Priced Out Of Paradise: The Reality Of Gentrification On The North Shore
“Basically what Hawaii has become is a preferred place for the international one percent to buy property.”
They have a new nickname for Oahu’s Seven Mile Miracle. It’s called “Haolewood” in honour of the wealthy white demographic. In a lengthy interview, the Da Hui co-founder and longtime grass-roots community man on the North Shore of Oahu took aim at gentrification, the corrupt ruling class, their relationship with the World Surf League, and the eviction of native Hawaiians from the islands.
“It just doesn’t happen. Not for the local people. ‘You move, we’re taking. You move we’re taking. Move over.’ Fuck you!” says Rothman into the camera.
So prohibitive has the cost of housing and the rental market become throughout Oahu and much of Hawaii, many native Polynesian-Hawaiians have found themselves forced out of the islands and onto the American mainland.
“Basically what Hawaii has become is a preferred place for the international one percent to buy property,” explains Lawrence Boyd, an economist and associate specialist with the University of Hawaii Center for Labor Education Research, in the series Priced Out Of Paradise, by Hawaii News Now.
As of September 2015, the median sales price of a home on Oahu hit a record-high $730,000, up 7.6 percent from the year before and 17 percent from 2010, according to the Honolulu Board of Realtors. Locals just can’t compete. In their place multi-million dollar mansions have sprung up, the cream of which line the famous strip between Sunset, Pipeline and Off The Wall, along with countless high-profile high-rise developments throughout the islands. Rothman, who is of Jewish descent and was born on the American mainland, relocated to Hawaii in the seventies. He has long fought for the rights of local people through the prism of surf culture by sponsoring local events, local surfers, and organising opposition to what he perceives as the corporate takeover of the North Shore of Oahu.
Paraphrasing the government, he says, “‘We just take the land over there the way we do what we like over there.’”
“Let’s see you do that in the white neighbourhoods like Sunset Beach, let’s do it over here in Kahalo, or Diamond Head, yeah that’ll go over big wouldn’t it, where there are some lawyers and some rich people running around. No, we’ll pick on the local people it’s non-stop, take, take take take. That’s all our government does to the local people. Get em out, push em into the bushes, die,” he says.
The changing demographic of the North Shore at the expense of grass root communities has, in Rothman’s opinion, led to locals increasingly losing their grip on the waves in the area and their access to them. He claims the World Surf League has made generous financial donations to local politicians to lock locals out of their waves for much of the Hawaiian winter so they can host high-profile surfing contests for international athletes.
“Who puts the more money gets the job…Why do we (the locals) have one contest (the Da Hui Backdoor Shootout)? We asked to have another one; we asked to have the Duke at Sunset for one day. ‘No you can’t have that.’… The WSL puts money. There’s no crime against that, they put it in the campaign fund, some for the mayor, some for the governor, you get what you like around here,” he says.
It was a similar complaint that led to the creation of Da Hui and the Black Shorts in the seventies, and the fearsome Wolfpak crew that followed; two local surf tribes that made no secret of their goal to serve the interests of the local community before all others. Their presence on the North Shore has, for better or worse, melted away as the police presence and influx of wealth has increased.
He also proposes wealthier locals, including himself, set-up a financial fund so local people can employ legal aid to help keep the government and developers honest.
“All those people that live in nice houses and drive nice cars, of white descent or Japanese descent or Chinese descent, hey, it’s time now that we have to do something here. We should get together and make a coalition where we put money that’s not controlled by me, you guys decide how. Let’s get some money from people who want to be in there to do something to check our government to make sure things are going right and people don’t get picked on and bullied all the time–like what’s happening in this state. It just doesn’t happen. Not for the local people,” he says.
University Of Hawaii economist Lawrence Boyd’s suggests a solution whereby the local government attempts to stunt outside demand from investors looking to buy into Hawaii.
“If you engineered the exemption properly, more of these places would be rented long-term rather than as vacation rentals and because there would be an increase in that, that would lower the prices for local rentals,” he told Hawaii News.
One thing’s for sure: the heat’s going to be on this Hawaiian winter. At 68 you better believe Fast Eddie ain’t going down without a fight.
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