Business Legislature passes bill to retake Kakaako roads By Andrew Gomes firstname.lastname@example.org May 11, 2016 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! STAR-ADVERTISER / FEB. 9 Street parking stalls on Waimanu Street in Kakaako are marked reserved. Hawaii lawmakers sent a strong message last week to two brothers who claim to own portions of eight streets in Kakaako where they started charging for parking six years ago after decades of free public use. Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. Hawaii lawmakers sent a strong message last week to two brothers who claim to own portions of eight streets in Kakaako where they started charging for parking six years ago after decades of free public use. The Legislature passed House Bill 2604 by a near-unanimous margin Thursday to give the state ownership of the roads. But it remains to be seen whether the measure will become law, given that Gov. David Ige’s administration has raised concerns and objections over the bill. The bill would tweak state law governing the Board of Land and Natural Resources so that a resolution by the territorial House and Senate more than 100 years ago is sufficient to convey the streets to what is now the state. The resolution, made in 1903, directed the superintendent of public works to accept a deed for seven streets offered for free by their owner at the time, Charles S. Desky. However, there is no evidence a deed was ever conveyed to the territory. That issue would be sort of retroactively resolved if HB 2604 becomes law. Still, Ige has an option to veto the bill, which is opposed by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. DLNR argued in written testimony that requiring its board to take title to such land “would abrogate the board’s authority to conduct the necessary due diligence before considering the acquisition in a public, sun-shined meeting.” The city Department of Corporation Counsel told lawmakers that they can’t convert ownership of private property to the government through a legislative act. “The government cannot declare itself owner of private property by virtue of a resolution or other legislative act accepting the property when the owner has not gifted it as evidenced by conveyance of a deed,” Corporation Counsel Donna Leong said in written testimony. “The willingness of the state to accept a gift does not make the gift so.” Leong also said that applying the provision only to roads in Kakaako makes the measure discriminatory. State Attorney General Doug Chin raised problems with the bill, saying in written testimony that beyond the question of whether a deed was accepted by the territory, it is not clear exactly what property the resolution covered. “The roads are defined by name only and there are no metes and bounds descriptions in the joint resolution,” Chin’s testimony said. “Further, the length, width, and location of the roads may have changed since 1903.” The 1903 resolution refers to Kawaiahao Street, Hustace Avenue, Cooke Street, Ward Street, Cummins Street, Laniwai Street and a Queen Street extension of South Street. Calvert and Cedric Chun, doing business as Kakaako Land Co., claim to own portions of at least eight roads: Ward Avenue and Queen, Cooke, Cummins, Clayton, Ilaniwai, Kawaiahao and Waimanu streets. The roads are open to public thoroughfare, but the company posts reserved-parking signs, charges $100 or more a month per stall and tows cars parked without approval. The Chuns said they bought the roadways in 1985 from Desky’s sole remaining heir for $5,000 plus returns equal to 25 percent of rental income from the property, according to documents in a lawsuit filed by area business owners who object to Kakaako Land’s parking restrictions, which began in 2010. The purchase was made through a quitclaim deed, which offers no warranties against there being other ownership interests in the property. Rep. Scott Saiki, the House majority leader and representative for Kakaako, introduced the bill as a public safety measure and because he thinks the Chuns have made false ownership claims. “I do not believe their claim, and it is unfortunate that private businesses and state and city government are expending significant resources to fight them,” Saiki said in a statement announcing the bill earlier this year. “We need to put a stop to persons who have concocted fake ownership of roads to the detriment of the general public just so that they can make a profit.” If the bill becomes law, it is unclear what action DLNR would take. The agency was unable to comment Tuesday on how it would proceed if the bill becomes law. Many Kakaako residents and business owners have been frustrated by Kakaako Land and urged the bill’s passage. SooHwan Kim said in written testimony that Kakaako roads are unsafe. “The long existing potholes are causing drivers to swerve and drive into oncoming traffic, causing traffic jams and endangering the pedestrians that work, live and walk in the area,” he said. “It is time for the responsible officers and committee members to take responsibility to properly take action and look after the safety of the citizens in the area.” Bob Emami, owner of The Car Store at 836 Ilaniwai St., helped organize a demonstration last year where area business owners and residents expressed frustration about the parking situation and concerns over whether the Chuns would maintain the roads. The city generally maintains privately owned roads as long as the roads provide unrestricted public use. But over the past year or so, the city notified the Chuns that maintenance had become the Chuns’ responsibility because of the restricted parking. The Chuns suggested that their maintenance responsibility applied only to areas they were restricting. Emami cheered the bill’s passage. “We’re hoping it gets signed,” he said. “Look at the amount of suffering we had to go through.” Michael Carroll, an attorney representing the Kakaako business owners who sued Kakaako Land in state court in 2014 alleging that the Chuns don’t own the streets in question, said he expects the streets will become part of the state highway system if the bill becomes law. If that happens, the lawsuit, which is slated for trial in October, could become moot. An attorney representing Kakaako Land could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Previous Story Maui median prices and sales improved in April Next Story Interisland cargo shipments grow slightly for Young Bros.