An agreement reached with the Navy will allow the city to enforce its sidewalk laws — and thus clear the homeless — along the scenic Pearl Harbor bike path from Aiea to Pearl City, starting the second week of August.
Area residents, bicyclists and park users have complained that a growing number of homeless encampments along the shoreline have blocked the pathway and made it unsanitary and unsightly. But city officials have said for more than a year that it had no jurisdiction over the grass-and-dirt area that separates it from the bay on the makai side.
The city conducted seven enforcement actions along the bike path between May 2015 and June 2016, but they proved mostly futile when the campers simply moved their belongings to the makai side of the path.
City officials Wednesday estimated 150 people now live along the path between Aiea and Pearl City.
Neal S. Blaisdell Park, which runs alongside the park and straddles the Aiea-Pearl City border, as well as the bike path between Lehua Avenue and the east side of the park, will be shut down Aug. 7-31 “for maintenance and other action,” Mayor Kirk Caldwell said.
The “grant of easement” was announced Thursday at Blaisdell Park by Caldwell and Capt. James Jenks, chief of staff for the commander of Navy Region Hawaii.
After the press conference, city officials began distributing flyers to the people living in tents and other makeshift shelters to inform them that enforcement of the Stored Property Ordinance and Sidewalk Nuisance Ordinance would begin as early as Aug. 7 in the area between Hawaiian Electric Co.’s Waiau power station and Waimano Stream.
Caldwell said formal notices will be issued to the campers Aug. 7 and that property will be confiscated starting Aug. 8.
A future phase will include the area east toward the shipyard. Dates have yet to be set for that sweep because it would also involve coordinating with the Navy to clear dense mangrove in the nearshore waters. “The homeless are actually in the mangroves, and there’s a lot of stuff there,” Caldwell said.
A third phase would involve the area near Aiea State Park. The city will coordinate with the state and Navy on that segment, Caldwell said.
Caldwell said the idea is not to boot the homeless from the area, but to coordinate with community outreach workers to find permanent shelter for them.
More than $2 million has been allotted for improvements to the park, its parking lot and the bike trail, City Councilman Brandon Elefante said. “This is really, truly a gem that you have a park that’s right here along historic Pearl Harbor,” Elefante said.
Council Chairman Ron Menor said he’s looking forward to completion of the city’s longer-range plan of carving out a bike path connecting Aiea and Pearl City with Waipahu, Ewa and the Waianae Coast.
Rich Martin, 51, who’s lived along the bike path almost two years, said the city chooses to make it illegal to be homeless, and he doesn’t understand why. “This is my home,” he said. “They say we’re an eyesore, so we try to go to places where we’re not an eyesore and they kick us out from there.”
Martin said he’s willing to try out a new shelter if one is offered by outreach workers, but only if it fits his needs.
Pearl City resident Bernard Magno, 70, walks his Chihuahua mix Jack at Blaisdell Park two to four times a week. Magno said he supports removing encampments from the shoreline, as he’s seen a gradual increase in campers and a diminishing number of dog-walkers and cyclists. With the homeless gone, “maybe I go fishing now,” he said.