State hopes transferring 4 Kakaako parks to the city will benefit taxpayers

KAKAAKO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Parks in Kakaako have been the epicenter of Honolulu's homeless crisis for years. Under the state's jurisdiction, squatters have played a shell-game with authorities and repairs have drained taxpayer money.

Now the state is on the verge on transferring four of its parks to the city in hopes that it may help solve the problem. If all goes as planned the City of Honolulu could start taking care of the parks as early as next month.

The parks were supposed to be transferred to the city 20 years ago but the city resisted. Now the acting director of the Hawaii Community Development Authority says an agreement should be finalized in the coming weeks.

"Our agency was never intended to be a parks agency," said Garett Kamemoto. "After all these years we've finally reached a meeting of the minds."

Kakaako Waterfront Park, Kewalo Basin and both Gateway Parks are all included in the deal.

Kamemoto says the transfer would likely save taxpayers money. Right now park maintenance costs the state over $1 million a year because they have to hire multiple contractors.

Under the new agreement the city's parks department would maintain the 41 acres.

Because the city is already in the process of working out next year's budget HCDA would cover the costs of maintenance until June 2019.

But it's the chronic issue of illegal squatters that prompted both sides to resume transfer talks last year. The state says homeless enforcement won't be as complicated.

"One of the challenges that has come up is we push everyone out of the park at 10 o'clock at night and then in the morning they get swept back in the park," said Kamemoto. "It just makes sense to have one jurisdictional agency in charge of everything so you don't have all the lines."

In the meantime one park goer told HNN it doesn't matter who's in charge of the property as long as it remains open and the grounds are maintained.

"Either way. We pay taxes for both the state and the city," said Dave Mitsunaga. "As long as they keep the access and the maintenance of the park for the people of Hawaii to enjoy. That's the most important."

The earliest the board would vote on the land transfer is May at the HCDA board meeting.

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