LIHUE — Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura wants to make sure the legacy of Rice Camp is remembered.
“I’ve learned so much in talking to people about Rice Camp,” she said. “The stories I heard demonstrate to me how a name evokes memories and stories, and how these stories connect the present to the past and people to each other.”
During the Kauai County Council meeting Wednesday, Yukimura introduced Resolution No. 2016-58, which seeks to change name of Kaniko’o to Rice Camp Senior Housing.
“If we can keep the name Rice Camp, it is possible a child visiting his grandparents at Rice Camp Senior Housing will say ‘Why is this place called Rice Camp,’ and the stories will begin to flow,” Yukimura said.
By renaming the affordable senior housing development Rice Camp, the memories of the immigrant workers and their families who lived there will be remembered, she added.
But Councilman KipuKai Kuali’i said perpetuating Hawaiian names and culture is just as important as preserving the history of Rice Camp.
“It’s important we keep Hawaiian names as much as possible, and if we’re changing names, we should be changing them to Hawaiian names,” he said. “Rice has the entire street.”
As a compromise, he amended the resolution, suggesting the development be renamed to Kaniko’o at Rice Camp.
The amended resolution passed 4-3. Kuali’i and Yukimura along with Councilmembers Gary Hooser and Mason Chock voted to pass the resolution.
Councilmembers Ross Kagawa, Arryl Kaneshiro and Mel Rapozo, council chair, voted against the measure.
The resolution will now be sent to the developer, Vitus Group, asking them to consider changing the name.
Kaneshiro said he didn’t support the resolution because Vitus Group was not part of the discussion.
“The process is unfair. Right now, we’re pigeon-holding the developer,” he said. “The developer should be involved before a resolution is sent out — we’re missing a big piece of the puzzle.”
Mel Rapozo, council chair, agreed.
“This is a private project,” he said.
No matter the name of the building, the area will always be known as Rice Camp, Rapozo added.
“Rice Camp will always be Rice Camp,” he said. “I will always refer to it as Rice Camp.”
It’s ultimately up to the developers, Vitus Group, to change the name of its building, said Kanani Fu, county housing director.
“Give the courtesy to the developer, who will be responsible for all of the logistical changes, and have her weigh in,” Fu said. “She has not been consulted on this matter — she should be consulted.”
Makani Maeva, director of the Vitus Group Hawaii office, declined to comment.
Located in Lihue, Kaniko’o is built on what was once Rice Camp, a 5.2-acre plantation acquired by the Kauai County Housing Agency. The $14 million project boasts 60 affordable housing units for kupuna 62 years or older.
To qualify, residents cannot make more than 60 percent of the area median income. Phase II of the project is expected to wrap up in November, and people can move in the following month, said Vykky Gamble, property supervisor for Kaniko‘o.
Rent for the one-bedroom units in phase two will be $809 per month, while the two-bedroom units will rent for $970 per month. Rent includes water, sewer, refuse service and electricity.
The amenities for phase two include energy efficient electric appliances and lighting, vinyl plank floors, cable hook-ups, ceiling fans and laundry facilities.
EAH Housing, the managing company in charge of Kaniko‘o, is taking applications for the second phase. The deadline to apply is Sept. 23.
More info: 726-2888 or www.eahhousing.org