Council to city: Reconsider plan to eliminate beachfront parking at Ala Moana park

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The City Council unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday that urges the mayor to address concerns about a plan to eliminate beachfront parking at Ala Moana Regional Park.

"We can't make it a playground for those rich condo people that are all going to be across the way," said Diane Choi Fujimora, one of a number of people who testified Wednesday, urging council members to take action.

Opposition to the idea has been bubbling up for months. At a meeting in January, hundreds of people hissed and booed the mayor and city officials at a meeting on the project.

Plans to restore and renovate the 119-acre beach park began in 2015 when Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced a nine-point community action plan.

It's estimated that Ala Moana Regional Park gets upwards of four million visitors a year. And parking, especially on weekends and holidays, is often a challenge.

The park currently has 950 parking stalls, and the city's plans call for doing away with beachfront parking while adding parking elsewhere.

Rather than parking along the beachfront promenade, the city wants a much wider sidewalk along with picnic areas.

Opponents to the plan, though, say doing away with beachfront parking will make it harder to enjoy the beach, especially for those with families.

"Do the proposal designers from New York City even know what ohana is?" said Brad Frye, at Wednesday's council meeting. "So the design has a generic promenade just like a hundred other beaches other places, but those other places don't have one of the most special things about Hawaii — the ohana feeling."

Before the council approved the resolution, Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi also delivered pointed criticism of the administration's handling of the park proposal. "The city could have saved over a million dollars rather than hiring a company from New York to do a master plan on this people's park," she said. "If the mayor would just walk around the park and talk to the users there, it would have been free."

In a statement released in January, city Deputy Managing Director Georgette Deemer argued the beachfront parking is "hazardous to those attempting to cross the street, as cars parked along that side make it more difficult for motorists to see these pedestrians."

She added, "Further, reorienting the parking on the mauka side will enable a better flow of traffic and vastly improve the aesthetics of the park by opening up the view on the makai side. It will not decrease the amount of overall parking stalls within the park."

Caldwell has stated publicly that the plan is not a done deal.

In fact, the master plan still awaits an environmental impact study to be completed by the end of summer. A city spokesman said that will restart a period for public comments.

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