City listens to community; adjusts policies on Kalakaua closures

City listens to community; adjusts policies on Kalakaua closures

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - There's controversy surrounding a busy street in the heart of Waikiki.

Kalakaua Avenue is considered the most important street in Hawaii when it comes to retail. Throughout the year, the City and County of Honolulu allows about 37 parades and events to close down the busy strip.

Sam Shenkus, marketing director of the Royal Hawaiian Center, says events like the traditional Aloha Festivals Floral Parade are mostly tolerated by Waikiki businesses and residents because they benefit both locals and visitors.

She says a problem arises when companies like Millwood Ohana Productions take advantage of the lucrative retail street for its own financial gain.

"A lot of legacy cultural events have been going on for years, that's not the problem," Shenkus said. "He (David Millwood) wound up making up these fake celebrations and cherry-picked the busiest Saturdays of every month."

Shenkus says this year, the company locked in 11 out of 15 lottery spots made available by the city and that many of its events didn't justify all the traffic and sidewalk congestion, which led to loss of business.

"One of them was 'Hugs and Hearts' and another was 'Have Fun in Hawaii' -- they were clearly just made up," said Shenkus.

Our calls to Millwood Ohana Productions went unanswered, but the City says it has listened to the community and policies are being adjusted.

"We have to balance the needs of our visitor industry with the needs of the community," said Mark Garrity, acting director of the Department of Transportation Services.

New regulations will include limiting applications to only two Kalakaua closures a year, minimizing traffic by holding block parties only between Seaside and Kapahulu Avenues, allowing the DTS director to limit the number of back-to-back events and capping the number of legacy events -- ones that have been in place for 15 years or longer -- while decreasing the number of mayor's waivers.

"Those changes will enable us to have better access into Waikiki," said Rick Egged, president of Waikiki Improvement Association. "We'll have to wait and see how the rules work."

Garrity says the new rules will go into effect mid-October.

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