Some parts of Kahala beach are so narrow that at high tide the sand disappears, leaving beach goers no place to sit.
The state says the culprits are owners of multi-million dollar oceanfront properties who have failed to keep their trees and shrubbery in check — sometimes intentionally.
To combat the problem, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources announced Thursday it has issued warnings to nine property owners who have until the end of January to trim the vegetation or face thousands of dollars of potential fines.
Six of the homes are owned by billionaire Japanese real estate investor, Genshiro Kawamoto, who has gained notoriety in Hawaii for his dilapidated mansions and string of city housing violations.
Other homeowners include the Kahala Corporation, Upfront Group Company Limited, and The Wetmann Trust.
None of the owners could be immediately reached for comment.
All but one of the homes lie along Kahala Avenue, with one at Kainapau Place.
The vegetation is so bad that there have been reports of people trekking through waist-high water because there is nowhere to walk, said Tiger Mills, a staff planner for the Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands who sent certified letters to the property owners.
She said the shrubbery could also be hazardous.
“Encroaching vegetation could become a safety issue along some shorelines if the surf is very rough and you find yourself caught between the encroaching vegetation,” said Mills.
The move is part of a broader effort by the state to make sure that beachfront property owners aren’t intentionally planting salt-resistant vegetation to block public beach access.
Last year, the legislature passed Act 160, which allows DLNR to fine homeowners who are blocking access. The law seems to be working.
For example, just before the law passed, DLNR had sent letters to 12 property owners asking them to remove vegetation. But only one of them did, according to legislative testimony from the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.
In the past few months, nine other citations for properties scattered from Diamond Head to Hawaii Kai were issued — Mills said all of the homeowners have since cut back the shrubbery.
If property owners don’t comply, they can be fined $1,000, and $2,000 for repeated violations. They can also face civil fines of up to $15,000, and any additional costs that the state incurs if it has to remove the vegetation itself.
4631 Kahala Avenue
4653b Kahala Avenue
4663 Kahala Avenue
4767d Kahala Avenue
4823 Kahala Avenue
4807 Kainapau Place
4635c Kahala Avenue
Upfront Group Company Limited
4671 Kahala Avenue
The Wetmann Trust
4819c Kahala Avenue
Sign up for our FREE morning newsletter and face each day more informed.