No Rhyme or Reason to Rental Rates

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One of the more puzzling aspects of the use of beach reserve land in Kihei is the wide range of rents charged to those holding landscaping permits. At the low end are the many permit holders who enjoy the use of state land for free.

The area used by the Hale Pau Hana for its revetment is the most expensive property in the group, albeit one of the smallest. For the use of 4,500 square feet of state land (the area of the revetment), Hale Pau Hana pays $232 per month. By contrast, the Hale Pau Hana’s enjoyment of 24,200 square feet of lawn and garden area costs it just $29 per month.

Odd Contrasts

The difference between the rent paid by the Mana Kai Maui and the Kihei Surfside would seem to be yet another example of the lack of transparent logic in the assignment of rental fees.

The resorts sit next door to each other in south Kihei. Both enjoy the use of the same state parcel, which wholly surrounds the private land on which the buildings proper have been built. State and county zonings are identical.

The Mana Kai Maui owners pay $101 a month for what amounts to the exclusive enjoyment of 13,000 square feet of state land. (Their landscaping spills over onto unencumbered state land to the south and west, for which they apparently pay no rent at all. In addition, state land to the east is used by the condos for spillover parking as well as for the resort’s garbage dumpster. But the unauthorized use of state land is a separate matter.)

By most standards, the rent, amounting to less than a penny per square foot per month, would be regarded as a bargain. When compared with the rent paid by its neighbor to the north, Mana Kai Maui’s rents seem sky-high.

The Kihei Surfside has a permit to landscape two and a half acres of state beach reserve land, or roughly ten times the area under permit to the Mana Kai Maui. As with the Mana Kai Maui, the Surfside’s landscaping appears to have extended into unencumbered state land. Unlike the Mana Kai Maui, the Surfside’s landscaping is far more extensive, including several putting greens and a barbecue shelter. For its use of state land, the Surfside pays $117 a month, or barely a tenth of a cent per square foot.

According to records at the Department of Land and Natural Resources, the 1993 assessed valuation for the land occupied by the Kihei Surfside came to $9,100; that for the Mana Kai Maui came to $46,000.

One possible explanation for the discrepancy today may lie in the fact that the two areas under permit were assigned vastly different values at the time the original permits were issued. One plausible explanation for that difference, in turn, might be found in the political associations of the developers of the Kihei Surfside. According to Gavan Daws and George Cooper’s Land and Power in Hawai’i, the partners in Seaside Developers, which developed the Kihei Surfside, included Masaru “Pundy” Yokouchi, who at the time of the development was Governor John Burns’ Maui representative; Marvin P. Romme, who was at the time a member of the Maui Planning Commission; and David Y.S. Kong, at the time a member of the Maui County Council. Attorney for the developer was Hiroshi Sakai, who, according to Land and Power in Hawai’i, had earlier served as chief clerk and counsel to several key legislative committees.1

By contrast, the political connections of the Mana Kai Maui developers were not as deep. Land and Power in Hawai’i cites just one, in fact: that of Meyer M. Ueoka, a former District Court magistrate, delegate to the 1968 Constitutional Convention, and House of Representatives (among other things).

1 Land and Power in Hawai`i (Benchmark Books: Honolulu, 1985), pp. 285-287.

Volume 5, Number 1 July 1994

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