Residents run into red tape in push to tackle squatters’ village in Kalihi Valley

Published: Apr. 25, 2019 at 10:53 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Homeless squatters have built a new village in Kalihi Valley, and the city says they can’t evict them.

The gentle sound of water flowing under the Nalanieha Street bridge was all neighbors used to hear behind their homes.

(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

But recently, that peaceful trickle is being drowned out by construction.

Neighbors say squatters have have been living under the bridge for years. But over the past few months, the bustling encampment’s gotten out of control.

A woman who didn’t want to be identified told Hawaii News Now people come and go from the campsite at all hours of the day and night.

“People just keep coming,” she said.

And they’re making themselves right at home ― building reinforced structures out of wood and other materials.

Another neighbor provided HNN with video of what looked like a piano being lowered into the encampment from the bridge.

Squatters are also using up the street parking.

People who live nearby said the village is extremely volatile and that recently a fire was set after some illegal campers got into a dispute over territory.

“There’s arguments. There is fighting,” said the woman. “We’ve called police. We talked to the city. We talked to the state. We talked to a representative. Nothing’s being done.”

The city says it’s aware of what’s happening and wants to do a sweep but there are several snags holding up enforcement.

The city is only responsible for the bridge and the area immediately below it.

“We don’t have any way to get below the bridge without entering private property. So we first have to secure permission from property owners,” said Ross Sasamura, city Department of Facilities Maintenance chief engineer.

Even with permission, there’s only so much it can do because the majority of the illegal campsites are on vacant lots that are private property.

On top of that, the city says it doesn’t have the proper equipment to do a clean-up.

Sasamura urged the property owners to contact the Department of Planning and Permitting to report illegal construction — and get the eviction process started that way.

“If there’s illegal construction taking place and a complaint is filed with the city then the Department of Planning and Permitting will follow up and check on the construction to see if it’s in compliance,” said Sasamura.

In the meantime, the encampment continues to grow and that has residents worried.

“I should be able to live not in fear.”

The city says sweeps are complaints-driven. To report an illegal encampment call 768-4381.

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