Another monster home in Diamond Head; residents frustrated with city, state over "lax regulations"
Some Diamond Head residents are upset about a new "monster home" being built in that area.
DIAMOND HEAD, Hawaii - Some Diamond Head residents are upset about a new "monster home" being built in that area. The city's already issued the builder multiple violation notices and a stop work order, yet construction continues.
It's an empty lot now, but city records show the plans are to build a 7,341 square foot house and accessory dwelling unit at 3929 Gail Street in Diamond Head. Neighbor Lambert Wai says, "It looks like it's going to be pretty bad. From what I understand, it looks like two structures there, it's going to be high, it's going to obstruct the view."
Michelle Matson is on the neighborhood board and watching the progress closely. We asked her how is the home going to ruin your neighborhood and she responds, "It already has- and it's not even been built yet."
The board hasn't taken an official position on the house yet, but Matson ticks off a list of problems she's already noticed. "It's torn out the trees, it's created a massive wall that's illegal."
She points to a 12 foot tall cinder block wall. City ordinance limits the wall to six feet in height.
The city's department of planning and permitting (DPP) has issued multiple violation notices to various contractors and the homeowner on this project:
May 25, 2016 – Cutting down five coconut trees without a Diamond Head Special Design District permit. Permit approved Aug. 8, 2016.
June 15, 2018 – Two additional trees removed without the special design district permit. Permit approved Aug. 19, 2018.
July 12, 2018 – Notice of Violation issued for work on a swimming pool that began without a permit. A permit was issued on Aug. 16, 2018 and the violation was corrected. Double fee penalty of $2,221 paid.
Jan. 2, 2019 – Notice of Violation issued for work on a retaining wall that began without a permit. The violation has not been corrected and the Notice of Violation has been referred to our code compliance branch for a Notice of Order and civil fines.
March 15, 2019 – Notice of Violation issued for exceeding the scope of a grading permit. A stop work order for not following the grading permit was issued earlier this month and the violator has until April 15 to correct the violation.
The state once revoked the builder's license for a lapsed workers compensation policy- the license was technically forfeited on December 19, 2017. The state reinstated it on June 4, 2018 when HH Construction got the insurance. HH Construction has not returned our calls.
KITV4 asked the city why a project with so many violations can continue. "Often, violations are issued for work done without a permit. In most cases, the violator is required to obtain a permit to correct the violation, if the work can meet code. In cases where it is unlikely that the work can comply with code requirements, the only way to correct the violation would be to remove the offending work. When an after-the-fact permit is needed, the penalty is double the usual permit fee," it tells us.
The DPP also points out it accepted a building permit application for a two-story, single-family dwelling at 3929 Gail Street on May 10, 2016. "Although the permit was not issued until May 24, 2018, the plans were submitted prior to the passage of the 'monster house' moratorium in 2018 and not subject to its restrictions. We also issued an accessory dwelling building permit on May 24, 2018," it adds.
This doesn't satisfy neighbors like Matson, who say we need stronger building codes. "Developers, contractors, offshore people have found a way to get through all this because the laws are so weak."
This is just one of many large homes being built around Oahu. HI Good Neighbor is a watchdog group that tracks and fights them. Group member Tyler Dos Santos Tam says the city's response to this project is actually encouraging. "The fact that the city issued several violations and a stop work order says they're taking it seriously. But we need to see more action island wide," he says, while urging neighbors around the island to continue to report illegal building activity.
The city council's zoning committee on Thursday passed a bill that would more strictly regulate monster homes. That bill goes to the full council April 17.
Here are some of the highlights from the bill:
- Establishes a maximum floor area ratio (a measure of density) of 0.7
- Limits the number of wet bars and laundry rooms
- Limits the number of bathrooms a single home can have
- Limits the impervious surface of a property to 75%
- Adds additional standards for homes with floor area ratios between 0.6-0.7
- For large homes, allows DPP to conduct subsequent inspections for up to a year after completion
- Increases the amount of parking required, so that people don't park on the street
The Gail Street home will be on the neighborhood board's agenda on May 1 - the first time they'll be talking about it, but probably not the last.