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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chinatown plan supported


By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Setting up solid-wall tents in city parks, like this one at Kapi'olani Park, would require a permit under City Council Bill 07-10.

Advertiser library photo

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Several dozen mostly immigrant Chinese residents and their offspring went to City Hall yesterday to support a plan to guide growth in Chinatown, as well as to voice their disapproval of a city-sponsored project to help the homeless population there.

The City Council voted 9-0 to approve a resolution urging Mayor Mufi Hannemann's administration to prepare the special-area plan for the section bounded by Vineyard Boulevard, Nimitz Highway, Nu'uanu Stream and Nu'uanu Avenue.

And though Resolution 09-364 approved yesterday does not specifically stop the city's 100-unit River Street residential facility for people who are chronically homeless, residents with concerns about the project received assurances that the project would not move forward unless area Councilman Rod Tam and a majority of the community support it.

Howard Lum, president of the Lum Sai Ho Tong Chinese society, whose building is near the property targeted for the project, said Chinatown needs a special plan to guide its growth.

"In spite Chinatown being a unique, historical and culturally significant community, we do not have any up-to-date plan that would alleviate the problems such as crime, sanitation, housing, and social and economic matters," Lum said.

Wesley Fong, president of Mun Lun School, which is on the block makai of the planned project, said 80 percent of the Chinese-language school's 270 students live in the area.

The River Street residential facility is planned for an inappropriate area, Fong said, one "surrounded by schools, temples, senior housing and commercial establishments." He said such a project "would cause an economic and social blight" and suggested that affordable housing for senior citizens would make more sense there.

Not everyone felt that way.

June Shimokawa, a parishioner of Harris United Methodist Church, said, "We recognize the desperate need in our city for affordable permanent residences for homeless persons."

Shimokawa said her church endorses the Housing First model used in several Mainland cities to provide permanent shelter for homeless people that's being planned for the city's River Street property.

John Fielding, a member of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, said different interests in the Chinatown community should get together and discuss their concerns before moving toward a special plan that could stifle needless development.

The latest draft of the resolution, unlike the original, would not prevent the homeless complex from moving forward.

But Ernie Martin, deputy director of the city Department of Community Services, reiterated that the city administration would not move forward without the support of Tam and the neighborhood board. Both have expressed opposition to the project.

Tam said he will use funds from his office budget to pay for the special-area plan.

In related news, the council gave preliminary approval to two bills designed that could make it more difficult for homeless people to congregate at city parks.

Bill 07-10 would require people to get a permit to put up any tent with a solid wall. The administration says it would not affect special events such as ethnic festivals, since they already must obtain event permits, nor parkgoers simply seeking to put up canopies for shade.

Bill 08-10 would bar shopping carts at city parks.

Also yesterday, the council cleared the way for a final vote next month on Resolution 10-03, condemning two parcels of land in Hau'ula for a new fire station.