands”

Progress made in converting old sugar cane lands

Half of company’s 36,000 acres may be leased more quickly than expected – A&B

Valley Isle property sales and progress in diversifying former Maui sugar lands were among the highlights of Alexander & Baldwin’s third-quarter financial report, released Tuesday.

Overall, for the three months ending Sept. 30, A&B reported net income attributable to shareholders of $6.1 million (13 cents per diluted share), compared with a $1.9 million (3 cents per share) for the same period last year during the yearlong closure of the 36,000-acre Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. plantation on Maui.

The company told investors that its ongoing discontinued operations costs were $800,000 (2 cents per share) for the recently ended quarter, compared with $13.6 million (27 cents per share) for last year’s third quarter. Continue reading “The Maui News: “Progress made in converting old sugar cane lands””

Star Advertiser: “Kauai ranch sale helps Alexander & Baldwin turn a profit”

Kauai ranch sale helps Alexander & Baldwin turn a profit


A stone house on a Kauai ranch Alexander & Baldwin Inc. sold for $8.1 million in the third quarter.

Selling 566 acres of land on Kauai and Maui helped Alexander & Baldwin Inc. earn $6.6 million in the third quarter and reverse a year- earlier $1.4 million loss that included heavy costs to close Hawaii’s last sugar cane plantation.

Honolulu-based A&B reported the financial results Tuesday for the three months ended Sept. 30.

Revenue rose 8 percent to $111.5 million in the quarter from $102.9 million in the same period last year.

The company’s three major operating segments — land, commercial real estate leasing and road construction subsidiary Grace Pacific — all contributed to the improved revenue and profit performance.

A&B also said it continues to make strong progress converting itself to a real estate investment trust, reducing mainland real estate holdings in favor of investing more in Hawaii and finding agricultural tenants for its former 36,000-acre Maui plantation Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co.



$1.4 million

“I’m incredibly excited about where the company is going,” Chris Benjamin, A&B president and CEO, said in a conference call with stock analysts. “This is a long road we’re on.”

During the third quarter, A&B’s biggest source of profit was property leases largely involving retail space that includes several Hawaii shopping centers and the commercial core of Kailua. This segment’s operating profit was $13.6 million in the third quarter, up slightly from $13.5 million in the same period last year.

The biggest improvement among A&B’s divisions was in land development and sale operations. Operating profit for this part of A&B rose to $10.4 million in the recent quarter from $7.8 million a year earlier.

This gain came primarily from selling a 273-acre ranch on Kauai for $8.1 million and 293 acres of vacant land on Maui for $7.9 million. A&B also earned $2.9 million from sales of two town homes next to its Kakaako condominium tower The Collection, three residential properties at its Kauai vacation community Kukuiula and four residential properties at a similar project on the Big Island called Ka Milo.

The Kauai ranch several years ago was subdivided and marketed for sale by A&B as 24 farm or home lots. But more recently A&B sought a single buyer for the property, which was once the family estate of Kauai sugar pioneer Walter Duncan McBryde and features a 4,200-square-foot stone house from 1860 that used to be a plantation manager’s residence.

A&B’s third primary business segment, rock quarry and road paving firm Grace Pacific, produced a $6.5 million operating profit in the recent quarter. That was up from $5.6 million a year earlier and benefited from laying down 31 percent more asphalt, though competitive pricing pressures cut into the gain.

Previously, A&B had another business segment for agriculture, but that was folded into land operations after the sugar plantation shutdown in December. In the third quarter A&B still had some expenses related to discontinued HC&S operations, resulting in an $800,000 after-tax loss. However, that compared with a $13.6 million after-tax loss for HC&S operations in last year’s third quarter.

Benjamin said A&B is making quicker-than-expected progress finding new uses for its former plantation land, with negotiations to lease 15,000 acres that could bring total use up to roughly 20,000 acres in a few months if negotiations are successful.

A&B since January has converted 4,500 acres into active farming and ranching, and is working to add 900 acres to a Maui County ag park, the company said.

The other big ongoing transition at A&B is converting itself from a regular corporation to a real estate investment trust, or REIT. This initiative is expected to attract more investment capital for A&B to buy Hawaii commercial property, and will also provide the company with tax advantages.

A&B spent $4.4 million on the conversion in the third quarter, up from $1.9 million a year earlier. In total, A&B expects the change to cost $25 million to $27 million.

Shares of A&B stock closed at $45.19 Tuesday before the earnings announcement, closer to the upper end of a 52-week range between $40.02 on May 31 and $46.87 on Oct. 3.

Civil Beat Op-Ed: “With Our High Cost Of Living, Plantation Days Don’t Seem So Long Ago”

“Dat’s why hard.”

This was one of my grandpa’s favorite lines when recounting his days growing up on the plantations in Lahaina. It was usually followed by tales of 11-hour workdays while making a little over 15 cents per week.

I have come to realize that in the 90 years since grandpa lived this life, we really haven’t come that far. Hawaii today still sees the everyday person working extraordinarily hard while making relatively little.

In a recent publication released by the Tax Foundation, a nonprofit organization focusing upon tax policy here in the United States, the relative value of the dollar was assessed for each state.

You may be surprised to learn that Hawaii was No. 1.

Hawaii’s high cost of living means many residents work as hard as their plantation-era ancestors.

Courtesy of Alexander & Baldwin

Oh, to clarify, we were No. 1 where the dollar holds the least value in the nation.

Whereas your money will go further in states such as Mississippi ($116.01), Alabama ($115.21), and Arkansas ($114.42), here in Hawaii, $100 is valued only at $84.18.

What does that mean? How does this affect us in our everyday lives?

It means that the cost of living is high, and our money doesn’t go very far.

Hawaii today still sees the everyday person working extraordinarily hard while making relatively little.

When we look at associated costs – rent, mortgage, food, etc. – we see there is indeed a gap between how much we earn and what it costs to live here.

Let’s look at some simple math.

For a single person to pay for all necessary living expenses on Maui, it costs roughly $31,137 per year. However, the average salary (per capita) for someone working full time here on island is approximately $31,612. Do you see the issue here? This leaves a person, living and working on the island of Maui with merely $474 of disposable income.

We deserve more.

Now is the time to look at progressive legislative action on such issues as basic income and affordable housing, and improved economic opportunities such as technology, agriculture and alternative energy.

Now is the time for us to come together, in unity, to demand more of our political system and those in office.

Now is the time to put an end to the “plantation daze” that we have been living in, so that we can one day say to our grandchildren: “Dat’s how we did ’um.”

Civil Beat Op-Ed: “Context Needed To Understand Kakaako Houselessness”

Denby Fawcett’s severe call to action, Give Us Back Our Parks, generated several well-reasoned responses. We share with Fawcett a sense of urgency — the reality of pervasive homelessness needs effective action.

What we wish to add to previous critiques of Fawcett’s essay is context. Understanding the historic, bureaucratic, fiscal, political and other contexts of houselessness in Kakaako is critical to understanding the problem we must face creatively and collectively.

The specific historical context of the unsheltered in Kakaako has been stunningly ignored.

Over a century before the area was branded “Kakaako Makai,” the productive fisheries of Kukuluaeo and Kaakaukukui were filled in with ash from waste incinerators, and then became a large native Hawaiians settlement, derisively called “Squattersville.” The area served as a refuge for Hawaiians and locals priced out of other areas, until it was forcibly cleared by the city in the 1920s.

Before the Oct. 8 sweep of Kakaako Waterfront Park. The region has a long history of evictions.

Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

The 1920s eviction matches up with today’s sweeps, forming a pattern that belies Fawcett’s conclusion that “Now, it’s time for the state government to act.” Rather, now it is time to realize we are merely witnessing the latest part of a century of failed government action.

Time and again the government has tried to exploit the area for economic gain over the objections of those who assert residence there. The repetition would be comedic if it wasn’t interwoven with such deep cruelty.

Fawcett also avoids known disparities in public-land management with her suggestion we should rage against those “… who seem to believe they have a special right to commandeer public land.”

Across our coasts unregulated wedding photographers, yoga sessions and surf tours proliferate. Branches of the military lease thousands of acres for $1 per year. Water agreements for massive volumes from public land charge rates that have barely risen in decades.

In this light, the homeless’ “special right” is only wrong because it is unattended by political influence.

HCDA’s Misguided Outrage

Fawcett’s article described damage to the Waterfront Park that similarly obscured the government fiscal context.

Had that been provided, readers could more fully appreciate the irony involved when the Hawaii Community Development Authority points fingers. Since HCDA’s establishment to “address a lack of suitable affordable housing,” they have spent tens of millions of public dollars in Kakaako.

These efforts have resulted in some affordable units, but more so a proliferation of high-end luxury condos and a pervasive wafting smell of sewage. We are now asked by HCDA to be outraged at people who caused damage to electrical wiring and water lines as they sought to meet basic needs.

The specific historical context of the unsheltered in Kakaako has been stunningly ignored.

Finally, there is a political context that Fawcett invokes but does not examine. She pleads to give “us” “our” parks. But Kakaako’s houseless include local families and others with strong ties to Hawaii.

There is no bright line between recreational user and “hardcore homeless camper.” Some Panics surfers have gone through periods of homelessness due to the regular things that happen to regular people.

A parent dies, and the bank forecloses on a home that is home to several generations. One or more people in a household lose a job. Hospital bills come due after a wife’s death from cancer.

Moreover, referring to the housed as “law abiding citizens” fails to recall that for at least Hawaiians and Micronesians (who comprise some of the houseless), U.S. citizenship and state control were impositions by the United States for military and economic ends. The U.S. went to Micronesia and that brought them to Hawaii. Hawaii did not move to the U.S. — the U.S. came to Hawaii.

Kakaako skyline Honolulu city view. view looking up Diamond Head on King Street.

Besides many homeless people, Kakaako is also home to more and more luxury high rises.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Bringing in these contexts highlight some of the absurdities and ironies in coverage of the houseless and current government actions. We must also together examine the much larger national contexts that have lead to pervasive homelessness across the U.S. — including decades of dismantling of the social safety net, post-industrial economic dislocation and failed federal housing policies.

We need a conversation where we recognize that an economy which can readily produce $1 million condos but can not produce attainable housing is part of the problem. We need to look at all these factors, because they all lead to people living in parks, and we need to immediately see how many factors are outside county or state control.

What we can control is how we define the problem and where we spend limited local resources. The move to create a new unit in the Sheriff’s Division dedicated solely to enforcing a new criminal trespass law on state land seems, in these contexts, doomed to failure.

Defining a complex problem as only having one cause (the houseless) and therefore one solution (their forced removal) will not identify the collective actions needed to help all people live in basic safety and dignity.