Honolulu has been swept up in a wave of misinformation that could change our lives - our homes, our land, our rights - forever.
The ahupua'a of Honolulu and Kapalama have been proposed as a future National Heritage Area (NHA) site,
a permanent federal designation which was introduced
in Congress as S. 359 and H. 1297. This designation is being sought by a small group of people and organizations - many of whom do not even live in the areas, and was undertaken without our knowledge, agreement or participation.
The proposed managing group of non-profits, tourist businesses and government people (the Hawaii Capital Cultural Coalition or HCCC) will survey and inventory homes, businesses and sites in the area and make recommendations about them. For property owners, this will lead to more permitting steps, design restrictions, zoning restrictions or even possibly condemnation. The HCCC plan must then be approved by the Secretary of the Interior so it is not really a "local" plan---yet it will become the "blueprint for managing the area" (Congressional Research Service, 2006).
Even if you don't own property, the NHA can affect you. The recommendations of this unelected, outside managing group will overrule the voice of all other businesses, non-profit and community groups and residents in the area. The future of our communities will be at the mercy of an outside group seeking control over vast areas and chasing (shrinking) federal funds.
NHA designation has negatively impacted property and lives in other areas. In Wheeling, West Virginia, the management group’s plan recommended that 90% of downtown Wheeling be condemned for a Victorian themed outlet mall (see ‘Condemnation’). Property, business owners and residents had to fight that case to the State Supreme Court.
In Yuma, Arizona, residents protested NHA designation. It took three years for community concerns to be addressed at the federal level and the plan to be reduced from 22 square miles to 4 square miles.
Recently, funding for NHAs is being cut back citing issues about lack of key management controls, criteria for designation, accountability and standards for how federal funds are spent as well as concerns about property rights.
There is no need to place most of Honolulu under a permanent federal designation in order to celebrate our heritage and tell our stories. If you want to protect your rights, get involved. Ask questions. Write or call your neighborhood board members and your state legislators. Write or call the Hawaii Congressional delegation. Or join the Honolulu Alliance. Your voice counts.