LIHUE — Luke Evslin filed his nomination papers Friday for the office of Kauai County Council.
The 33-year-old is a lifelong Kauai resident and graduate of Kauai High School and the University of Hawaii. Evslin is the co-founder and managing partner of Kamanu Composites, the Hawaii-based outrigger canoe manufacturing company. He lives in Kapahi with his wife Sokchea and their daughter Finley.
Evslin is active in the island’s outrigger paddling community and is pursuing a master’s degree in public administration with a focus on public policy.
Evslin said he believes the major challenges facing the island — housing costs, traffic, economic insecurity, and climate change — all have a common root in how land is used and developed. He says there are no instant solutions, but the County Council can and should make decisions that protect the island’s wild and agricultural areas while revitalizing town cores.
“The housing crisis affects everything,” Evslin said. “It rips apart families, as children are forced to move away; it harms our economy, as we all have less money to spend; it increases traffic and carbon emissions, as we commute long distances to work; and it is leading to an explosion in homelessness.”
“Subsidized housing and cracking down on illegal vacation rentals are necessary,” he continued, “but they are only part of the answer.”
Evslin emphasized the importance of encouraging development within existing towns — especially Lihue — by reducing regulatory burden for infill development, increasing the density of town cores, encouraging the construction of residential apartments on top of commercial spaces, and ensuring that homeowners can add ‘ohana units for family members or long-term renters.
“If we follow the principles outlined in our new General Plan,” he said, “we can avoid the sprawling, low-density, luxury subdivisions we’ve seen over the last decade. The county should require all future large-scale housing developments to be located within or beside existing towns and feature a mixture of home types, not just single-family homes, to maximize the number of people we can house while minimizing traffic.”
Evslin added that other markets have shown it’s possible to decrease the cost of housing while revitalizing communities through the development of livable, affordable, and walkable neighborhoods.
“To bring home prices down, we have to build more homes,” Evslin said. “But, we need effective policy to ensure that we do it in a way that increases everyone’s quality of life.”
Evslin is a paddling coach for Island School and Pu’uwai Canoe club and volunteers as a board member and treasurer of Malama Hule’ia. He was also a member of the Community Advisory Committee for the General Plan update, served as a commissioner on the Kauai County Open Space Committee, and worked as a columnist for Civil Beat.