KAPOLEI (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu City Council gave its final approval Wednesday to a bill that puts strict limits on commercial activity at Kailua and Lanikai beaches on weekends. The unanimous vote came in response to residents who say their beaches and parks have been over-run by tour buses, rented kayaks, and other commercial ventures.
The council meeting was held in Kapolei, a long way from the beaches and parks in question. But distance did not stop Kailua residents from showing up to speak their mind.
"As a community the people of Kailua are seeking balance and relief from the explosion of unauthorized and unregulated activity at our beach parks and our beach right of ways," said Lisa Cates who made the trip to Leeward Oahu to testify.
"Local residents are being squeezed out and public property is being used for private commercial usage," said Chuck Prentiss, Chairman of the Kailua Neighborhood Board.
"Kayaks like strings of rubber duckies cross the road at Kalapawai Market.
The traffic backups put residents and visitors at risk," added Kailua realtor Cynthia Rubinstein.
One after another frustrated residents pleaded with the council for relief. What they got was a 9-0 vote to prohibit most commercial activity from Saturdays at 1 p.m. Monday at 6 a.m.
The ban applies to Kailua Beach Park, Kalama Beach park, and all city owned right of ways from Lanikai to Aikahi.
"Once Bill 5 is given an opportunity to work I believe we will find that it will be very successful and that we will achieve the balance that we've always sought balancing the needs of our residents to access the park and the beach and the needs of our commercial operators to be able to operate their businesses," Councilman Ikaika Anderson told Hawaii News Now after his proposal was approved.
If Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle signs Bill 5 into law, kayak rental companies will no longer be allowed to set up after 1 p.m. Saturdays. Tour buses will not be able to stop at Kailua Beach Park as they do now on a daily basis. Even companies renting bouncers or catering birthday parties will be prohibited from setting up in the park.
The bill will not stop the largest rental company, Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks (KSK), from providing customers with kayaks. That is because KSK is close enough to the beach that its customers can walk the kayaks they rent to the ocean on their own. No delivery trucks are needed.
Tourists and locals will still be able to rent kayaks in Kailua town from Windward Watersports, Hawaiian Watersports, or Twogood Kayaks Hawaii, and drive the kayaks to the beach on their own.
"Traffic was the main concern, and congestion. Now every kayak that goes down is going to have a car attached to it, so it could enhance the problem. It could increase it," said Jeff Tobias of Windward Watersports.
If Carlisle signs Bill 5, the new regulations will go into effect July 1. In the meantime the Carlisle administration is very close to finalizing its own set of rules. Those rules will allow the two highest bidders to set up rental concessions at Kailua Beach Park while prohibiting all other rental companies from entering the park at any time during the week.
Rental companies acknowledge overcrowding is a problem. But they urge city and state officials to consider new restrictions carefully. Those companies employ more than 75 people in Kailua, generate tax revenue for the state, and fulfill the image of Hawaii depicted in world-wide marketing designed to attract tourists.