THE NEIGHBOR ISLANDS

BOUNCING BACK
OUTSIDE INTERESTS SUSTAIN AND CHALLENGE KAUAI TWO DECADES AFTER HURRICANE INIKI

SUNDAY 12/15/13

By Timothy Hurley | Photography by Dennis Oda

KAUAI

UP CLOSE

POPUL ATION

68,434
2012 total estimate

N I I H A U

K A U A I

Nor th Shor e North Shore 2010 : 8,007 2035: 8,678 +8%

P O PU L ATI O N G R OW T H 2 9 ,7 6 1
in 10-year increments
’70 ’70

51,177 39,082

58,463

67, 0 91

West W est e t Side 2010 : 11,722 2035 : 13,619 +16%

East Side 2010 : 20,813 2 0 3 5 : 2 4 ,6 2 6 +18%

Lihue 2010 : 14,683 2 0 3 5 : 22 , 22 3 +51% South Shor e Shore 2010 : 11,696 2035: 16,150 +38%

’ ’80 80

’ ’90 90

’ ’00 00

’10 ’10

Based on 2010 data, with estimated projections pr ojections for 2035

A
75-plus 19 and under du nder

ET
Mix (not Mixed Ha Hawaiian)

2 0 .1

n/ Hawaiian/ partn 2 5 .12 % Hawaiian

10 miles

65-74

20-34

Other Oth Fili Filipino

14 . 6

45-64

35-44

Jap Japanese

Caucasian 7. 81 %

21.9%

of Kauai’s population is 60 or older

P O PU L ATI O N G ROW TH BY AG E G RO U P
Based on estimates fr from ro om the th he state Department Depar rt tment of Business, Business Economic Development and nd Tourism: Tourism: o
0-29 30-59 60+

AG E D I S TR I B UTI O N TR E N D S AN D FO R E CAS T S
100% 90% 80% 70% 80+ 70-79 60-69 50-59 40-49 30-39 20-29 10-19 0-9 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020 2035

35,000 30,000 25,000
50% 60%

20,000 15,000 10,000 5,000 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020 2035

40% 30% 20% 10% 0

Sour ce: U.S. U S Census, Census “Kauai’s “Kauai’ Kauai’s Community Comm Source: Health Needs Assessment,” July 2013; DBEDT

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HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER >> SUNDAY 12/15/13

OUR TEAM

KAUAI

BOUNCING BACK

Kauai battles rifts amid recovery
Hurley Oda Timothy Hurley has been a journalist in Hawaii going back to 1990, having first worked as a reporter at the Maui News and then at The Honolulu Advertiser. In a photojournalism career spanning more than 30 years, StarAdvertiser photographer Dennis Oda still enjoys making pictures of the people and places in Hawaii. There are thousands of wild chickens on Kauai. Their numbers proliferated after Hurricane Iniki blasted the island in 1992, leveling BOUNCING BACK OUTSIDE INTERESTS SUSTAIN AND CHALLENGE chicken coops along with thousands of homes. The brightly feathered birds evoke a KAUAI TWO DECADES AFTER HURRICANE INIKI touch of that memory as well as a sense of today’s everyday pace of life on the oldest and northernmost island in the Hawaiian chain. While residents of the state’s fourth-largest island — home to about 5 percent of Hawaii’s residents — embrace its largely rural past and present, they’re now preparing for a future that will include a growing population. Oahu’s population far exceeds that of the neighbor islands, but projected growth rates are much stronger for Kauai, Hawaii island and Maui. Within three decades, according to state officials, only about 60 percent of Hawaii’s population will be on Oahu. The rest will be scattered across the island chain. By Timothy Hurley | Photography by Dennis Oda The Honolulu Star-Advertiser is examining the implications of Hawaii’s shifting population growth. This report is the last in a series that previously covered Hawaii island and Maui. The stories here explore Kauai’s recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Iniki, which includes a thriving yet ever-challenging tourism industry. It also covers matters ranging from the explosion in transient vacation rentals to the emergence of large-operation seed companies. Earlier this year a proposed new county law placing stiff restrictions on seed businesses’ pesticide use and farming of genetically modified crops touched off an emotional battle between supporters and opponents. The drama, which played out over several months before the Kauai County Council, reveals a widening rift among residents as they envision and move toward the island’s future (see story on Page A1).
THE NEIGHBOR ISLANDS
SUNDAY 12/15/13

Maureen O’Connell
DEPUTY CITY EDITOR

CREDITS EDITOR

Frank Bridgewater
PHOTO EDITOR

George F. Lee
GRAPHIC ARTIST

David Swann
COPY EDITOR

Celia Downes
DESIGNER

Michael Rovner

ON THE COVER

Vancouver, British Columbia, visitors Wes Kubo and his 5-year-old daughter frolic in the gentle surf edging the east side’s Wailua area.

Adjusting to growth The population is steadily climbing on picturesque Kauai, site of dozens of motion pictures. Planning is under way to deal with growth in the areas expected to be impacted the most in years to come: Lihue District and the South Shore. While its stunning natural beauty is a sure-bet draw for tourism, Kauai continues to struggle with an economy still affected by the legacy of Hurricane Iniki and recent recession.

Hopes high for iconic hotel The famed Coco Palms Resort charmed visitors and VIPs with its South Pacific kitsch and faux Hawaiian elegance for decades but closed when Hurricane Iniki struck in 1992. While it is best known as the tropical backdrop in Elvis Presley’s “Blue Hawaii,” the site also has historic and archaeological significance. New plans are in the works to rebuild the aging structure, but it remains to be seen whether they will succeed or fall short.

Ag’s controversial conversion Rows of cornstalks have replaced miles of sugar cane as Kauai’s agriculture industry shifts in a controversial direction. Sugar dominated the island for more than a century, but four biotechnology seed companies are now the island’s top agricultural concern, providing jobs and economic benefits to the community. Despite ongoing furor over pesticide use and genetically modified crops, the companies remain committed to their work.

Vexing vacation rentals The remote beauty of North Shore communities such as Haena, Wainiha and Hanalei has made them a popular playground for tourists in the last 15 years. But longtime residents say the proliferation of transient vacation rentals has turned their quiet neighborhoods into visitor destination areas, complete with resortlike traffic, noise and crowds. Locals are not happy with Kauai County’s rocky track record in dealing with the problem.

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HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER >> SUNDAY 12/15/13

KAUAI

BOUNCING BACK

Ahukini Road

Lihue Airport
Kapule Highway

Planned Wailani subdivision Acres: 400 Homes: 1,500 Includes: retail, mixed-use dwellings, banks, a senior citizen center and a hotel

BANKING ON BEAUTY
Kauai is nurturing its growing population and visitor sectors, but the idyllic island’s economic outlook remains a mixed bag

KAPAA

POIPU KOLOA LIHUE KALAHEO

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HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER >> SUNDAY 12/15/13

From left, Tessa Bueno, Chelsey Valdez, Kaleo Lopez and Kainoa Pezario soak up the sun at Kealia Beach, just north of Kapaa, while Bueno’s son, Titan Lindstedt, sticks to the shade. Kapaa recently was named one of America’s prettiest towns by Forbes magazine.

F

rom the towering cliffs of the Na Pali Coast to the majesty of Waimea Canyon, from the emerald highlands of Waialeale all the way down to the 50-plus miles of white-sand beaches, Kauai is drop-dead gorgeous. No Hawaiian island is more dependent on tourism than Kauai. And why not? Like an alluring woman, she can’t help but draw plenty of suitors to court her natural beauty. But that reliance on tourism — as measured by the ratio of visitor arrivals to resident population — only makes Kauai and its residents more vulnerable. Hurricane Iniki struck a direct and lasting blow to the island’s economy 21 years ago and the Great Recession added a significant economic setback five years ago.

Continued on next page

Puakea Golf Course in Lihue, which boasts views of the Haupu mountain range, is among the properties owned by Grove Farm. The homes along the course are in the Pikake subdivision, another Grove Farm development.

SUNDAY 12/15/13 >> HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

5

KAUAI

BOUNCING BACK

A yearslong state project to widen Kaumualii Highway to ease Lihue traffic is in its second phase, which will include construction of a bridge. growth of 38 percent, or 4,500, by 2035. In anticipation of the rising population, the county this year formally launched campaigns to update the community plans for those regions. Residents have been meeting to create “visions” upon which the new plans will be based. Pat Griffin, president of the Lihue Business Association, said it’s understandable that Lihue’s population growth would lead the island. The Lihue District is home to the island’s largest hospital, seaport and airport, as well as Kaua‘i Community College and the seat of county government. “There is a lot of pressure to provide affordable housing and growth in this area,” she said. Griffin, who has been active in Lihue community planning for years, said there has been a lot of discussion so far about “smart growth and workable, livable cities,” including a vision for Lihue as a vibrant community with mixed uses where people don’t necessarily have to hop in their cars to go to work or the store. “I’m very optimistic about the future,” she said. ONE MAJOR LIHUE-AREA project in the works is Wailani, described as a smartgrowth development that will create a new “town center” with mixed-use dwellings, retail, banks, a senior citizen center and a hotel focused on the kamaaina market. The 400-acre development by Grove Farm, the former sugar grower and now one of the island’s largest landholders, would result in affordable housing and the addition of 1,500 residents. “It’s definitely needed,” said Warren Haruki,

Today the Garden Island is slowly on the rise. Like the other neighbor islands, Kauai is feeling the effect of Hawaii’s strong tourism recovery. Among the neighbor island counties, Kauai’s population is expected to grow at the slowest pace. But on a per-capita basis, Kauai’s growth is projected to be twice what is predicted for Oahu.

According to the Kauai 2012 Transportation Data Book, the island’s population of just under 70,000 is expected to climb to nearly 85,300 by 2035. The area forecast to see the most growth is the Lihue District. By 2035, the population is projected to jump by 51 percent, or roughly 6,000. The South Shore region, stretching from Koloa to Poipu to Kalaheo, will follow with

REAL ESTATE SALES
800 700 600 500 400 300 200 100 0

Single-family

Condo

Units sold

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

Source: Hawaii Information Service

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HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER >> SUNDAY 12/15/13

Grove Farm’s president and CEO. “It will allow residents to live and work within close proximity.” Construction should start in 2015, he said, and be phased in over many years, perhaps as long as the better part of two decades. Over in the South Kauai region, Grove Farm is planning Waihohonu in the area formerly known as Koloa Camp along the Waihohonu Stream in Koloa town. The project includes 46 “affordable” two- and three-bedroom single-family homes. House and lot packages will range from the low $300,000s to the low $400,000s, with sales expected to start in early 2014. Meanwhile, business has finally picked up at another South Shore development: the 1,010-acre luxury community known as Kukui‘ula, which broke ground in 2008 just as the recession struck home. “Sales have very substantially improved over last year,” said Brent Harrington, president of Kukui‘ula Development Co. In fact, they’ve doubled to 22 sales, either closed or pending, equaling $31 million in contracts. Members-only amenities include an 18-hole Tom Weiskopf-designed golf course and a clubhouse complex with a restaurant, pools and a spa, plus a 6-acre farm and a lake stocked with peacock bass. Zoned for up to 1,500 housing units, Kukui‘ula offers lots from a third of an acre to a full acre for just under $1 million to the mid-$4 million range. Lots with cottages are priced from $2 million to almost $4 million. Success means that two new neighborhoods will be opening up soon, Harrington said. IMPROVED SALES in the luxury real estate market reflect the steadily recovering U.S. economy, which has also helped bolster the island’s top economic sector — tourism. More than 1.08 million visitors arrived on Kauai in 2012, up 7.2 percent from 2011. So far this year, visitor numbers are up 4 percent over

last year, with tourists arriving on more direct flights from the mainland than ever. Who is the typical Kauai visitor? “People who enjoy nature,” said Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kauai Visitors Bureau. “We like to joke around that there aren’t a lot of things here like nightclubs. You won’t find Sephora. This is not Waikiki. This is not Maui.”

Hanalei Valley Lookout on Kuhio Highway offers expansive views of Kauai’s landscape.

Kanoho isn’t bashful about volunteering that tourists’ top two answers to the exitsurvey question “What did you like least about your vacation?” were “Leaving” and “Not enough time.” “The people who come here usually fall in love with it,” she said, noting that Continued on Page 9

REAL ESTATE MEDIAN PRICES
$800,000 $600,000 $400,000 $200,000 0

Single-family

Condo

2004
Source: Hawaii Information Service

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

SUNDAY 12/15/13 >> HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

7

KAUAI

BOUNCING BACK

From left, Sheldon Ceria; Corey Sugai; Sheldon’s father, Milton Ceria; and brothers Miles and Tommy Pereza work on a home in Lihue’s Pikake subdivision.

BUILDING FROM 2009 TO 2013
14M 12M 10M 8M 6M 4M 2M 0 Source: Kauai County Building Department via state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 1,650 1,600 1,550 1,500 1,450 1,400 1,350 1,300

Construction jobs

Value of private building permits

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HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER >> SUNDAY 12/15/13

70 percent of tourists are repeat visitors. Kauai has parlayed its natural beauty to find steady income as a film location. More than 75 movies have been shot in Hollywood’s tropical backlot, and the Kauai Film Commission says the island continues to attract a steady flow of TV documentaries and reality-type shows, including HGTV’s “Hawaii Life.” In an effort to support the resort areas on the east side of the island, members of the visitor community joined forces this year to launch the Royal Coconut Coast Association. The nonprofit is dedicated to promoting the region from Wailua Golf Course to Kealia Beach and recently scored some national publicity when Kapaa earned the ninth spot in Forbes magazine’s list of “America’s prettiest towns.”

PRETTY, INDEED, BUT for all its natural beauty, Kauai is far from Eden. According to the current Kauai Economic Development Plan: >> Incomes are low, with a third of households considered “economically needy.” >> Kauai’s top 10 occupations pay relatively low average wages. >> There is widespread underemployment. Other blemishes include a severe shortage of affordable workforce housing and the fact that the median price of a singlefamily home is $586,000 — out of reach for most residents. And then there is the horrendous rushhour traffic in the Lihue and Kapaa areas. In an effort to address the road conges-

tion, the county this year hired a planner assigned to transportation issues only and launched a feasibility study looking at a Lihue bypass route. The state Department of Transportation also is studying the north section of the Kapaa temporary bypass. Jack Suyderhoud, University of Hawaii business economics professor, said Kauai’s strength in tourism is spreading slowly to other economic sectors. Job growth on the island has seen sluggish recovery from the recession, he said. More than 3,500 jobs were lost between early 2008 and early 2010. Since then, less than half of those positions have reappeared. “The recession affected the Kauai labor market more so than the rest of the state as the unemployment rate soared to over 10 percent in 2009, well above the statewide peak,” he said. The slowly improving jobs picture has brought the Kauai unemployment rate down to less than 6 percent, but it remains about 1 percent above the statewide average, the economist said. Construction also continues to disappoint. Suyderhoud said private building permits have shown only modest improvement since mid-2011 and construction jobs have still not recovered to pre-recession levels. “On the other neighbor islands the boom in tourism has clearly spread to other parts of the economy, including construction. This has yet to occur convincingly on Kauai where construction continues to underperform,” Suyderhoud said.

90%
WHERE PEOPLE WORK It’s no surprise that leisure and hospitality positions dominate Kauai’s employment landscape.

OF CIVILIAN JOBS ARE TIED TO THE SERVICE INDUSTRY

1% Education Information mation 1% Infor 1% Manufacturing 2% Wholesale trade Agriculture e 2% Agricultur 3% Other

4% Financial 5% Transportation
Mining and construction

6%

AVERAGE HOUSEHOLD INCOME
1999 2009 $84,723 $75,026 $67,678 $48,653 $60,932 $67,754 $58,633 $54,397 $89,092 $71,116 $76,049 $57,914

Health

8%
Professional Professional and business Leisure Leisur e and hospitality

10%
Retail trade
39% growth Waimea 39% growth Koloa 16% growth Lihue 38% growth Kawaihau 25% growth Hanalei 31% growth Total

28% 13%
Government Gover nment

Source: Kauai Transportation Data Book

16%
SUNDAY 12/15/13 >> HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER 9

KAUAI

BOUNCING BACK

WAILUA

Return to splendor
Past failures have not deterred the latest push to resurrect the Coco Palms Resort
WENTY-ONE YEARS after it walloped Kauai, Hurricane Iniki still teases and torments this island. The legendary Coco Palms Resort — battered by 145 mph winds that Sept. 11, 1992, day — stands today as it did then, an eerie reminder of the devastation the storm inflicted on Kauai. It sits on busy Kuhio Highway in Wailua while a new generation of tourists drives by in their rental cars, likely wondering what that old derelict is and unaware of its storied history. Surprisingly, the dream to return this icon of Hawaii tourism to its former glory is still alive: The latest proposal to rebuild the dilapidated hotel was unveiled during the summer

T

It would be just so great to see it come back.”
Bob Jasper Longtime site manager of the Coco Palms Resort

by a pair of Oahu real estate investors. While more than a few residents and government officials are skeptical of the plans, having been disappointed repeatedly in the past, Bob Jasper, the hotel’s longtime site manager, remains optimistic. “It would be just so great to see it come back,” said Jasper, who has been leading daily tours of the hotel and its disheveled grounds for 18 years. Eleven tourists showed up for one of Jasper’s two-hour tours on a recent sunny day, gathering at a locked fence with a sign that warns trespassers they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Among them was 65-year-old Meg Curnutt of Tulalip, Wash., who eagerly recalled her

Coco Palms stay in the mid-1970s as part of an industry tour of travel agents. “It was spectacular,” she said. “I’ll never forget the torch lighting.” OPENED ON JAN. 25, 1953, the Coco Palms Resort had only 24 rooms and a handful of employees. While Honolulu hotel executive Lyle Guslander discovered the dinky lodge and negotiated its $150,000 purchase, it was his eventual wife, Grace Buscher Guslander, who is credited for the vision that transformed the hotel into a resort that would influence the Hawaii tourism industry for years to come. With its 800-tree coconut palm grove and emerald lagoon, the Coco Palms Resort

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HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER >> SUNDAY 12/15/13

Coco Palms Resort site manager Bob Jasper takes visitors on tours of the iconic hotel, which still stands more than two decades after it was ravaged by Hurricane Iniki. At left, a group checks out the registration area. The resort’s lagoon, at right, was the site of the famous wedding scene in Elvis Presley’s “Blue Hawaii.”

eventually swelled to more than 400 rooms, suites and thatch bungalows and became the ultimate in Polynesian elegance, the playground of celebrities including Bing Crosby, Mitzi Gaynor, Frank Sinatra, Liberace, Gene Autry and Elvis Presley. South Pacific kitsch and faux Hawaiian embellishments were the core of a Polynesian motif that charmed two generations of hotel guests. Each arriving visitor was greeted with the blast of a conch shell. The centerpiece of guest bathrooms was a giant clamshell “sink” imported from the South Pacific. The chatter of monkeys and exotic birds in a small zoo behind the coconut grove gave the place a junglelike ambience. THE COCO PALMS RESORT was immortalized in a dozen or so films, including the 1961 Elvis Presley movie “Blue Hawaii.” Most of the movie’s final 20 minutes were shot on and near the hotel grounds, including the famous wedding scene, which was filmed at the lagoon. Weddings were a big deal. The resort hosted 500 nuptials a year in its heyday — many of them were conducted in “Blue Hawaii” fashion at the lagoon or in the resort’s wedding chapel, which was donated by MGM Studios after Rita Hayworth’s 1953 film “Miss Sadie Thompson.” More recently, the Coco Palms appeared in a scene of the 2011 film “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” and was animated in a 2012 episode of “South Park” in which Kenny encounters the ghost of Elvis Presley. Hollywood aside, the hotel might be best known for its nightly torch-lighting ritual known as the Call to Feast. The dramatic ceremony — one of numerous Hawaiian legends dreamed up by Grace Guslander — saw muscular men sweep across the resort, twirling torches as they Continued on next page

SUNDAY 12/15/13 >> HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

11

KAUAI

BOUNCING BACK

An artist’s rendering of the latest proposal to restore Coco Palms Resort.

set the night aglow and invited guests to dine at one of the hotel’s seven restaurants. The ceremony occurred each evening at 7:30 for 40 years and was featured in “Blue Hawaii” and copied by many other Hawaii hotels. Another fabricated ancient Hawaiian custom saw prominent guests planting coconut trees in the grove during solemn “akua” replenishment ceremonies. Some of the famous planters included the prince and princess of Japan, the Von Trapp Family Singers and leg-

endary Hawaii waterman Duke Kahanamoku. Their trees and others throughout the grounds were marked with plaques. Tourists were also led to believe the Coco Palms lagoon was once the royal fishpond of Kauai’s rulers. Lyle Guslander’s company sold the resort to Amfac Inc. in 1969, but he and Grace continued to run the property. After Lyle died at age 84, the resort was sold to a Chinese company known as Park Lane Hotels in 1985, the year Grace retired. She died in 2000.

SEVEN YEARS AFTER Hurricane Iniki slammed into Kauai, the Coco Palms was shuttered and then languished for years while Park Lane battled its insurance company over the value of the storm loss. The resort never reopened, but several developers brought forth plans to rebuild over the years only to fail for a variety of reasons. In 2005, a group calling itself Coco Palms Ventures LLC acquired the hotel with plans to sell million-dollar-plus condos, but the economy soured before that project got off the ground. The latest proposal comes from Oahu investment partners Tyler Greene and Chad Waters, who in August entered into an agreement to buy the hotel under the name Coco Palms Hui LLC. Greene and Waters declined an interview, but they previously had announced plans to break ground early next year in hopes of finishing in 12 to 18 months and reopening the resort in late 2015 or early 2016. They also announced their selection of an architect and a construction contractor and are negotiating with Starwood and Hyatt to determine the hotel’s operator. They say they have spent $500,000 on development plans, including an artist’s rendering showing a re-energized Coco Palms with at least 300 rooms. But their efforts might be for naught if the Kauai County Council follows through on a proposal to repeal the remaining building ordinance passed in the wake of Hurricane Iniki. The ordinance was designed to help expedite reconstruction of structures crippled by the storm by allowing developers to build in the same “pre-Iniki” footprint, avoiding additional regulatory hoops and associated expenses. The repeal proposal was postponed by a Council subcommittee last month, but not before several members offered conditional support for the effort. Meanwhile, an alternative plan to turn the property into a cultural and historical attraction still remains viable, said Jennifer Luck, Kauai island director of the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust. The state Legislature awarded $270,000 to help the trust determine if acquisition of the property is feasible and, if so, how the

Past efforts to restore the resort have failed, but this year two investors agreed to buy the property and have set their sights on reopening it in a few years.

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HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER >> SUNDAY 12/15/13

property can best be protected for public benefit. The state hasn’t released the funds yet, however. “We believe if given the opportunity, the community will create an inspired vision that will honor the important role in Kauai’s and Hawaii’s history of the site,” Luck said in a statement. THE HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE of Coco Palms Resort extends beyond the hotel, Luck noted. In the mid-1800s, the land was home to Kauai’s last reigning monarch, Queen Deborah Kapule. The land also holds significant archaeological sites. One proposal for the property is to create a Hawaiian cultural center for “cultural enrichment, historic preservation, land conservation and spiritual nourishment,” according to the website of the Friends of Coco Palms, a group working with the trust.

How the hotel fits into that vision is uncertain pending the feasibility study. In the meantime, the hotel continues to wither under the relentless march of time and as the occasional target of vandals. And Bob Jasper continues to bring the old resort to life, leading tourists through its dank and dark hallways, around cobwebs and swarms of mosquitoes. Throughout the grounds, remnants of the original landscaping competes with kiawe and cane grass. The “world’s largest fiberglass conch shell” still hangs above a lagoon teeming with schools of tilapia. A cardboard cutout of Elvis Presley stands in Cottage No. 56, the one where the King always stayed. “People miss the Coco Palms,” Jasper said after the tour. “It has a mystique. People tell me all the time: The only reason they came to Kauai is for the Coco Palms. “And it sure would be awesome to see it come back.”

24%
* in 2010

OF THE POPULATION ON KAUAI AT ANY GIVEN TIME ARE VISITORS *

WESTWARD HO! Most Kauai visitors come from the Western region of the U.S. mainland:

TOURIST MAGNET No other Hawaiian island sees more visitors per capita (based on total island population):
Ratio of annual visitor arrivals to population 25

6% 3%
Japan Canada

1990
20

2012

9%
Others

31%
U.S. East Coast

15

10

5

0

Kauai

Maui

Hawaii island

Oahu

VISITOR ARRIVALS The ups and downs of tourism over the years: The double whammy of an economic downturn and Hurricane Iniki launched the industry’s decline in the early 1990s and the Great Recession dragged numbers down again starting in 2008.
1.2M 1M 800,000 600,000 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010

51%
U.S. West Coast
Sources: state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism; First Hawaiian Bank

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HANAPEPE A spectacular sunset over Salt Pond Beach Park.

LIFE’S A BEACH
• Kauai has more than 50 miles of white-sand beach — more than any other Hawaiian Island. • The Garden Island has twice the percentage of sandy beaches as Oahu. • Kauai has about 60 individual beaches spread over 113 miles of shoreline. • Lumahai Beach is where Mitzi Gaynor “washed that man right out of my hair” in the film “South Pacific.” • Be careful out there: 17 people have drowned on Kauai’s shoreline this year alone.

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KAUAI

BOUNCING BACK

CULTIVATING CONTROVERSY
Biotechnology seed companies are big — and so is the battle against them and the genetically modified organisms they create
Crowds opposed to genetically modified organisms gathered outside Kauai’s Historic County Building Nov. 14 as Council members weighed the fate of Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.’s veto of Bill 2491, which placed new restrictions on major agribusinesses on the island. The lawmakers voted after a daylong delay to override Carvalho’s veto.

… If Kauai loses this part of its economic base, it will be impossible to replace in the near future.”
Jack Suyderhoud First Hawaiian Bank economist on the seed corn industry’s stature on the Garden Isle

S

UGAR, pineapples, coffee, tropical flowers, taro, macadamia nuts: These are the commodities most people think of when they hear Hawaii agriculture. Seed crop? Not so much. But the truth is seeds are the state’s No. 1 crop and have been for nearly a decade. “I don’t think you’ll find us on any aloha shirts, though,” said Kirby Kester, presidentelect of the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, the nonprofit trade association representing the agricultural seed industry. Kester is a manager with BASF, one of four

biotechnology seed companies that primarily occupy the fertile West Kauai flatlands where sugar cane thrived for nearly 150 years. Today, instead of miles of sugar cane waving in the breeze, people will find row after row of corn stalks rising from the rust-red soil in a scene right out of the Midwest — minus the stunning, green-covered mountainous backdrop. But the bucolic setting belies the storm winds swirling around Kauai’s seed companies — BASF, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Pioneer and Syngenta.

While the movement against genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, has percolated in the islands for a better part of a decade, the activities of agribusiness on Kauai didn’t draw the spotlight until recently. In 2011, a group of 150 Waimea residents filed a lawsuit claiming DuPont Pioneer allowed pesticide and dust to be blown onto their homes for years. Then during the summer, the companies came under attack as the Kauai County Council considered a law to impose pesticide buffer zones, halt genetic engineering pending an impact study, and require public disclosure of pesticide use and GMO plantings. Thousands of residents, spurred in part by mainland anti-GMO interests, grabbed their homemade signs and marched in support of the proposal during a summer-long campaign. Many vilified the industry for “poisoning the land” and conducting “morally suspect” GMO research during lengthy Council hearings, in letters to the editor and on radio shows. Until the bill was modified to remove the GMO moratorium and sizable buffer provisions, industry representatives were saying the edicts could force the companies to move their operations elsewhere.

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“It was kinda scary,” Kester recalled. LIKE IT OR NOT, the seed industry plays a significant role in Kauai’s economy, with an annual impact estimated at $80 million and a workforce numbering between 500 to 600, many of whom were previously employed by the sugar industry. Additionally, more than 100 Kauai vendors service the industry. Dow AgroSciences alone is investing $50 million over three years in operational infrastructure. “The seed corn industry is enormously im-

portant to Kauai’s economy,” said First Hawaiian Bank economist Jack Suyderhoud. “The four major players provide significant land rents and well-paying jobs.” But Suyderhoud, the University of Hawaii professor who recently examined Kauai’s economy for First Hawaiian, noted that the industry faces obstacles including fear and community resistance. “The basis for the fears is controversial,” he said. “What is not controversial is that if Kauai loses this part of its economic base, it will be impossible to replace in the near future — with

White and yellow markers help identify young corn stalks in a field near Waimea. Ryan Oyama, a research scientist with DuPont Pioneer, bristles at criticism of the agricultural biotech industry. “I feel pretty lucky to get this job. It allowed me to move back home,” he says.

significant economic impacts on the island.” Statewide, the industry has a combined annual economic impact exceeding $243 million, according to the state Department of Agriculture. That makes seeds Hawaii’s most valuable agricultural resource. So how could these seed companies fly under the radar for so long? Part of it is that none of the seed product is marketed for Hawaii. Virtually all of it is sent to the mainland as part of the industry’s Continued on next page

SUNDAY 12/15/13 >> HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

17

KAUAI

BOUNCING BACK

DIGEST THIS
• 14 percent of all farmland in Hawaii is in Kauai. • 85 percent to 90 percent of Kauai’s food is imported. • 66 percent of all consumed fruits and vegetables in Hawaii is imported. • Kauai produced 2 percent of the state’s vegetable harvest in 2007. • Kauai was home to 8 percent of Hawaii’s cattle inventory in 2007.

A fine mesh net protects corn kernels from hungry birds while allowing young shoots to sprout up. Corn dominates the biotech agriculture industry on Kauai, though the companies also cultivate plants including wheat, soybeans and rice.

primary function of boosting the yields of mainland corn farmers. “It’s hard for people here to see the direct value,” said Kester, who has worked in the seed industry on Kauai for 19 years. Ninety percent of the corn products Hawaii residents see on their grocery shelves, he said, is tied to some development time in Hawaii. “The white corn that they make potato chips out of — that seed was produced here. Its roots are here,” he said. THE BUSINESS of breeding seeds is a relatively new one. A hundred years ago the typical farmer would save some seeds from his annual harvest and replant them for the next year’s crop. Starting in the 1920s, scientists discovered that crossbreeding seeds from different harvests would result in plants that grew with much more vigor. It took 40 years to figure out how to double yields, from 30 bushels per acre to about 60. Yields now have zoomed to about 150 bushels per acre thanks to the biotech seed industry, which emerged in the 1960s. As the companies grew, they sought out new areas where they could bring their products to market with shorter lag times. Hawaii became attractive because the mild climate allows for the growing of at least three crops per year and because it can be done under the political and economic stability of the United States. Pioneer Hi-Bred International, the forerunner of DuPont Pioneer, was the first to open on Kauai in 1968. Corn seed is the main product, though some companies also work with soybeans, wheat, sunflower, rice and other plants. Both traditional and biotech methods are used. The entire process, from gene selection to corn planted in a farmer’s field, Continued on Page 20

SEED’S KEY PLAYERS

SYNGENTA
DECADES ON KAUAI: Syngenta con-

DUPONT PIONEER
FORMERLY PIONEER HI-BRED: Since

They’re pretending to be good neighbors, but I don’t see them being good for their neighbors whatsoever.”
Paul Achitoff Earthjustice attorney, who is critical of the seed industry’s lack of transparency

starting in 1968 with a station in Kekaha, Pioneer now runs four locations in Hawaii. Parent seed sites in Kekaha and Waialua are multiplication centers, taking small amounts of seed and producing more; the Kunia and Waimea research stations support breeders worldwide in developing products. The four stations work on genetically engineered and non-genetically engineered varieties of corn, soybeans, sunflower and sorghum. HAWAII FARMING ACREAGE: About 4,500 leased acres on Kauai. DuPont Pioneer farms from Lihue to Kekaha, with several parcels and locations on the south and west sides of the island. The company also farms about 2,700 acres on Oahu. DuPont Pioneer operates across the United States and in more than 90 countries. HAWAII EMPLOYEES: About 170 full-time employees on Kauai. DuPont Pioneer also employs up to 120 seasonal workers during its peak season. On Oahu, the company employs about 185 full-time employees and 100 seasonal workers.

ducts research on and development of corn and soybeans. The company has been operating on Kauai for more than four decades. Syngenta was formed in 2001; its predecessor, Pride Seed Co., started operations in the late 1960s. HAWAII FARMING ACREAGE: About 3,000 leased acres on Kauai. Syngenta occupies several farms on the west side of the island and one located on the east side. Syngenta also owns about 1,000 acres in Kunia. HAWAII EMPLOYEES: About 175 workers on Kauai and about 50 on Oahu. In addition, Syngenta hires about 100 seasonal employees on Kauai. The company, based in Switzerland (its U.S. headquarters are in Minneapolis), has more than 28,000 employees in 90 countries.

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HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER >> SUNDAY 12/15/13

BASF PLANT SCIENCE
THE COMPANY: BASF Plant Science cul-

DOW AGROSCIENCES
CORN IS KING: Dow AgroSciences has

two operations in Hawaii that are involved in various aspects of producing corn for seed. The company began operating on Kauai five years ago. Dow AgroSciences (Mycogen Seeds) has been operating a site on Molokai since 2000. HAWAII FARMING ACREAGE: About 4,000 leased acres on Kauai. An operation that borders the south shore and west side (a former sugar cane farm) near Kaumakani includes about 3,500 acres; and an east-side farm in the Puhi area, just west of Lihue, has about 500 acres. HAWAII EMPLOYEES: 40 full-time employees, and up to 150 seasonal workers on Kauai. Worldwide, Dow AgroSciences has 118 operation sites and about 8,000 employees.

tivates corn, soybeans, rice, sunflower and canola for seed production. Both genetically modified and non-genetically modified projects are in the works for all crops except sunflower, which is only non-genetically modified. BASF does not sell seed commercially — its technology is licensed and developed through partnerships with leading seed companies. The company began Kauai fieldwork in August 2006; the site is part of a network of testing stations across North America. HAWAII FARMING ACREAGE: About 1,000 acres on Kauai, 98 percent of which is on the island’s west side. BASF has one small field on the east side. Planted crops fill less than 150 acres in any given year. A portion of the land also serves as a buffer area between fields and neighbors. BASF has several other development stations in the mainland’s Midwest and South and around the world. HAWAII EMPLOYEES: 11 full-time workers on Kauai and up to about 50 seasonal workers. BASF employs nearly 800 people worldwide.

SUNDAY 12/15/13 >> HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

19

KAUAI

BOUNCING BACK

GMO supporters also came out in force Nov. 14 while the Kauai County Council considered whether to override Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.’s veto of Bill 2491. Fears of genetically modified organisms are misguided, advocates say. “We are regulated way more than the general public understands or knows,” says Kirby Kester of the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, which represents the agricultural seed industry.

can take seven years. The sugar cane industry at its peak had about 250,000 acres under cultivation statewide. By 1985, the total was nearly 186,000 acres, including close to 44,000 on Kauai. Today, the seed companies statewide own or lease about 25,000 acres, and of that they cultivate only about 5,600 acres.

I believe in the process. As long as that is followed, it is safe.”
Sarah Styan DuPont Pioneer senior research manager who worked in the field while pregnant

WHAT ARE GMOS? Genetically modified organisms are crops whose genetic makeup has been altered to boost yields, reduce the use of pesticides, improve drought resistance or help create some other desired outcome. Conventional crossbreeding involves the random exchange of thousands of genes. Developing a GMO plant is similar but much more precise because it involves adding only a single or a few genes at a time. The companies produce hundreds of thousands of individual varieties of seed crops in their research. While some employees directly farm the seeds, others collect data on crop performance and analyze those results. Others test and characterize potential new vari-

eties of seed using state-of-the art laboratory technology. Lindsey Hashimoto used to labor amid the sunflowers and soybeans but now works in DuPont Pioneer’s Global Marker Technology lab in Waimea amid an impressive array of high-tech gadgets and machines. She insists neither her health nor the community’s health is endangered by what her company does. She recalled 2009, the year she got pregnant. “I was down in the dirt pollinating soybeans. I didn’t stop until I was seven months pregnant,” said Hashimoto, who had twins, a boy and a girl. Sarah Styan, DuPont Pioneer senior research manager, said she also worked in the field until she was five months pregnant. Her daughter, she said, is now a healthy fifthgrader at ‘Ele‘ele School. “I was never concerned about being in the field,” said Styan, originally from Massachusetts. “I grew up on a farm. I trust what the label says, the law, the regulation and the process. I believe in the process. As long as that is followed, it is safe.”

BUT CRITICS SAY SAFETY is far from guaranteed. Among other things, they point to independent studies that suggest serious health effects from consuming GMOs, including diseases resistant to antibiotics, cancers, allergies and other problems. During the debate on Kauai’s Bill 2491, numerous testifiers accused the biotech companies of causing health problems in the community. Others expressed worries about the potential collateral damage of genetically modified crops, including cross-contamination with organic crops, increased pesticide use and the development of herbicide-resistant superweeds. Those leery of biotech pointed out that the seed industry discloses few details of its work, which makes it hard for the public to be informed about potential GMO pollen drift and pesticide and herbicide dangers. While industry representatives say any lack of transparency is a function of the competition between the firms, whose trade secrets are held close to the vest, critics such as Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff said that’s no excuse. “In this circumstance, the public interest trumps the private interests,” he said. “They’re pretending to be good neighbors, but I don’t see them being good for their neighbors whatsoever. They’re holding back information only for their own benefit.” Regarding health concerns about GMO foods, Kester said scientific consensus is on the seed industry’s side. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, World Health Organization, American Medical Association, National Academy of Sciences and the British Royal Society have concluded that consuming foods with ingredients from GMO crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods from crops modified the old-fashioned way. “We’re heavily regulated and audited on our safety programs, pesticide use and GMO

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HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER >> SUNDAY 12/15/13

crop trial programs. We are regulated way more than the general public understands or knows,” Kester said. AS FOR THE PESTICIDES used by the seed industry, University of Hawaii agriculture researcher James Brewbaker described them as having the toxicity of average household cleaners. “I use the same ones at home that they do,” he said. One common herbicide employed by both the seed and sugar industries is atrazine. Because it has been shown to contaminate water supplies, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has deemed it a restricted-use chemical, which requires handling by a certified applicator. But Stephanie Whalen, executive director of the industry-backed nonprofit Hawaii Agriculture Research Center, said studies conducted for the sugar industry in the 1980s found levels in Hawaii water supplies far below advisory levels. Hawaii’s sugar growers historically were allowed to use larger amounts of pesticide than corn per acre, Whalen said. “Consequently, any amount being applied now by the corn industry is less than what was allowed in the past by the sugar industry and even less likely to be a concern,” she said. Brewbaker, a professor in UH’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Waimanalo Research Station, added that “almost no serious ag scientist worries about GMOs or pesticides currently used on corn.” DuPont Pioneer research scientist Ryan Oyama shakes his head when he thinks of all the hysteria surrounding his industry’s doings. “I was taking it kind of personal,” he recalled during a visit to the company’s cornfields. “To hear some people, they think we grow a field of zombie corn that is going to come out at night and do terrible things. But the reality …” The truth, he added, is that agricultural biotechnology is safe and perfectly suited to Hawaii, a high value-added work part of the knowledge economy. “I feel pretty lucky to get this job. It allowed me to move back home,” said Oyama, a 1991 ‘Iolani School graduate who went on to earn his doctorate at Harvard University. “I find it frustrating that a minority of people are trying to kill this shining spot in our economy,” he said. “I hope it works itself out, because I like my job.”

Though the seed industry looms large in Kauai, the island is still home to other crops such as taro. Grove Farm, which owns and develops commercial and residential land, also manages agricultural land in Mahaulepu Valley in Koloa. Laurence Tamag, left, and Eddie Mafraf plant taro shoots in the valley’s fields.
Hanalei

CROP COUNTRY The only coastal area that has no agricultural operation in the works is the island’s rugged northwest shoreline, home to the photogenic Na Pali cliffs. Bananas, cattle, guava, papaya, taro, tropical specialty fruits, vegetables Bananas, cattle, flowers, nursery products, vegetables Aquaculture, bananas, cattle, coffee, flowers, hogs, nursery products, seed crops, sugar cane, taro
Waimea Lihue Hanapepe Kapaa

353,900 151,543
Total land area on Kauai in acres Total farmland in 2007
Source: Kauai Transportation Data Book

54,920
Prime agricultural land

22,336
Total cropland in 2007

10,764
Acres of crops har vested in 2007

SUNDAY 12/15/13 >> HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

21

KAUAI

BOUNCING BACK

WAINIHA HANALEI

VACATION RENTAL HOMES Transient vacation rental units — located away from Kauai’s principal visitor destination areas — are found all over the island, but mostly on the North Shore.
NUMBER RENTALS N U M B E R OF VACATION VACAT TION R E NT TA ALS

WHERE TOURISTS STAY Locations of Kauai’s hotels and other vacation units
Hotel units Other condo/r condo/rental ental units

Greater Gr eater than 80

1,915 1,281
Hanalei Kawaihau

41 to 80

HAENA KILAUEA
21 to 40 W aim a aimea Waimea 6 to 20 1 to 5

1,137 1,117 748 60 484 252

Lihue

56

Koloa

Waimea Waimea

Lihue

Kawaihau

Hanalei

Koloa

Source: Kauai Transportation Data Book

, 10,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2015

2025

2035

8,000

ACCOMMODATION INFLATION The historic rise of visitor accommodations with the dip caused by Hurricane Iniki and economic hard times in the 1990s. Vacation-unit growth is expected to slow in coming years.

State Depar Department tment of T Transportation ranspor tation pr projection ojection

6,000

Historic trend trend
4,000

2,000

LUXURY RENTALS RILE RESIDENTS
Sausen’s neighborhood is ground zero in the rising tide of transient vacation rental homes that have engulfed communities on the North Shore of Kauai over the past decade and a half. The character of remote shoreline neighborhoods in places like Haena, Wainiha and Hanalei has morphed from small, local-style beach enclaves into visitor destinations jammed with million-dollar-plus commercial properties, some apparently operating under dubious vacation rental permits and others operating outside the law. It’s been estimated that as many as 80 percent of the homes in some neighborhoods have been taken over by vacation rental businesses. Journalist Joan Conrow lived in a “funky” house in Wainiha when she first moved to Kauai nearly 27 years ago. She said she can’t believe what’s happened to her old neighborhood, and she fumes when she thinks about how Kauai government officials failed in their mandate to bring the problem under control. Conrow contends the county fell under the spell of “corruption, cronyism and incompetence.” “Working together they’ve created a monster,” she said.

Working together they’ve created a monster.”
Joan Conrow The journalist has lived on Kauai nearly 27 years and blames the county for allowing vacation rentals to proliferate

Vacation homes, many in legal limbo, are crowding the North Shore
OUISE SAUSEN frowns when she’s asked about her Wainiha neighborhood. That’s because she remembers when it was a laid-back beach community, a family-friendly place where folks knew their neighbors and relied on them for help if needed. “Now it’s like a resort,” she said in front of her Alealea Road home as a late-model sedan roared up the street. “The guests fly up and down here all the time. You have to deal with the dust and the noise. You gotta put up with the leaf blowers. Every day you hear this all day long.”

L

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HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER >> SUNDAY 12/15/13

TRANSIENT VACATION RENTALS, or TVRs as they are sometimes called, began to proliferate on Kauai about 15 years ago when the economy started to heat up and the North Shore and its pristine terrain became a big tourist draw. With relatively few hotels in the area, property owners tried to meet demand by, in many cases, transforming their aging homes into shiny new vacation rentals. Vacation rentals are found all over Kauai, but the majority outside the visitor destination areas are on the North Shore. Many are advertised on the Internet, including a 3-acre

estate that will “bathe you in every luxury” for $2,000 a night, a “stunning Balinese-inspired masterpiece” in Kilauea that rents for nearly $50,000 a week, and one with 300 feet of “semiprivate beach frontage” that goes for $45,000 for six nights (or $57,600 during the holidays). Joel Guy, president of the Hanalei-to-Ha‘ena Community Association, grew up in a rented beach house on the North Shore in the ’70s and has witnessed how the area has changed over the years. Five years ago it really hit home. His son’s mother was evicted from her house across the street from the beach in Haena, Guy said. At

Longtime Wainiha resident Caren Diamond co-founded the group Protect Our Neighborhood Ohana, which presses the county to address the transient vacation rental issue. A visit to an oceanfront neighborhood on Alealea Road reveals the area’s transformation.

the time she was pregnant and caring for her three children, one of them Guy’s son. “The next thing you know, it’s a vacation rental,” he said. Guy said TVRs are driving up the cost of housing for residents, and they make finding a place to live much harder. It’s one thing when a local family wants to create some income from their property, he said. It’s another when off-island, big-moneyed interests show up looking to make a killing. One fear, Guy said, is that resort corporations and investment groups will start snapping up oceanfront property.

SUNDAY 12/15/13 >> HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

23

KAUAI

BOUNCING BACK

“And then they’ll be right there on the edge of the beach with a full-blown resort.” THE TVR PROBLEM was formally acknowledged in the 2000 Kauai General Plan when it recommended that “permitting processes should consider the cumulative impacts that a large concentration of alternative visitor units can have on a residential neighborhood.” Five years later, a study as part of a county zone update concluded that single-family visitor rentals can have a significant impact by altering the character of a neighborhood. It also acknowledged existing illegal conversions of single-family homes into multifamily dwellings. In an attempt to address the growing problem, the Kauai County Council in 2008 passed a law limiting future TVRs to Kauai’s primary tourist accommodation areas in Princeville, Kapaa, Lihue and Poipu. The bill offered existing vacation rental owners the opportunity to win legal standing as long they could prove they were operating in compliance with the law. Owners were required to present proof they were paying the appropriate accommodations taxes and had previously taken visitor reservations, among other requirements. The TVR nonconforming-use certificate is issued for the life of the property with yearly renewals. The council tweaked the law in 2009 and then addressed the issue again in 2010, this time attempting to cap the number of vacation rentals in state agricultural zones. Despite the legislation, officials admit the problem just seemed to get worse. But Kauai Planning Director Michael Dahilig, who didn’t start his job until the end of 2010, after guidelines regulating vacation rentals were already in place, cautioned against people suggesting that anything underhanded was at work. When the law was first approved, he said, the department was overwhelmed with more than 600 applications. Three employees were responsible for processing the applications, each with an inspection, during a 10-week period. “It was the perfect storm,” he said. “Everything just went wrong.” CONROW, A FORMER reporter with both the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and The Honolulu Advertiser who now writes a popular Kauai blog, said her interest in the TVR issue was further sparked after reading the news in

“It was the perfect storm. Everything just went wrong.”
Michael Dahilig Kauai planning director on his department’s struggle to manage the huge response to a 2008 law regulating vacation rentals

RENTAL ROUNDUP
• 55 percent of Kauai’s transient vacation rentals outside visitor destination areas are on the North Shore. • 65 percent of the North Shore vacation rentals are in the island’s coastal zone Special Management Area yet have no SMA permit.

February about a Canadian man who died after jumping off or falling from the deck of a vacation rental on the Wainiha River. “It got me to dig into some county documents, and I found there were no permits for that rental,” she said. Conrow started looking at the files of other North Shore properties and discovered most had some sort of irregularity with how they obtained their nonconforming-use certificates. Some were missing tax documents. Others

had no reservation records as required by law. Still other certificate-holders had enlarged their building well beyond what their building permit allowed. Some owners got certificates even though they had enclosed their ground floor in violation of federal flood law. And some had missed deadlines required by the certification law. Conrow wrote about 25 of the worst violations in her Kauai Eclectic blog under the title: “Abuse Chronicles: TVRs Gone Wild.”

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HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER >> SUNDAY 12/15/13

whelmed by logistical and file management issues. This made enforcement going forward difficult, too. AMID SHARP CRITICISM contending the county is not doing enough to enforce the law, Dahilig said he nevertheless supports the reasons behind the regulation. He understands, for example, how the jump in vacation rental homes can undercut the island’s supply of affordable housing, which is already in shortage. “Part of Hawaii is its people, and people need a place to live,” he said. Even so, Dahilig’s department let stand many noncompliant certificates, including 20 of the 25 certificates identified by Conrow’s blog, in part because of uncertain legal standing in light of the fact they were approved previously by the department. Under pressure from the council, Dahilig began working to fix the TVR-related enforcement problems within his department. He diverted manpower to the program, consolidated the filing system and began creating new inspection protocols. After going through the files, Dahilig found that 84 percent of Kauai’s transient vacation rentals operating outside visitor destination areas had incomplete application files, and about a quarter of them had none of the required documents. As of October, there were nearly 400 active TVR certificates on file plus 76 cases on appeal for having their certificates denied. The council previously allocated up to $50,000 to hire private attorneys to represent the county in contested case hearings for the denials. Caren Diamond said she suspects the county might be dealing with only the tip of the iceberg. There could be hundreds more islandwide operating as vacation rentals without bothering to go through legal channels. Diamond, a 34-year resident of Wainiha, joined forces with former Kauai Planning Commission Chairwoman Barbara Robeson in 1999 to create the group that would become Protect Our Neighborhood Ohana, which has been hammering the county on the vacation rental issue for years. During a recent visit to her old beach neighborhood, Diamond pointed out scores of large, newly built two- and three-story vacation rentals stretching from one side of the beach to another. “They made a resort out of the sweetest neighborhood on Kauai,” she said. “My kids grew up on this street. They used to sit under that tree.”

“It was a real eye-opener to see the way some people are really dramatically exploiting the system we’ve got here. Some of these people have a ton of money and aren’t afraid of paying a fine or two,” County Prosecutor Justin Kollar said on a recent radio show about the vacation rental issue. Dahilig said that when he came aboard as interim planning director in late 2010, he found that his predecessor had struggled with implementing the new law, apparently over-

Many of Kauai’s vacation rentals are on the island’s North Shore — a dramatic change from just a couple of decades ago, longtime residents say. “They made a resort out of the sweetest neighborhood on Kauai,” says Caren Diamond of Wainiha.

SUNDAY 12/15/13 >> HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

25

KAUAI

UP CLOSE

HOU S ING
13,968
Owner-occupied housing units in 2010

S TAN DAR D OF LIVING

$ 61 $5 61,600
Median home value, 2007-2011 2007-2

9,272
Renter-occupied housing units in 2010

$64,422
Median household income, 2007-2011

10%
People below poverty level, 2007-2011 -2011 1

$26,591
Per-capita income, 2007-2011
(The mean money income r received eceived annually, annually y, every computed for ever y person age 15 and older)

1 foreclosure
out of every

2.98 2.98
Persons per household

18
Public schools

3,530 homes
(October 2013)

8
Private schools

453 MILLION 10,000
Civilian jobs in 2012

Total power produced in kilowatt-hours in 2011

Estimated d average avera age monthly residential ntial water usage, age, in gallons gallo

E M PLOYME NT

30,300
23,240
Occupied housing units

251
For sale only

29,793
26

6,553
Housing units in 2010 Vacant housing units

7.4% 51
Sold but not occupied Unemployment rate in 2012

1 15.4% 5.4%
Total job growth, 2010-2020

Sources: S ources: Hawaii Hawaii S State tate D Data ata B Book ook 2 2012; 012; U U.S. .S. C Census; ensus; R Realtytrac.com; ealt ty ytrac.com; s state tate D Department epartment o of fL Labor abor a and nd I Industrial ndustrial R Relations; elations; U U.S. .S. D Department epartment o of fC Commerce; ommerce; K Kauai auai D Department epartment o of fW Water ater

HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER >> SUNDAY 12/15/13

CRIM E

Total crime index in 2011

2,861
2008 2008 2009 2009 2010 2010 2011 2011

TOTAL C R I M E I N D E X 2,895 2,792 2,722 2,861

2008 2 00 8

2009 2 00 9

2 2010 0 10

2011 2 0 11

V VIOLENT I O LE NT C CRIME RIME I INDEX NDE X Murder 2 Rape Robbery Assault 52 20 134

VI O LE NT C R I M E I N D E X

1 32 23 156

2 40 18 186 714 110

2 33 25 176 787 148

208
2 2008 00 8

212
2 2009 00 9

246
2010 2 0 10

236
2 2011 0 11

HEALTH

PRO PE R T Y CR I M E I N DEX 2,683 2,584 2,476 2,625

P PROPERTY ROPE R T Y C CRIME RIME I INDEX NDE X 810 Burglary 710 Larceny-theft Motor-vehicle theft 1,718 1,758 156 115

1,652 1,690

81%
7.5%

Adults in good or better health, 2010 Adults

2008 2 00 8

2009 2 00 9

2010 2 0 10

2011 2 0 11

Value of property stolen in 2011

$4.2 MILLION 24%

Number of adult drug-related arrests by the Kauai Police lice e vice Department’s vic ce division ision sio in fiscal fisc year 2011 1

146

Stolen property recovered

92 155.45 45.1
Percent of adults 20 and older with diabetes in 2009

Heart disease death rate per 100,000 people, 2005-2009 Cancer death rate per 100,000 people, 2006-2010 Stroke death rate per 100,000 people, 2005-2009

Total offenses committed by juveniles in 2011, up 15.5% from rom 122 in 20 2010

141

Adults without health insurance, 2008-2010

9.4%
Adults who are obese, 2009

22%
Adults who smoke, 2004-2010

16.6%
Sources: state state attorney attorney general’s ge eneral’s office; office; state state Research Research and and Statistics Statistics Branch; Branch; “Kauai’s “Kauai’s Community Communit ty y Health Health Needs Needs Assessment,” Assessment,” July July 2 013 1 Sources: 2013

SUNDAY 12/15/13 >> HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

27

THE NEIGHBOR ISLANDS

ABOUT THIS SERIES

IT’S ALL AVAILABLE ONLINE
THE NEIGHBOR ISLANDS SUNDAY 4/28/13

In coming decades, much of the state’s population growth will not take place on Oahu. More than a third of Hawaii residents will be on the neighbor islands by 2030, a reality that observers predict will almost certainly have repercussions big and small for everything from the state’s economy to its politics. The migration of people to Hawaii island, Maui and Kauai, which has increased at a rapid clip over the past two decades, is spurring questions about issues ranging from housing, employment and tourism to preserving a sense of place. The Star-Advertiser examines the emergence of the neighbor islands in three special reports.

THE NEIGHBOR ISLANDS

KAUAI

GROWING PAINS
EXAMINING THE BIG ISLAND’S CHALLENGES OF TRANSFORMATION
Stories by Mary Vorsino | Photography by Jamm Aquino

HAWAII ISLAND
Nearly twice as large in size as all the other Hawaiian Islands combined, Hawaii County is the fastest-growing county in the state. “Growing Pains” explores how its residents are contending with matters ranging from infrastructure to future on-island employment opportunities for young people.

Occupying 552 square miles, Kauai features a lush, mountainous central region and postcard-perfect beaches that cover almost half its shoreline. “Bouncing Back” probes the challenges that accompany flourishing tourism. Other topics include the surge in vacation rentals as well as what the future holds for farming.

MASTER PLAN
BORDERS WITHIN CENTRAL MAUI ARE FADING THANKS TO A SLOW-MOVING DEVELOPMENT BOOM
By Christie Wilson and Nanea Kalani | Photography by Krystle Marcellus
THE NEIGHBOR ISLANDS

BOUNCING BACK

OUTSIDE INTERESTS SUSTAIN AND CHALLENGE KAUAI TWO DECADES AFTER HURRICANE INIKI

MAUI
“Master Plan” takes a look at development in the works in Central Maui, which is at the forefront of commercial and residential growth on the Valley Isle. The report also covers a legal battle over access to inland waterways and efforts to maintain the feel of yesteryear charm in areas attracting new businesses.
SUNDAY 12/15/13

TO READ EACH INSTALLMENT OF THIS SERIES, VISIT US AT …

By Timothy Hurley | Photography by Dennis Oda

28

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