Honolulu police set to clear homeless from state-owned parks

HONOLULU — City officials plan to send Honolulu police into state-owned Kakaako Waterfront Park and adjacent parks to clear an estimated 80 homeless people from the grounds.

Monday night’s planned sweep is the culmination of officials’ efforts to bypass jurisdictional limitations. City officials have been working with the Hawaii Community Development Authority to transfer ownership of the parks to the city.

The jurisdiction hurdles allowed more than 300 people to settle at the parks in November 2015, leading to a spike in crimes, emergency calls and sanitation problems, officials said.

Honolulu Corporation Counsel Donna Leong said a transfer in ownership of the parks to the city could come as early as Wednesday. But city officials are not waiting to start enforcement.

The development authority granted the city “right of entry” into the Kakaako state parks.

“We want the city to go in there and enforce its parks rules and regulations as soon as possible,” Leong said. “This is the first time that the city is enforcing its park rules and regulations in the HCDA’s parks.”

The arrangement is similar to the largely successful effort that began in August in Aiea to keep homeless people swept from the city’s Neal S. Blaisdell Park from simply setting up camp on the adjacent Navy-owned land that runs along the shoreline of the park.

Last year the city and Navy reached an agreement to allow Honolulu police and a special city maintenance crew to clear the stretch of Navy land that runs along the popular Pearl Harbor Bike Path. On Friday, both the park and bike path remained clear of tents and tarps that had lined the bike path before the city was allowed to gain access.

The separate transfer of the Kakaako parks to the city would ease the pressure on the development authority. It has been paying a private security company called Block by Block $331,000 annually to enforce park rules, although Block by Block has no police powers.

Kakaako Waterfront Park and its sister parks “should have always gone to an agency that deals with parks,” said Garett Kamemoto, the development authority’s interim executive director.

He added: “We’re a redevelopment agency and so what we do is make improvements and then we dedicate the improvements to the people most able to take care of them. Kakaako Waterfront was always intended to be dedicated to the city. It just didn’t get done. Now the park can be handled by people who are experts in parks.”


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