Mythbusters: Kakaʻako Makai


Click here to view the full special insert on Kakaʻako Makai

OHA & Kakaʻako Makai

There has been an uptick in misinformation spread about OHA’s intentions & capabilities within the Kakaʻako Makai area. This page has been created to address several of the most common myths being shared, and questions asked from the community. OHA hopes to dispel these myths and misinformation in an effort to be fully transparent with our beneficiaries & the entire community.

OHA & Kakaʻako Makai

Is OHA an experienced land manager?

OHA first acquired land in 1988 when Pahua Heiau in Maunalua was deeded to OHA. Since then, OHA acquired and currently manages thousands of acres of legacy lands to protect our natural and cultural resources. These properties include Waimea Valley on Oʻahu, Wao Kele o Puna on Hawaiʻi Island, and Palauea Cultural Preserve on Maui. OHA has a decades-long track record of effective and responsible land management.


What has OHA done with Kakaʻako Makai since they acquired it in 2012?

OHA completed policy development and initial planning for the area, including a major conceptual master planning effort that included statewide input gathering from the community. Land use restrictions and long-term leases for some parcels that OHA “inherited” when the land was conveyed from the state have slowed progress in Kakaʻako Makai. Despite these challenges, the land currently generates about $4.5 million annually, a portion of which funds grants to the Native Hawaiian community.

Should OHA have accepted the Kakaʻako Makai settlement without residential zoning?

After decades of fighting at the Legislature and in court to compel the state to pay its debt to Native Hawaiians, OHA believed that the 2012 settlement was the best deal it could get at the time – and into the foreseeable future. In 2012, after rejecting proposed settlements for four consecutive years, legislators were at odds about whether OHA should be allowed to build housing on the lands proposed for transfer to the agency. OHA decided that accepting the lands with the existing residential prohibition and committing to return to the Capitol for further discussions after conducting our due diligence and planning, was the best option for our beneficiaries. These lands are clearly valuable, and despite being underutilized, they still generate revenue that helps to fund community grants.

If OHA gets involved in residential development won’t it result in public land sales?

OHA’s Kakaʻako Makai lands are not “public lands.” Once the state conveyed these Kakaʻako Makai lands to OHA, these lands became Native Hawaiian trust lands. In the spirit of Indigenous self-determination, Native Hawaiians deserve the right to determine the use of their own lands and OHA is seeking to acquire that right for Kakaʻako Makai. OHA’s immediate goal is to obtain the ability to choose between all available options for its land. If successful, OHA will perform a thorough analysis, carefully weigh all options, and determine a development scenario that honors our culture and creates the greatest value for our beneficiaries.

Residential Development in Kakaʻako Makai

Won’t building residential towers on OHA’s lands degrade the shoreline & block access to water activities like surfing?

OHA’s 30 acres at Kakaʻako Makai sit on a peninsula made entirely of man-made landfill. Regardless of what type of development OHA pursues, there will be no further degradation to the shoreline than what was suffered when the reef was filled in almost 70 years ago. In addition, ocean access on the makai shoreline nearest OHA’s parcels are not under OHA control. And access to the ocean on the harbor side of OHA’s parcels are subject to harbor rules. Regardless of whether OHA builds commercial or residential buildings, the environmental impact to the shoreline area will be negligible.

Kakaʻako Makai Land Ownership Map
Map of OHAʻs 10 parcels & neighboring land owners

Won’t residential towers at Kakaʻako Makai take away needed green space?

OHA’s land at Kakaʻako Makai is on either side of the Kakaʻako Waterfront and Gateway parks. Both parks are city properties that will not be touched by OHA’s planned development. In fact, OHA hopes that its development will complement these public green spaces by incorporating verdant landscaping using Native Hawaiian plants in the outdoor spaces of its building projects, regardless of use.

In light of climate change and rising sea levels, isn’t residential development at Kakaʻako Makai a questionable investment?

While our properties are near the ocean, they also sit at higher elevation than the cross streets and main streets that lay mauka of the peninsula. As a result, climate change and sea level rise are predicted to affect our Kakaʻako Makai parcels in ways similar to areas of Honolulu located much further inland.

KM Climate Change thumbA 2012 study found that the potential sea level rise (four feet) expected near the end of the century, or early next century, will cause drainage problems due to rainfall, groundwater rising, and ocean water flooding. The areas up mauka near the Neil Blaisdell Center will be impacted as much as our parcels, according to the study. Further modeling shows the McCully area, despite being far away from the ocean, being impacted similarly. OHA’s development plans will incorporate recommendations from studies like these to address predicted drainage issues. More information can be found here.

Won’t residential towers at Kakaʻako Makai alter the cityscape and block ocean views?

Kakaʻako has been evolving for decades from a light industrial area to a residential walking community. Yes, development of residential towers at Kakaʻako Makai will bring additional changes to the the Kakaʻako community, but no more so than any other recent development in the area. The vision of Kakaʻako has not yet been achieved, and Native Hawaiians should have the same opportunity to participate in the revitalization of Honolulu’s urban core with a mixed-use project that can complement existing mixed-use development mauka of Ala Moana Boulevard, while adding a distinct Hawaiian cultural presence and identity.

Kakaʻako Makai Viewplane pic