Kakaako street condemnation moves ahead
A Honolulu City Council committee has given its preliminary endorsement to forcibly acquire eight Kakaako streets claimed as private property by two local brothers whocharge the public to park on the shoulders of the otherwise public roadways.
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A Honolulu City Council committee has given its preliminary endorsement to forcibly acquire eight Kakaako streets claimed as private property by two local brothers who charge the public to park on the shoulders of the otherwise public roadways.
The Committee on Executive Matters and Legal Affairs passed Resolution 16-213 Tuesday after receiving roughly 30 supportive letters. An attorney for the brothers called the proposed action discriminatory.
Last month the committee discussed and deferred the resolution, introduced by Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga, whose district includes parts of Kakaako. For the resolution to be enacted, the full Council must pass the measure after more hearings.
Robert Kroning, director of the City Department of Design and Construction, previously estimated that it would take a little more than 2-1/2 years to condemn the streets using the city’s power of eminent domain because of the need for land surveys, appraisals, compensation offers and other work. He had no estimate on what condemnation might cost taxpayers.
The resolution would condemn portions of Queen, Kawaiahao, Ilaniwai, Waimanu, Curtis, Dreier, Cummins and Kamakee streets that are claimed by Calvert and Cedric Chun and their business, Kakaako Land Co.
Bob Emami, owner of The Car Store at 836 Kawaiahao St., urged Council members to speed up the condemnation process so better road maintenance and parking regulation can be established.
“I’d like to ask Council to take all the suffering endured by the residents and businesses into consideration and try to come up with a solution,” he testified at Tuesday’s hearing.
Supporters who submitted written testimony include residents of several condominium towers and owners of businesses fronting affected streets.
Jeff LaChance of automobile repair business Benz & Jagz Specialist Inc. at 807 Kawaiahao St. said he has taken to patching potholes himself. “The condition of the roads in Kakaako greatly effects my business and right now no one wants to take responsibility,” he wrote.
Generally, the city maintains privately owned roads as long as the roads provide unrestricted public use. The city has informed Kakaako Land that the company is responsible for maintenance because of its parking restrictions.
Jorma Winkler of Winkler Woods and Imua Ukulele Inc. at 875 Waimanu St. said his landlord recently informed him that he can’t prevent Kakaako Land from creating and renting out a parking stall in front of the entryway to his business.
“If Kakaako Land company has their way, soon there will be a toll gate at the beginning and end of this road,” Winkler wrote. “I also am worried that the areas that are directly related to our business end up being rented to the highest bidder who can hold my business for ransom if they choose.”
Kakaako Land began restricting parking on some of the streets around 2010. It posts reserved-parking signs, charges around $100 a month per stall and tows cars parked without approval.
Wade Katano, Kakaako Land’s attorney, told the Council in written testimony that it’s not fair to single out his client when other landowners, whom he did not name, own streets and control roadside parking in Kakaako.
“There is no difference between KLC and those other landowners,” he said. “This is plainly discriminatory and raises constitutional issues of equal protection under the 14th Amendment” of the U.S. Constitution.
Katano said Kakaako Land is willing to consider a voluntary sale.
Several small businesses filed a lawsuit in 2014 challenging Kakaako Land’s road ownership. The plaintiffs argue that Kakaako Land’s ownership is invalid because the original owner, a man named Charles S. Desky who subdivided a large section of Kakaako more than 100 years ago, abandoned his interest after five years of no ownership acts; that the streets were automatically dedicated the to the public when Desky sold subdivided lots; and that others obtained the land through “adverse possession” by consistently occupying the space.
The lawsuit also contends that Desky dedicated the streets to the Territory of Hawaii as evidenced by a 1903 joint territorial House and Senate resolution directing the superintendent of public works to accept a deed for the streets from a willing Desky at no charge. However, there is no evidence a deed was ever conveyed to the territory.
Kakaako Land acquired a deed to the streets in 1985 from Desky’s sole remaining heir for $5,000 plus returns equal to 25 percent of rental income from the property. The purchase was made through a quitclaim deed, which offers no warranties against there being other ownership interests in the property.
A city attorney has supported some plaintiff claims.
The state Legislature also passed a law earlier this year trying to address the issue by deeming the 1903 resolution as enough to convey ownership to the state, but implementing the law has proved problematic.