Sunday, August 21, 2011

Oahu Vacation Rentals in Jeopardy by Unfriendly Few

Oahu, photos by Dianne Smith

Hawaiian tourists who prefer to rent condos, cottages and rooms in Bed and Breakfasts may be unaware of a serious effort on Oahu to outlaw these accommodations, limiting visitors' options to the resort areas in Waikiki, Ko'olina and Turtle Bay. The Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) and Honolulu Mayor Carlisle are pushing a Bill to provide the tools the DPP needs for effective enforcement, shutting down most vacation homes. It is shocking the mayor and Planning Department would draft such harsh legislation considering Hawaii's main industry is tourism, not to mention Constitutional issues like property rights and individual liberty.
Surfing on Oahu Beaches

Oahu Beach Rentals in Kailua

On August 10, 2011 a Public Hearing was held at Mission Memorial Hearings Room, 550 South King Street, Honolulu to discuss a Bill to Amend #21, of the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu 1990, as Amended Relating to the Regulation of Certain Visitor Accommodations. The proposed amendment is only about enforcement, without any permitting for vacation rentals, though many owners would like to have legal permits. Currently many Bed and Breakfasts, condos and beachfront cottages operate under the radar, pressing government officials to regulate their industry so they won't have to bear the "illegal" stigma.


About 300 people attended the meeting, with over 200 opposed to the bill. Not all got a chance to speak, so the hearing was scheduled for continuation on August 24 at 10:00 am. in the same room. Any interested parties can share their opinion even if they did not attend the previous meeting or sign up to testify.

Kailua, a city on the windward side of the island, has spawned a couple of antagonistic groups, Save Oahu's Neighborhoods (SON) and Keep It Kailua (KIK), to band together a few disgruntled residents in a war against their neighbors who operate the vacation rentals. The small business owners who open their homes to travelers are law-abiding, taxpaying citizens who have found a successful way to earn a living in Hawaii. A member of the Hawaii Vacation Rental Owners Association called the SON and KIK members "spoiled trust babies" who don't have to work to put bread on their tables.
$60+ each way airfare deals from!

KIK and SON were dismayed by the sheer numbers of people showing up to fight their bill. They said their opposition "gave compelling testimony about the money, money, money ....... they made and the taxes, taxes, taxes they pay and the people, people, people they employ." Although the Bill was only about enforcement, two Planning Commissioners openly said that it should include a permitting process, which would allow the transient accommodations to operate. KIK and SON were surprised the Planning Commission would give a nod to any discussion of permits for the vacation homes.

Therefore, they are regrouping to show up en masse at the August 24, 2011 meeting, and may be successful if history proves to repeat itself. Vacation rental permits were heavily debated in 2007 - 2008. The first part of the Planning Commission hearing (November 2007) went to the pro-visitor crowd who won by their attendance and clear presentations. KIK and SON then mustered their troops, refined their testimony and covered all their relevant points to turn the tide at the January 2008 continuation. KIK's position, particularly against any new permits, carried unanimously as a result. They now feel they must repeat that performance because losing at the Planning Commission level will devastate their chances with the City Council.

Makaha Valley, Oahu
Hawaiian Vacation House Rentals at Risk

The anti-tourist crowd hopes to speak less about their personal griefs and more about the impacts of the industry. Their discussion points include the facts that eleven neighborhood boards and the previous Planning Commission voted for improved enforceement against Bed and Breakfast accommodations and NO permitting process, and that a similar bill, introduced by the late Barbara Marshall, was unanimously adopted by the Planning Commission in 2008. It never received a committee hearing at the council, though.

Other concerns involve housing prices, lack of long-term rentals for Oahu residents, homelessness, and the integrity of the planning and zoning process. They believe vacation homes attract burglars into their community and alter the neighborhood's character. For the August 24 meeting, they will wear blue in a show of solidarity, while those in favor of the vacation homes usually wear leis as an indication of their aloha spirit of welcome.

"With the economy in turmoil and Hawaii teachers being forced to take a pay cut, I do not understand how the city could even consider hurting the economy more than it is already suffering by cracking down on vacation rentals," says Rachel Murdock of Kapolei, Oahu. "Some owners are forced to rent out their homes to visitors just to keep from losing their homes. Others do it to help supplement their income during a time of inflation and economic turmoil. I understand that some regulation may be necessary in the industry, but attacking rentals is foolish for Hawaii and would destroy many livelihoods. It completely disregards what Hawaii is known for all around the world: the spirit of aloha."

Infrastructure that supports the tourist industry will also be hurt by the Bill. Cleaners, handymen, restaurants and retail businesses depend on visitors for their incomes. As long as the vacation rentals don't disturb their communities with parking problems or loud noise, most agree they should be left alone.

Read more:


1 comment:

  1. Your post is absolutely great! Like me, pretty much sure lot of your readers had a great knowledge after they read your post.:) Thank you so much for sharing this!