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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 12:25 p.m., Wednesday, December 4, 2002

Leasehold conversion opponents speak out

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser City Hall Writer

More than 200 community members with an interest in three condominium properties up for leasehold conversion today overflowed from the City Council chamber and packed the third floor of City Hall.

Many wearing matching shirts and carrying signs, opponents of the city's mandatory leasehold conversion law made it clear they did not intend to sit quietly as the City Council made its decision. As opponents waited for the meeting to begin, Hawaiian chants rang out from both sides of the chamber's doors.

Among the protesters were students from Halau Lokahi, a public charter school, and Kamehameha Schools' social studies and Hawaiian studies students, who came to observe the proceedings as part of their curriculum. Many wearing matching black T-shirts reading "Our Land Our Legacy," Kamehameha Schools supporters represented the biggest group opposing the city ordinance, which allows the City Council to force landowners to sell leasehold condominium owners the fee-simple interest in the land under their units.

Small landowner Sam Gilbert, the first person to testify, set the tone for the hearing: "Please stop this divisive and tyrannical procedure. Let's come up with a good business solution."

Kamehameha Schools' beachfront property under the Kahala Beach Apartments was the first conversion on the agenda today, followed by the First United Methodist Church's Admiral Thomas Apartments and the Camelot condominium, owned by the Kekuku Family Estate and the Catholic Church's Sisters of the Sacred Heart.

With at least 107 people planning to testify on the Kahala Beach resolution, decisions were not expected to come until this afternoon.

The condemnations are the first to come before the City Council since the Hawai'i Supreme Court ruled that the city ordinance was constitutional, but the Council had been interpreting it incorrectly. An effort by the Council to correct the language of the ordinance sparked a fierce protest that led to that bill's demise.