The Land Of Way Too Much Stuff

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - September 19, 2007

A few months ago construction crews started clearing a large piece of property out here on Old Moanalua Road in Pearl City. The land belonged to the Navy until a decade or so ago - the saltwater boys had long ware-housed stuff there in rusting, corrugated steel sheds.

Then a deal was struck between Honolulu’s Mayor Frank Fasi and the Navy that gave something around Pearl Harbor to the latter and the Navy warehouse area to the city.

What did the city put on the former Navy property? A bus barn. I’ll admit, a far less obtrusive bus barn than I feared, but a bus barn nonetheless. And a little park to soften the blow of the bus barn.

So what to expect from the new construction? Thus far commercial development in the area has consisted of the usual: a big-box retailer, a high-priced coffee shop and a chain hamburger franchise.

But I was hoping for something better on the newly cleared property, something that might speak to Oahu’s needs rather than our pedestrian - or, when it comes to coffee, status-conscious - tastes.

Like, for example, some affordable housing. I mean really affordable housing - the kind that a young couple starting out in life could buy or rent without giving up eating. Or apartments that the working homeless residing in tents up and down the Waianae Coast might be able meet the monthlies on.

So as I drove by the property each day I hoped for the best. As a building began to rise from in back of the construction fence, my hope grew. Rows and rows of little cubicles emerged, about the undersize of most low-rent Hawaii apartment residences.

Then, of course, I noticed the sign. That space wouldn’t be providing needed housing for the folks, but space to store our unneeded stuff.

Yep, I should have guessed, it’s another storage facility for our unwanted-but-for-whatever-reason untrashable stuff: tricycles, children’s toys, computer equipment, tennis rackets, and so on ... and so on ... and so on.

The new Pearl City storage facility on Old Moanalua Road rises no more than a half-mile from another Pearl City storage facility on Kamehameha Highway. Storage facility development may rank as Pearl City’s new growth industry.

As it does throughout Oahu, the state of Hawaii, and the United States of Too Much Junk. According to somebody who counts these things, one in 10 Americans rents storage space for their excess stuff. I counted 25 pages of advertisements for self-storage facilities in the Hawaiian Telcom Yellow Pages.

Let’s face it: It’s the American way. See it. Want it. Buy it. Consume it. Well, not quite the last. Store it instead.

House our young? Only if we can sell them an overpriced house and get them to sign a variable rate mortgage that will beggar them in a couple of years. Provide roofs for the homeless? Aw, come on. There’s no profit in that.

But storage space for our junk? Now you’re talkin’. Building storage facilities may be up there with prison construction. It’s all the same thing: warehousing.

What does it say about us as a people that we can rent room for our possessions but not build rentable rooms for our people? Nothing that I like to think about.

My wife, the high-strung Filipina, thinks I’m a hypocrite on this subject. In mid-column, she went out and did an inventory of the storage cupboards off our carport. They contain a mixed set of golf clubs (none of which I’ve swung since my 27-year-old son was 3 years old), a large aquarium, several boxes of research materials, two broken dining chairs, a box of books, a baby booster seat, an old paint bucket, toy trucks and cars, an empty typewriter case, and two boogie boards.

She didn’t stop there. A high-strung Filipina on a mission, she headed for the overloaded bedroom closet. She returned, figure-filled paper and pencil in hand.

“Do you know how many aloha shirts you have in that closet?” she asked.

“More than a few,” said I, eyes glued to my computer screen.

“One hundred and fifteen,” said she. “One hundred and fifteen!”

“Noooo,” said I.

“And 15 pairs of khaki pants,” she said. “Fifteen pairs of pants, all the same color. You’ve got to get rid of some of your clothes.”

“How about we look into renting storage space instead?”

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