Waikiki pavilions might be converted to deter homeless
The city pavilions in Kuhio Beach park on Kalakaua Avenue were built so local residents and tourists could pause awhile to bask in the beauty of Waikiki’s sandy shores.
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The city pavilions in Kuhio Beach park on Kalakaua Avenue were built so local residents and tourists could pause awhile to bask in the beauty of Waikiki’s sandy shores and aquamarine waters.
Years ago it wasn’t unusual to see local residents gather at the pavilions for impromptu music concerts or to play chess or checkers. The shaded shelters were part of the charm of old Waikiki — a place for
all people to come and share their cultures and their talents.
Lately, residents and tourists are more inclined to hurry past the pavilions, which are often occupied by homeless people. There are regular complaints about people going to the bathroom on the grounds, getting drunk or high,
fighting, swearing and
The visibility of homelessness in the heart of Waikiki’s tourist epicenter improved some after the city banned sitting and lying on Waikiki sidewalks in 2014. However, these changes failed to completely solve the problems with the pavilions. The city’s anti-loitering law doesn’t extend to the pavilions or the grassy areas around them.
Police may clear pavilions of loiterers only between
2 and 5 a.m., when park
closure laws are in effect.
The situation at the pavilions has led Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell to propose adding concessions to all four Waikiki pavilions. He noted the city’s 2017 decision to add a concession to Kuhio Beach public pavilion No. 1 transformed it from a daytime hangout for homeless into a beach eatery called the Kuhio Grill.
Caldwell said the city
is working on writing a
request for proposals to bring similar options to the remaining three pavilions.
“We want to activate the space, make it more inviting, while adding service to Waikiki. It could be a cafe but we wouldn’t limit it,” he said, adding that one possibility might allow the hotels across the street to extend their brands to the beach.
But in the interim, on the advice of Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard, Caldwell said he would like to find a way to lock up the pavilions at night, perhaps using something similar to garage doors.
“We get constant complaints,” Caldwell said Friday as he pointed out concerns to an advisory team, including Ed Manglallan, deputy director of the city Department of Facility Maintenance, city Parks Director Michele Nekota and Jason Woll, regional manager for Kapiolani Park. “A short-term fix could be locking it up at night.”
Right now, Caldwell said what he sees when he passes by the pavilions is “disturbing,” and he thinks “visitors wouldn’t like what they see,” either.
Ballard pledged at a Visitor Public Safety Conference earlier this year to improve public safety by working with Waikiki stakeholders to make the state’s top tourism district “uncomfortable” for homeless people.
Ballard told some 200 conference attendees that she knew their “No. 1 issue, without even asking, is homelessness.”
At the conference, Ballard discussed removing walls and benches where Waikiki’s homeless residents hang out, and implored fellow Waikiki stakeholders to come up with creative ideas.
“We need to make (Waikiki) an unwelcome place for them to be — not violating civil rights, but make it uncomfortable so that they would want to go to housing,” she said.
The pavilion plan is part of the Waikiki crime-fighting plan that Caldwell rolled out earlier this year. HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu said police routinely receive “complaints from visitors, residents and businesses about persons sleeping, urinating and defecating in the pavilions and nearby.”
“During the day bicycle and patrol officers regularly check the area. At night it’s the ATV and patrol officers. The most frequent violations are for park closure, drinking in public and other nuisance-type activities. Closing the pavilions at night would provide an interim solution until concessionaires can be put in place,” Yu said.
Waikiki Improvement Association President Rick Egged said the organization gets lots of complaints about “groups monopolizing the pavilions and undesirable activities taking place.”
Closing the pavilions in the off hours is something Egged thinks his members could support — although he’d still like to see the city move forward on its plan to add concessions, which would improve the spaces in the daytime, too.
Waikiki Neighborhood Board Chairman Bob Finley supports locking up the pavilions at night provided that the city has a plan to ensure that displaced homeless people don’t simply move to other spaces in the district.
“People complain about the pavilions at just about every Waikiki Neighborhood Board meeting. If Chief Ballard supports this, I think it would be worth a try,” Finley said.