KNB to HTA: Stop promoting “Illegal” Visitor Lodging in Kailua

Media distorts Resolution with Sensational Headlines

The Kailua Neighborhood Board passed a resolution in September requesting the Hawaii Tourism Authority (a state-supported agency) to stop promoting Kailua’s “residential-zoned” neighborhoods for visitor accommodations in their marketing material. All of Kailua’s neighborhoods are zoned residential, not resort. Visitor lodging businesses (hotels, motels, vacation rentals & B&B lodges) are “non-conforming” in residential-only zoning. While there are a few Kailua vacation rentals and B&B lodges (65) that are grandfathered with “non-conforming use” certificates that enable them to operate legally, over 80% of the estimated 500 vacation rentals and B&B hotels in Kailua are ILLEGAL.

Weekly rental

Prior to the resolution, the Hawaii Tourism Authority marketing material made no reference to the fact that the vast majority of vacation rental and B&B lodges in Kailua are illegal and more importantly, it did not inform vacationers on how to know if their accommodations were legitimate or not.

In addition, The Kailua Neighborhood Board explained to the Hawaii Tourism Authority that short-term rentals reduce the housing supply for local residents, contribute to escalating rents and housing prices, promote crime and negatively impact the social, environmental and cultural residential character of Kailua’s neighborhoods.

Keep it Kailua believes the Kailua Neighborhood Board’s resolution is a fair and reasonable request. After all, a “public” agency should not be promoting illegal activities directly or indirectly.

Last week, An AP article picked-up by many mainland news agencies ran a story regarding the resolution. Many of media outlets utilized misleading headlines such as “Hawaii town to State: Stop sending tourists here” and “Kailua Residents Want Tourists to Stay Away”. As expected, the media wants to attract readers and sell ads, so they feel compelled to use sensational headlines that are over the top.  The truth is the Kailua Neighborhood Board resolution never stated or even implied visitors are not welcome to Kailua. The resolution simply asked the Hawaii Tourism Authority to stop promoting visitor lodging businesses in Kailua’s residential zoned neighborhoods.

Who is to blame? Certainly the Hawaii Tourism Authority and their marketing experts deserve to be blamed for their blunder. They have always been aware that the vast majority of Kailua’s vacation rentals and B&B lodges are illegal and the community opposes them, but they did nothing to inform visitors to stay away from these scofflaw businesses. After the resolution was introduced, the Hawaii Tourism Authority should have explained to the media that the resolution was the community’s objection to the promotion of illegal visitor accommodations in residential-only zoning and informed visitors on how to “officially” determine if their accommodations are legitimate. Instead, the Hawaii Tourism Authority ignored the issue of the illegal businesses and said they want to “bring balance” to the Kailua community.

Our politicians and City Officials should also be held responsible for not publicly explaining the intent of the resolution and emphasizing the fact that all visitor lodging businesses are non-conforming in residential zoning. They could have easily defused the issue by sympathizing with the neighborhood board’s desire to have our zoning laws enforced and assisting the Hawaii Tourism Authority in educating visitors on how to determine if their lodging choices are legal.

But ultimately, the majority of the blame should be directed at the owners of the illegal vacation rentals and B&B lodges. Illegal is illegal. These scofflaws are breaking the law. It’s time for them to be shut down!

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