Over the past four years, the Kakaako Land Co. -- headed by brothers Calvert and Cedric Chun -- claimed it owns several streets in Kakaako and began towing companies that didn't pay to park on those streets.
But a Circuit Court lawsuit alleges that the brothers are running a scam.
"The Chun brothers have come in, claimed ownership and have extorted small businesses to pay to park on these public streets," said Michael Carroll, attorney for the businesses.
Carroll said an extensive search of Honolulu property records shows that the streets in question were deeded to the Territory of Hawaii in the late 1880s and are now city property.
He says the Chuns' only claim to the streets -- which include segments of Queen and Cooke streets, Kawaiahao Street, Hustace Street and Cummins and Ward streets -- comes from a quit claim deed the brothers executed in 1985, long after ownership of the streets had been transferred to the local governments.
"We believe it's all based on a false claim to title," Carroll said.
Calls to Kakaako Land's office were not returned.
Kakaako wood shop owner James Ferla is considering joining the lawsuit because he believes the company is terrorizing small businesses.
"It's a travesty, it should be against the law," Ferla said.
"They towed a couple of trucks from one of the businesses over there and supposedly destroyed them and they are trying to block the right of way to some of the other businesses."
Those businesses included Vibe Asylum, a recording studio on Kawaiahao Street. Carroll said the company's entrance has been blocked by several large vans whose owners paid Kakaako Land to park in front of the studio.
"These vans have prevented customers from going to their stores," Carroll said.
Carroll fears that if Kakaako Land's ownership claims are taken seriously, it would allow the company to charge a toll to motorist and anyone who uses the streets.
Others worry that Kakaako Land will begin towing cars owned by area residents. The recent construction boom in the downtown district is adding thousands of people in the area.
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