Center for Labor Education & Research, University of Hawaii - West Oahu: Honolulu Record Digitization Project

Honolulu Record, Volume 10 No. 9, Thursday, September 26, 1957 p. 1


Speculators Clean Up; HAC Must Pay Sucker Price for Airport Land

Why did the Territory refuse to condemn 24 acres of Damon Tract in 1956 and save millions of dollars for the taxpayers?

This question is haunting the Damon Tract land transactions which will force the wholesale removal of 300 families. Many with low income have no place to go or turn to.

Residents Petitioned

This question is getting another close examination since the Territory is now offering to pay $3,586-000 for 69 acres for a jet-age airport when it could have condemned 224 acres of the tract for about the same amount in early 1958.

That was when residents of Damon Tract demanded the Territory condemn the whole area, part of which was already envisioned for airport use. The balance of the tract could be taken out for airport expansion as it was needed, meanwhile allowing residents with huge aggregate investments to live there, the tenants declared.

Suddenly the trustees of Damon Estate sold the entire tract in March 1956 to Kan Jung Luke and Mrs. Lillian Tom Loo for $4.5 million, or about 50 cents per square foot. The down payment was $100,000.which real estate people declared was shockingly small for such a big deal. The estate gave Luke and Loo 15 years to pay the balance at 4 percent interest.

Did the estate sell the tract for tax consideration? If this is so, tenants have said, why didn't it sell to the Territory and help the public realize a saving totaling millions?

George Roberts, then president of the Kaloaloa Neighborhood Assn. comprising Damon Tract, declared the sale was a "honey." He said, "You don't make a million dollar deal for a 2 percent down payment. The deal . . . doesn't sound right."

Big Name Trustees

Trustees of the Damon Estate at that time were big-name figures who, tenants and many others said, are expected to think of the public interest.

They were:

ROLAND GRAHAM BELL, president of Alexander & Baldwin, a Big Five firm.
JOHN EDWARD RUSSELL, president of Theo. H. Davies, a Big Five firm.
HERMAN VALDEMAR VON HOLT, president of Hygienic Dairy, Ltd., and Hawaiian Feed Co.. Ltd.: vice president of Kahua Ranch, Ltd.
SAMUEL DAMON, deceased, was president of Koimana Enterprises, Ltd., which handled affairs of the Damon Estate.

These trustees receiving from $13.000 to $14,000 in trustee commissions gave the deal to private people at unheard-of terms.

Officials Shortsighted

Now the public treasury is being drained needlessly because of the shortsightedness of territorial officials', headed then by Gov. Sam King, who received petitions from Damon Tract residents to condemn the land before it was sold.

Since it was sold, the city planning commission in what many saw a great and undue haste re-zoned the area for a "commercial park." This resetting, opposed by public organizations and residents of the area, has inflated the value of land of Damon Tract.

Even before Loo and Luke filed a formal request for rezoning, then city planning director George Houghtailing was pushing for re-zoning Houghtailing has since retired and is a planning consultant, employed by developers of land.

Threatened Eviction

The Damon Tract residents petitioned Gov. King to come to their assistance because the new owners, Luke and Loo, were threatening to evict them for non-payment of land rent which was being boosted from about $80 minimum and $320 maximum a year to from $220 minimum to $1,300 maximum.

The tenants then told the governor:

"The annual Interest Loo and Luke pay on the unpaid purchase price at the agreed rate of 4 per cent amounts to $176,000 per year. Rents at the excessive rate demanded from us amount to about $210,000 for the tract. Thus Loo and Luke, who have invested in the Damon Tract only $1 for every $28 we tenants have invested in our homes, are asking us not only to finance the purchase of the ground on which our homes stand, but to pay them a profit besides. . . . Loo and Luke also seek to collect from us for water 25 per cent more than they pay the Damon Estate for water."

A. P. Storrs, Hawaii Aeronautics Commission director, said this month when the Territory deposited $3,586,000 at the circuit court for 69 acres condemnation price that the landowners "have been trying to jack up the value of land."

Value Boosted

The value was boosted as follows:

The city planning commission re-zoned the area in face Of strong opposition.

Within a few months after the original purchase, Luke and Loo sold 25 acres to Harris Associates for 41,653,075, taking $75,000 down payment or 75 percent of their own down payment on 224 acres. They gave Harris Associates five years to pay. Land price had tripled, from 50 cents a square foot to $1.50.

This summer Harris Associates sold this same tract to another real estate hui for $2.5 million, or a realization of $800,000 to $900,000 profit in less than a year.

Even if Luke and Loo were to accept the $3,586,000 offered by the Territory, they would have realized close to $750,000 on the sale of 69 acres to the Territory and 25 acres to Harris Associates, a total of 94 acres of a total 224 acres. Meantime, Harris Associates has petted close to a million on a single 25-acre transaction.

The Territory not only is forced to pay a fantastic price for needed land today, but 300 families in Damon Tract are victims of official shortsightness and negligence, many say.

Damon Tract residents told Gov. King last year, "If the land is condemned now, government "agencies can be mandated to permit the residents of the tract to remain at reasonable rents until suitable land is made available for the orderly relocation of their homes, or low cost housing is constructed for those whose homes cannot be moved."
A prominent Honolulu attorney said this week that this whole situation concerning Damon Tract is a "scandal of the century."

p /> I do not say that at odd hours a patient must be given the regular hot dinner or supper. Few people would expect this.
But what is so complicated about opening and heating a can of soup, making some toast, or preparing instant coffee or tea? Why cannot a night nurse do these simple things after the kitchen to closed? Is it just too much trouble?

It is only common humanity to feed the hungry. If our hospitals are too big, too complex, too impersonal to do these small kindnesses for the sick, something is very wrong.