Loving Liliha

How Small Businesses Can Revive Their Neighborhoods

Loving Liliha

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3 Build Partnerships

Neighborhood businesses can work effectively with government agencies, the county councils and legislative representatives to make improvements.

Cyrus Tamashiro, who runs Tamashiro Market and has been active in helping organize the Liliha-Palama Business Association Santa Claus Parade, says community cleanups bring together students from schools and Honolulu Community College, public housing residents, business leaders, police officers and city employees to pick up trash, cut weeds and paint over graffiti. Participants know they’re making a difference.

Partnerships can even come from unusual quarters, says Tamashiro. Bank branch managers formerly assigned to Liliha, like Glenn Goya of First Hawaiian and Kanoi Lam, who used to be with American Savings (formerly Bank of America) and is now with UBS Financial Services, still help out though they no longer work in the district.

Brian and Alan Lum of B&A Automotive don’t wait to paint over graffiti,
even on their neighbor’s walls. Quick action fights the taggers, they
say, and they always keep a supply ofpaint on hand.
Photo: Kevin Blitz

4 Get local businesses to care for their surroundings

Brian and Alan Lum of B&A Automotive never wait for someone else to do the work: If there’s new graffiti on a nearby wall or their neighbors are hit, they act quickly. In fact, they buy half a dozen cans of beige spray paint at a time so they don’t run out.

“If they (graffiti vandals) know it’s going to be cleaned up right away, they don’t hit it as much,” says Brian Lum. He and his brother have painted out graffiti 20 or 25 times since they moved their business to Liliha in 1977. “We come to work at 5:30 and, if we notice it, we paint it out right away.”

When they first moved to the neighborhood, their neighbor, a contractor, let them park on his property, says Lum. Now they’re happy to help the contractor’s widow by covering graffiti when it appears on her fences.

5 Create safe spaces and events

Pastor George I has built a compassionate and responsive congregation for his Ka Huakai Church, which uses the city park at 2555 Puunui Ave. for its work. It has meant getting permits and working closely with the park director, but now hundreds of families come to the park for movie nights and other events. The Halloween party alone drew 800 people.

“A community is based on the people who live there,” says Pastor I. “Because ours is an older community, it’s a challenge. But we’re discovering that the kids and grandkids are moving back in to take care of Mom and Dad. Now that we know that there are a lot of young families again, we’re trying to develop programs and services for them.”

Pastor I has used his own funding to buy a projector and large screen for the community movies. He’s happy to help other communities do the same thing, even to the point of lending and setting up the equipment.

“If other communities really have a desire to do something, then we can offer help with training and passing on what we did.”

6 Create a nonprofit vehicle

Attorney Michael J. O’Malley, of Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel, provides pro bono help in creating a 501(c)3 tax-exempt nonprofit corporation for Liliha. The process takes from three to six months, but allows private donations and grants that pay for revitalization.

“The first thing is setting up the organization, a nonprofit corporation,” says O’Malley. “That’s the easy piece. It means you don’t have an owner; there is an independent board or members, and no one owns the assets.

“The second step is to get your tax-exempt determination letter from the IRS. You file form 1023 and that can take several months. But without that letter, you’re not tax-exempt.”

The second step includes knowing what kind of information to provide, which includes what you are trying to do, where the money is coming from and where it will be spent. Generally, says O’Malley, at least one-third of any money raised should come from donations from the general public.

He says organizations need a tax adviser for this process, but many attorneys will do it for free. Contact him at momalley@goodsill.com, he says; if he’s not available, he can refer another attorney.

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