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.


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.


“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

  1. MDK 88 March 4, 2018 2:45 am

    Wow Standke, what a wonderful
    attitude. Not long after you finish building you’ll probably have a gate and guard put up just after James Kealoha Park and turn “your” half of Keaukaha into a gated community. And this spineless county will let you do it too.

  2. SHAUN sheep March 4, 2018 6:56 am

    Here comes the higher residential tax evaluation for everyone else! The bully with hoards of California cash has landed.

    Keep Hilo like it was, that is why people came here. We had peace, and aloha and yes! the rusty roofs which are definitely more quaint that the California bs model!

    1. Steve Dearing March 4, 2018 7:25 am

      Foolish demo rats caused this problem and they are taxing residents to death. The worst is yet to come, all demo rats want is fools to support their over tax and over spend agenda that working residents can not afford. Lying Harry is destroying Hawaii.

      1. SHAUN sheep March 4, 2018 7:38 am

        You may want to add the real estate industry to that, as the principal culprit for what is happening. Home and land prices are being marketed for the masses of mainland and overseas investors running away from a slippery market. Yes, folks are selling for a fat was, but where are they going to go? To the mainland? Hahaha!

        1. Steve Dearing March 4, 2018 8:06 am

          I agree but the source of the problems are in fact demo rats taxing residents out of existence, not to mention the fools that voted to be taxed to death.

          1. Alex March 4, 2018 8:56 am

            Steve, there is a little secret: The majority of taxes generated by tourists sadly don’t stay on our island. This is not Harry Kim’s fault, he inherited a huge mess. This thing was also not created by “the democrats”, I assure you, because our democratic law makers (such as our senator Kahele) have been trying hard to fix it. I feel your pain and I am not happy about the proposed GET tax increases, either. But not everything is what it seems to be. Counties in Hawaii have less revenue raising authority than local governments do in most states. The U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR) observed in 1989, “Consequently, [Hawaii’s] counties are limited in their ability to initiate new functions.” Hawaii’s state government guards its taxing power jealously. Hawaii has 17 separate tax laws of which 14 are administered by the State; the counties administer only the local property tax, the motor vehicle weight tax, and the public utility franchise tax.

          2. Steve Dearing March 4, 2018 9:09 am

            Your robot reply reflects lying Harry’s agenda. Only foolish demo rats would believe lying Harry or those that support such crap.

          3. Alex March 4, 2018 9:16 am

            Ever seen a passionate robot? Just one of your neighbors. If we want to fix anythingt, then we first have to recognize the true culprit. This is a state vs. county issue, not repub vs democrats.

          4. Steve Dearing March 4, 2018 9:32 am

            Phony demo rat excuses will not solve the problem. The culprit is the corrupt demo rat agenda, demo rats want more of the same damned crap. Either by ballot or Civil War, the choice is ours.

          5. Poi March 4, 2018 5:28 pm

            Steve D can’t comprehend “non-partisan” nor “bipartisan”, believe me.

  3. PUNATIC March 4, 2018 8:14 am

    Darrow?….how did this cop killing drunk get into the planning dept.?…..oh, that’s right, harry kim……darrow has NO planning background so I guess anything goes…..send the bean counter, standke, back to California and take darrow with him!

    1. Alex March 4, 2018 9:11 am

      I’ve met with Jeffrey Darrow and he has been very nice and approachable. I don’t think we should attack him personally, that would not be fair. Let the best arguments win. And I think that Jeffrey’s argument may not stand. I researched this with the state office for SMA permits. What the planning department is asked to be looking for is “cummulative impact” on the SMA zone (Richardson’s beach park across the street). I was told by the state official that , “the key is “significant impact and you have to go case by case to determine it. Even if it it single-family or split up into main-/ohana- house, it does not mean that a project is automatically excempt from public scrutiny. If there are other developments surrounding it, then potentially there is significant impact. [The same owner, Standke, owns surrounding properties and already rents out four houses, so there are “other developments”]

      1. Steve Dearing March 4, 2018 2:58 pm

        For the record, Jeff Darrow is an honest man, do not blame the messenger. Whether you agree or disagree with the message one must realize that the demo rats wrote the script.

        1. MDK 88 March 6, 2018 2:47 am

          The next time you talk to Jeffery Darrow, ask him how he came to end up in the position he currently has. Hopefully he’ll give an honest, straight, answer.

  4. Steve Marino March 4, 2018 8:25 am

    I would love to know how this is going to provide “much-needed short-term housing for large families and groups such as Merrie Monarch participants and sporting groups from other islands.” It’s only 6 bedrooms.

  5. Elizabeth Krsnapriya Bush March 4, 2018 10:23 am

    Keep hilo hilo…

    1. Steve Dearing March 4, 2018 11:21 am

      Then vote wisely, lying Harry and the Council Bandits are taxing it to death.

      1. Elizabeth Krsnapriya Bush March 4, 2018 12:21 pm

        No viable candidates, imho. I just continue to serve the people no one else gives a hoot about and barely pay my bills with the crumbs thar the big mainland insurance cos. (that grabbed the state medicare medicaid contracts) pay fools like me. For this, i spent seven years in nursing school and paid off 80 k in student loans. The rich get richer. At least i will feel ok when i finally meet my msker.

        1. Steve Dearing March 4, 2018 12:44 pm

          I share your pain and understand this is unacceptable. We can and must do better. United we stand, divided we fell. I agree for hard working residents to be so gravely harmed by a corrupt demo rat agenda is intolerable. May God bless their victims and damn the demo rats. Their corrupt agenda is unsustainable and will come to an end.

          1. Elizabeth Krsnapriya Bush March 4, 2018 12:52 pm

            They are all corrupt regardless of political affiliation. If i was younger I’d be in nz or au where democracy still has a heart beat and prople do not have to enter poverty to get medical bills paid. They pay their medical people enough to live on. I am a mental health provider who served after the 911 tragedies. Everything began to deteriorate from that day forward .Should have migrated then.

          2. Steve Dearing March 4, 2018 2:36 pm

            Patriots have no political affiliation, there is only one driving force. Give patriots the liberty and justice we have died fighting far. To hell with demo rats, icans or any other enemy be they foreign or from within.

          3. Elizabeth Krsnapriya Bush March 4, 2018 6:36 pm

            I am a daughter of tje American Revolution with ancestors dating to Jamestown and plymouth rock. My only affiliation is to the declaration of independence and the united states constitution. I think greed created the problems we have. The carpet baggers are clearly avaricious opportunists.

  6. volcanovillage March 4, 2018 4:35 pm

    shut this nonsense down.
    Total dis respect and an obvious inclination to think this one is above and beyond “normal peoples” laws and is the “exception” that goes unquestioned.
    SORRY JACK…..where are you From ???? …. the Big Island is NOT your ‘chicken ranch” ….and YOU are a mere mortal exploiting a situation…..git! …..and take your values and attitude with you.
    I have to say sir, you are NOT that unique or important or special.

  7. Benny HaHa March 4, 2018 7:10 pm

    Just the incompetence of the county to allow this. I’m not saying someone greased someone’s palm, but this should be investigated. Not right! And Standke does give haoles a bad name. Richard and Deborah you have no aloha – go home.

  8. volcanovillage March 4, 2018 9:12 pm

    the Big Island we all love is being sold down the river to schiesters.
    This does NOT happen without County complicity.
    Blatant, disrespectful haole behavior ( I am a haole myself ) and these parasite exploitive mainland jacazzs people give Haoles a Bad Name…..
    I have to agree….haoles mostly suck.

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