Hawaii’s DoBOR, Facing Increasing Scrutiny, Bails on RFP for Ala Wai Properties

New RFP Process Likely to Include Kumulipo’s Community-Inclusive Proposal

The DLNR’s Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DoBOR) has, of late, found itself deluged with UIPA/Sunshine Law demands for public access to documentation.  This increased interest in DoBOR due dilligence may have been, at least in part, responsible for the State’s announcement Friday, October 25th, to abandon requests for proposals (RFP) for privatization of four parcels surrounding the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor.  The two corporate entities with proposals outstanding were Howard Hughs Corporation and a corporate entity representing Hilton Hawaiian properties.  We suspect that there were some irregularities in the State’s RFP process that might have better been left in the shade, hence the abandonment.

Both, DLNR Chair, Suzanne Case, and DoBOR Administrator, Edward Underwood, appeared to be uncharacteristically contrite when they made the announcement: Suzanne Case, "I fully support the committee's decision to take a step back, study the process and come up with a new plan."

Edward Underwood added, "DOBOR remains committed to harbor projects to maintain and improve all of its boatng and ocean recreation facilities across Hawai'i. We want to do this right and we're looking for a win-win proposal." 

We're always interested in clarifications when Mr. Underwood announces that he is " . . . looking for a win-win proposal."

Howard Hughs corporation and the Hilton Hawaiian submitted proposals to the State, wanting to take possession of public lands surrounding the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor, including the beach access area to the world famous Ala Moana Bowls surf spot, and privatize them for their own purposes.  A promotional company, DTL Studios, appeared to be charged with the task of selling the State on the "virtues" of privatizing the Ala Wai public properties, using slick brochures and highly controlled "public meetings."  Hawaii Senator, Donovan Dela Cruz has a financial stake in DTL Studios.

While the murky details of the RFP irregularities are still being investigated, the Attorney General’s office has received at least one formal request for intervention.  Lawsuits may follow.  Ed Underwood, DoBOR administrator, who has consistently been less than candid about the most recent RFP process, may find himself at the center of the storm as investigations continue and legal challenges emerge.

The last time the DLNR attempted to privatize the Ala Wai properties was back in 2009.  A multinational company that was based in Utah, Honey Bee USA, got the nod for development, started construction in 2014 and then, shortly after, bailed out through a bankruptcy filing, leaving State taxpayers holding the bag for somewhere in the vicinity of $300,000, plus lost income in successive years, which may add up to somewhere in the $3,000,000 range. The Honey Bee fiasco left the nearly one thousand boats in the vicinity with no ancillary services.  You can read about the DLNR's previous attempt to privatize the Ala Wai properties here.


The Kumulipo Proposal -- A Breath of Fresh Air

Meanwhile, Kumulipo Studios, a non-profit organization, has come forward with a plan for the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor -– the “Gateway to Waikiki” -– with a community-inclusive model that does not privatize public lands for the sake of private-interest profits.  The Kumulipo proposal is a breath of fresh air, suggesting facilities that serve the nearly one thousand boats in the nearby boating community with full support services such as a boat haul out facility and marine fuel dock, as well as the surrounding non-boating community that regularly uses this area.  The plan suggests an inclusion of a Keiki learning center and the accommodation of meeting places for the surrounding harbor and condo communities. 

Kumulipo Plan (click to enlarge):

The Kumulipo proposal was rejected during the recently failed RFP process because of a filing technicality.   Kumulipo fully intends to submit their proposal again as soon as a new RFP is formally announced.


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