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Lane to Portlock beach to be opened

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The Honolulu City Council gave the OK for the city to initiate condemnation proceedings for an easement over a small lane off Portlock Road allowing surfers, fishers, beachgoers and other ocean enthusiasts public access to a section of beach at Maunalua Bay known as “Seconds.”

Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s administration supported Resolution 17-246 when it was heard Sept. 26 by the Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee.

Opening up the lane has been an East Honolulu issue for years. The city moved for condemnation nearly two decades ago with the goal of creating a public right of way, but the proceeding never went through.

The issue was reignited in May when one of the property owners, Bert Dohmen, erected a new locked gate that effectively blocked the access point to the public.

Opening up the access is widely supported by those in the East Honolulu community who point out that no beach in Hawaii can be privately owned.

The Council received more than 20 letters in support.

Will Caron, secretary of the Hawaii chapter of the group Young Progressives Demanding Action, said, “The lane in question off Portlock Road has served as a point of access to Maunalua Bay for decades and is important to surfers, fishermen and families who enjoy this particular beach.”

Letter writer Joyce Riley said the lane is unique. “Portlock is a special place that has both sandy beach and surf,” Riley wrote. “This particular lane is the only one that has access for wheelchairs to a sandy beach.”

Dohmen, who said he put up the gate on the advice of police, has raised strong objections. In a public letter he emailed to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Dohmen said the city is unfairly taking his property for the benefit of a few while exposing him and his neighbors to “vagrants, hoodlums, robbers and the homeless.”

He said there are 22 lanes that lead to the ocean along Portlock Road. “Next to me are two lanes about 50 yards away on either side,” he said. “Surfers and fishermen use them all the time.”

Dohmen did not attend Wednesday’s full Council meeting.

The only person who testified Wednesday was Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board Chairwoman Natalie Iwasa. While the board submitted testimony supporting the move, Iwasa told Council members that, as an individual, she was bothered at how quickly the condemnation was approved without much time for the owners to respond.

A letter informing the owners about the proposed action was dated Sept. 12 but not mailed until Sept. 20, less than a week before the committee meeting. “I know that meets the letter of the law, but in this case the owners were off-island and not able to attend the committee (meeting) on this,” Iwasa said.

No one else testified either for or against the resolution Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday the Council:

>> Gave final approval to Resolution 17-277, urging the administration to establish “safe zones” throughout the island for the homeless or “to expedite facilities for urban rest stops, navigational centers, and other community-focused projects for homeless individuals.” The original resolution referred only to safe zones.

>> Gave final approval to Bill 72, barring camping at city-owned streams.

>> Gave second-reading OK to Bill 83, barring people from sitting or lying on public sidewalks in areas near schools and public libraries.

>> Gave second-reading approval to Bill 82, requiring the administration to submit all proposals for transportation projects in the Chinatown Special District to the Council, which would have the opportunity to disapprove them.

>> Gave second-reading OK to Bill 85, allowing the administration to begin issuing car-sharing decals for off-street metered parking stalls.

>> Gave second-reading OK to Bill 79, giving a tax break to those who promote certified organic farming.

>> Gave second-reading OK to Bill 80, giving a tax break to “ocean friendly restaurants.”

>> Gave first-reading approval to Bill 93, establishing fees for permits for recreational stops at Waimanalo Bay Beach Park.

>> Gave first-reading OK to Bill 94, placing an interim moratorium on the issuance of building permits for large-scale homes.

>> Gave first-reading approval to Bill 100, creating a new property tax classification for large-scale homes.

>> Gave first-reading OK to Bill 99, barring lying down or sleeping at city bus stops.

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