Over the last few months, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has become something of a villain in Hawaii and among the surfing community. That’s because he bought a massive chunk of Kauai, built a wall around it, then proceeded to sue (sort of) anyone who had a stake in the property. After a back-and-forth–mostly on Facebook, of course–that got pretty heated, it looks as though Zuckerberg has decided to stop being a total dick. Although it could be argued that anyone who wants to own 700 acres with a wall around it is inherently being a total dick, I suppose.
“To find a better path forward, we are dropping our quiet title actions and will work together with the community on a new approach,” he wrote in a letter to The Garden Island. “We understand that for native Hawaiians, kuleana are sacred and the quiet title process can be difficult. We want to make this right, talk with the community, and find a better approach.”
It looks like he must have listened to Rory Parker, a resident of Kauai, who recently wrote this:
“Aloha is not a one-way street. When you’re able, as Zuckerberg most certainly is, it’s important to give more than you receive.
He needs to meet with community leaders, demonstrate that he sees this place as a home, rather than a playground. Show that he plans on contributing to the community, rather than just taking from it. Realize that building massive walls not only provides privacy, it communicates a desire for separation.
Create a public access path to Pila’a beach, prove that he is not seeking to privatize a shared resource by snatching up the land surrounding it.”
Let’s get caught up really quickly, just in case you don’t know the backstory. If you do, ignore the next three italicized paragraphs, because I’ve already written them and you’ve already read them.
Back in 2014, Zuckerberg bought a ridiculously big, ridiculously expensive chunk of Kauai. Apparently, he dropped about $100 million on it, then built a brick and mortar wall around the whole thing. As it turned out, though, Zuckerberg wasn’t the only guy who owned the property, which was probably a little awkward after unloading that much money.
“The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that partial owners of a few dozen small parcels of land may have rights to land within Zuckerberg’s holdings, some having been passed down through families for more than 100 years,” wrote our very own Dylan Heyden. “Three entities owned by Zuckerberg, Pilaa International LLC, Northshore Kalo LLC, and High Flyer LLC filed eight so-called “quiet title” lawsuits on December 30 to identify and compensate fractional owners of several parcels of land for their shares of ownership.”
Basically, the whole thing came down to an old law dealing with kuleana lands. Unique to Hawaii, the Kuleana Act of 1850 deals with parcels passed down through families without wills or deeds. They’re often fractional portions, making it all even more convoluted.
But the people won, sort of. Zuckerberg, after dropping his pursuit for a palatial kingdom in paradise, said that he hadn’t taken the time to understand exactly what he was getting himself into. “It’s clear we made a mistake,” he wrote. “Upon reflection, I regret that I did not take the time to fully understand the quiet title process and its history before we moved ahead. Now that I understand the issues better, it’s clear we made a mistake.”
Zuckerberg hasn’t decided that he doesn’t need 700 acres–although according to his Facebook, it was slated for some kind of commercial structure and he’s going to be a saviour–he’s just looking to find a way to own the land and not get spend all his time there looking over his shoulder.