Some in Kailua say new locked gates blocking beach access violate spirit of the law

Gates in a private Kailua community block beach access. Some argue it isn't fair

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The public has a right to access all beaches in Hawaii, which is why newly locked gates have people upset in Kailua.

But the neighbors who voted to keep people out say they have a right to protect their private property.

Some beachgoers were surprised to see metal gates in front of beach access paths along Kaapuni Drive in Kailua.

"First thing we said was, ‘Oh! Look at this gate,” said Giovanna Cockerill.

Kaapuni Drive and the beach access paths are privately owned by the Kaapuni Community Association.

And a majority of homeowners voted to install three gates along the private pathways. So, it is legal.

But some people are questioning if it's right.

“They’re trying to keep you out. There are some restrictions going on. So, things have changed since we’ve been home last," Cockerill said.

“I see it happening more and more. But it’s like why? That’s what I wanna know. Why?” asked Nakamaejo.

The homeowner’s association president declined Hawaii News Now’s request for an on-camera interview, but said the gates were installed after years of finding needles, drugs and pipes hidden in illegal homeless encampments.

The president, who also requested his name not be published, said the gates went up about six months ago but the locks were installed just last week.

According to the city, the closest public beach access is at Kuuniu Street, which is less than a quarter of a mile away.

The HOA president said the homeowners now pay for 24/7 security and have the gates closed from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day.

Maile Riehl’s family lives on Kaapuni Drive and says they were among the minority who voted against the gates.

"Because we grew up right around the block so we would always use this access. So we thought it was silly to put a gate up,” said Riehl.

The HOA president said signs have been up for months now notifying the public of the changes.

Still, some residents and beachgoers feel as more luxury homes go up, more locals are being pushed out.

A similar scenario is ongoing in Portlock after a property owner erected a fence block beach access, citing safety concerns.

“People are going to do what they want to do regardless of these kinds of things that are just kind of more band-aid fixes,” Cockerill said. “It’s almost like a symbol of the changing times.”

The HOA president says he is now noticing the homeless setting up their encampments before 7 p.m. so they’re trying to figure out how to deal with that next.

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