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Mayor Blangiardi sides with Honolulu City Council in removal of Haiku Stairs

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi has sided with the Honolulu City Council’s resolution to urge the city to remove the Haiku Stairs.

The City Council last week voted to adopt the resolution to remove the stairs, also known as the “Stairway to Heaven.” All nine members voted in favor of the measure, although Council members Radiant Cordero, Brandon Elefante, Augie Tulba and Andria Tupola voted “aye with reservations.”

Blangiardi, in a written statement, said safety, trespassing and even the impact of invasive species were all reasons he supported the resolution.

“We have listened to the varying compelling arguments and appreciate all the feedback and information received from all sides of the Ha‘iku Stairs issue,” Blangiardi said Tuesday in the statement. “We recognize the interest the stairs have to certain community groups, however issues such as trespassing, personal injuries, invasive species and overall safety of the public cannot be ignored.”

The Board of Water Supply transferred ownership of the attraction to the city in 2020, but prior to that had spent $250,000 in security annually to deter hikers, who for decades have trespassed on private property and ignored guards and no-trespassing signs to access the stairs.

Many over the years have fought against the stairs’ removal and instead wanted to preserve or restore them, arguing that access to the hike has cultural, educational and even financial value to the public and the city. The nonprofit Friends of Haiku Stairs, for example, urged lawmakers to keep the stairs and even proposed a plan to accommodate the ongoing problems with the stairs.

Jay Silberman, a retired U.S. Coast Guard environmental protection specialist who worked as a project manager for the stairs, said in a Honolulu Star-Advertiser column in July that managed access to the stairs could be profitable for the city, if hiking fees were put in place.

Back in 2002, the Haiku Stairs were on track to being reopened to the public after the the city spent $875,000 to repair the stairs and railings, although that plan was never realized.

Blangiardi, in his statement, said that it “is inappropriate to have a high-use tourist attraction entering through this residential neighborhood, which lacks in the capacity to provide appropriate facilities or parking. In addition, there is no unrestricted access to the stairs and the primary landowner at the base made it clear it is not interested in providing access. Consequently, my administration is aligned with the City Council’s resolution to remove the stairs and we intend to move forward with the necessary plans.”

The City Council has allocated $1 million in the city’s executive capital budget to remove the stairs.

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