State pays city $2.25M to take over Kakaako parks with troubled reputation

Updated: Oct. 30, 2019 at 6:03 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - After three years of back and forth, the Hawaii Community Development Authority has agreed to pay the city $2.25 million to take ownership of three troubled parks in Kakaako.

The land transfer actually involves 16 parcels of land near the Children’s Discovery Center ― an area home to a roving homeless camp that has a long history of refusing shelter.

In the wake of the land transfer, the city plans to close most of Kakaako Waterfront Park for renovations, but the Gateway Parks will remain open.

For years, government has played an ongoing game of cat and mouse with the homeless in Kakaako.

Despite regular sweeps, campers never go far ― always bouncing between city and state land to avoid enforcement.

On Tuesday afternoon, a long row of tents lined Ilalo Street. It’s estimated more than 50 people call the sidewalk home.

Earlier this year, many of the same people were across the street living in Gateway Park.

And before that, it was Kakaako Waterfront Park.

Officials believe the land transfer could put an end to the constant shuffle.

“As of Friday, we will have the responsibility of dealing with the enforcement of this area and maintaining this area,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

Included in the deal are Kewalo Basin, Kakaako Waterfront Park, and both Gateway Parks, along with the adjoining parking lots.

Ohe Street, Olomehani Street and Ahui Street will also be transferred to the city.

Last November, the Caldwell administration said when the deal went through the plan was to create a baseyard for it’s homeless enforcement team on a parcel of the newly-acquired land so crews could sweep Kakaako makai on a daily basis.

But HNN confirmed that’s not happening.

“Some plans have changed,” said Ross Sasamura, director of the city’s Department of Facilities Maintenance. “We are still looking for a permanent location for our enforcement team to work from.”

In the meantime, enforcement will continue at least three times a week while crews begin repair work at Kakaako Waterfront Park and the Gateway Parks.

The Kakaako Waterfront Park will be off limits from Nov. 1 to Feb. 2.

“The trees will be trimmed, we’ll have planted new trees,” said parks Director Michelle Nekota.

“We’ll have repaved the parking lot as well as renovated the comfort stations and repair the irrigation system.”

The money the state gave to the city will cover those costs along with an estimated $800,000 worth of electrical work.

The mayor said going forward the parks will have security, too.

“We’re going to have park rangers here patrolling to make sure people are compliant with the laws in our parks," he said.

The city said Point Panic will remain open during renovations.

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