Site of former homeless camp draws just one bid at auction

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald The lot behind Agasa Furniture and Music Store is blocked off in Hilo.

A lot in downtown Hilo that was the site of a troublesome homeless camp received only one extremely low bid at auction last month, but that sale will likely be blocked, a county official said.

The lot, located at 117 Punahoa Street, mere feet away from the Hilo Farmer’s Market, received only one bid — for $1,000 — after it was put up for auction on July 21, after Hawaii County seized the lot from its previous owners earlier this year.

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The county had assessed the value of the property at $143,700, meaning the buyer — one Allan Yoza — could potentially walk away with the lot for 99.4% off.

However, Hawaii County Corporation Counsel Joe Kamelamela said there is “no way” the county will allow such a low sale to go through.

“I don’t know why anyone would think that property is only worth $1,000,” Kamelamela said. “It’s optimistic, I guess, but that bid doesn’t cut it.”

Hilo attorney Paul Hamano, who was appointed as commissioner by the court to handle the sale of the property, wrote a letter to the court suggesting that the extremely low interest in the property was a combination of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as well as “the notoriety surrounding this property which was known as an area where the homeless congregated and built temporary structures.”

Those temporary structures were what led the property to be auctioned in the first place. For most of 2019, the county made increasingly serious demands to the property owners that the unpermitted structures — including makeshift dwellings, a chainlink fence and a concrete foundation — be removed, ultimately leading to the county seizing the lot when the owners refused to do so.

The owners, Big Island residents Jeri Rose and Michael Ravenswing, were also found to owe $177,000 in fines to the county for their failure to comply. While Rose deferred comment last Tuesday to her attorney, Kamelamela said she was one of the few people present at last week’s auction of the site.

Kamelamela said the court’s most likely next course of action will involve a hearing next month, where the county will bid on the property through a credit bid and, if unchallenged, gain ownership of the property. Kamelamela said the county can, in this way, bid up to the total sum owed by Rose and Ravenswing, but can be lower — although he added that bidding too low can be risky and allow another buyer to outbid the county.

In that event, the winning bid will be used to repay the owners’ debt.

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Despite the low turnout at last week’s auction, there may be more demand for the property. According to court documents, a California corporation called American Capital Enterprise Starting Corporation contacted Rose and Ravenswing in March offering to purchase the property for $238,000, days before the property was officially seized. However, documents also indicate that Hamano was not presented the proper documents proving that purchase prior to the seizure.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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