California couple’s ‘mini-hotel’ draws complaints

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald This single-family home, a future vacation rental with attached ohana unit, towers over its neighbors in the Leleiwi oceanfront community near Hilo.

Neighbors of a large vacation rental under construction in the oceanfront community of Leleiwi are appealing county Planning Department approval of a special management area permit.

The six-bedroom, five-bath residence, including a 3,434-square-foot main floor area and 2,244 square feet in accessory areas, is broken into a single-family residence and a smaller, attached ohana unit. The raised, three-story structure is located across Kalanianaole Avenue from Leleiwi Beach Park.

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It’s one of five parcels in the small community owned by Richard and Deborah Standke, who live in the tony Los Angeles neighborhood of Bell Canyon. The Standkes also own the two houses next door.

Four of the houses in Leleiwi, all zoned residential, are listed on Airbnb for $300-$397 a night.

Seven neighbors, including members of the Leleiwi Community Association, on Feb. 23 filed a complaint with the county, saying the $800,000 construction cost exceeds the $500,000 threshold that requires greater public input.

SMA permits are divided into major and minor permits. Major permits, with the $500,000 threshold, go before the Planning Commission for public input. Minor permits are decided by the Planning Department without a public hearing.

Standke defends the structure as offering much-needed short-term housing for large families and groups such as Merrie Monarch participants and sporting groups from other islands.

“This location is of great economic benefit to Hilo and Hawaii. People need to discover the beauty of Hilo and their ocean park gems and vacation rentals allow whole families to be together under one roof to vacation and enjoy Hilo,” Standke said. “There are few larger housing units for large groups and this house fills that need.”

Standke acknowledged the structure “sticks out,” but said once construction is complete and landscaping put in, it will blend in with the community.

But Stefan Buchta, one of the members of the Leleiwi Community Association, said the building isn’t a single-family house, but a “mini-hotel” located in a residential area.

“His properties are already bringing dozens of high impact short-term renters to the Leleiwi area,” the complaint states.

“With the new building, this will get much worse. Mr. Standke is in the process of creating an entire semi-legal hotel area of three adjoining lots and there is a potential for significant adverse cumulative impact on the beach parks across the street.”

The Honolulu City Council earlier this week imposed a moratorium on new large-scale homes in residential neighborhoods there, which the press has dubbed “monster homes.” Hawaii County has no such law.

The residence-plus-ohana has secured the required county permits, but neighbors aren’t satisfied, saying the owner is exploiting loopholes in current law. Neighbors also worry about the fragile environment in the area and the presence of many green sea turtles across the street.

County planner Jeff Darrow didn’t agree the owner found loopholes in the law.

He said the cost of the ohana unit would be what triggered a major SMA, not the cost of the single-family home.

Darrow said the county would likely contact Standke for clarification of construction costs.

Standke said Friday he hasn’t seen a copy of the complaint nor has he been contacted by the county.

He defended his rehabilitation of houses in the area.

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“People think it’s quaint to have T1-11 (plywood siding) and a rusty sheet-metal roof,” Standke said. “That’s crap construction versus nice construction.”

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.