The imposition of a curfew at Kalihi Valley Homes this spring is going to lead to new safety rules for all Hawaii public housing, Civil Beat has learned.

The news came on the day of a community meeting to discuss alternatives to a curfew at the 400-unit Honolulu housing project. Residents were instructed to stay in their homes between 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. The lockdown was imposed on April 1, after two people were injured in a shooting and the curfew expired Wednesday night.

Reaction to the curfew has been “overwhelmingly positive,” said Alan Sarhan, a planner with the Hawaii Public Housing Authority. So positive, in fact, that some residents wanted to see the curfew stay in place.

“I would really jump up and down for it to be there forever,” said Nite Kristoph, who attended the Wednesday meeting. “I wish.”

The housing authority plans to use testimony and resident feedback from the meeting to develop new rules that would be applied to all pubic housing around the state.

“What is it exactly that made for the improved environment that the KVH residents told us that they felt? Because we are going to be doing some permanent rule making that would cover all housing projects,” Sarhan said.

Despite the popularity of the temporary curfew among many residents, the new rules will not include a permanent curfew mandate. Hawaii law allows curfews to be in effect only for 120 days and only under extreme circumstances.

“The curfew was a fairly drastic action in response to a fairly serious threat,” said Sarhan.

In March, reports of violence between gang members living at KVH and the nearby Kuhio Park Terrace public housing complex erupted. What had started as brawls and stabbings escalated into gunfire; one Kalihi Valley resident was shot in the face and another seriously injured.

“The curfew as it is now, with specific rules and so forth, definitely will not be what we are going to be doing,” Sarhan said. “I mean it tells people that they can’t be outside their home between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. That’s true draconian.”

In lieu of a permanent curfew, the Wednesday meeting gave residents an opportunity to voice their own suggestions on how to keep their community safe. Discussion groups were formed and residents were asked what they liked about the curfew and how they might progress without it.

Denise Wise, the housing authority’s executive director who led the meeting, reminded residents that an extension of the curfew was not an option.

“Legally, we have to (end it),” she said.

Residents noted that “the kids went in the house before 10” and that violence, crime and alcohol abuse had all decreased significantly since the implementation of the curfew. In order to prevent the same problems from coming back, most residents said the best solution was to rely on the KVH rules – and each other.

“We need to come together as a community,” said Sa Aiolupotea, secretary of the Kalihi Valley Homes Association. “Neighbors helping neighbors.”

After the meeting, Wise said that the housing authority would use the resident feedback to help draft future rules to enhance public safety. In the meantime, she warned that officials could and would use their authority to evict residents if current rules were broken.

“If we know who the tenant is, we’ll start eviction proceedings,” Wise said. “We can also evict for breaching the lease — so that is no alcohol and drinking on public grounds. And that’s usually what gets things started.” Additional lighting will also be placed in darker “hot spots” around the complex to discourage unwanted behavior.

While the community adjusts to the removal of the curfew, Sarhan estimated that within the next two months, the housing authority will announce public hearings regarding new rules.

But, Sarhan cautioned, “The administrative rule process is very long.”

A window of at least six months is expected before any rules will become law. The housing authority will need to publish a draft of the proposed rules, hold public hearings on them, revise the draft, submit the rules to the housing authority board of directors for approval, funnel them through channels in the Department of Human Services, and finally, wait for the governor’s signature.

“I would prefer anything to make this a better community,” said Aiolupotea. “Anything to make this a safer community.”