UPDATED 8/15/12 9:15 a.m.
One month after a Haleiwa community group filed suit against the City and County of Honolulu for allegedly mishandling the proposed sale of Haleiwa Regional Park, two Native Hawaiians have filed their own case against the city.
The contentious deal — which will be decided by auction between former state senator and local developer D.G. “Andy” Anderson and Kamehameha Schools — has come under intense scrutiny in recent months. The most vocal critics are members of the Save Haleiwa Beach Park Coalition, which sued the city last month in an attempt to block the sale.
The Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation filed the new lawsuit on Monday on behalf of Bryan Amona and Gabriel Kahaulelio, Native Hawaiians who frequent the park for recreational purposes, according to the lawsuit. They also visit the parkland to maintain it.
The list of defendants includes Anderson’s Basin Project, Inc., which in September 2010 proposed developing a “boutique hotel” on the six land parcels that make up the park.
“Native Hawaiians are spiritually tied to the land…so, culturally, they have taken on the role of caretakers of the land,” wrote Ashley Obrey, one of the attorneys working on the case, in an email.
What makes this lawsuit different from the one filed last month are its claims, she said.
The lawsuit alleges that the proposed sale breaks several laws. One is the Coastal Zone Management Act, whose purpose is to provide accessible coastal recreational opportunities to the public. Another is a set of provisions that require that the concerned agencies prepare environmental assessments (EA) for these types of transactions. Neither the city nor Basin Project prepared an EA.
“This complaint is based on the City and County of Honolulu’s…underhanded attempt to sell prime public park lands to a private developer,” reads the lawsuit. After years of promoting its viability for further park development, the city suddenly decided that property was no longer “desirable” and deemed them “remnant parcels,” according to the suit.
“The case is all about requiring the City to comply with laws that are meant to protect our public resources rather than playing toward special interests,” wrote Obrey.
The 3.3-acre Haleiwa Regional Park, known in contracts as “Haleiwa Beach Park Addition,” sits next to Jameson’s Restaurant on the mauka side of Kamehameha Highway. The city acquired the park in 1970.
Beach goers use a portion of that parkland — what the lawsuit describes as a 1.5-acre open parking and lawn space — as a “much-needed” parking and unloading area. There is limited beach parking along the makai side of Kamehameha Highway, according to court documents.
In order to sell the park, the city had to reclassify the land as unusable. But critics, including Amona and Kahaulelio, say the park has been well-used for the past 30 years. Canoe clubs, surfers, beach goers, picnickers and the like rely on the open space to access the beach across the street, according to the lawsuit.
The city started negotiations in 2006 and this June announced its plans to sell Haleiwa Regional Park to the highest-bidding adjacent landowner.
Anderson and Kamehameha Schools own the properties adjacent to the park. Anderson, on behalf of Basin Project, bought the Jameson’s Restaurant property in 2010.
Anderson in May 2010 proposed buying another parcel of land — one that forms part of Haleiwa Regional Park. The city offered selling him all six parcels. He agreed and by September had a plan to build a replica of the old Haleiwa Hotel on the parkland.
The Department of Budget and Fiscal Services, under director Mike Hansen, in May 2012 added Haleiwa Regional Park to its inventory of “city-owned properties for potential disposition,” according to the lawsuit. These are properties that are judged “remnant parcels.”
The budget department in June outlined a proposal for the Honolulu City Council to auction off the property. Mayor Peter Carlisle introduced the resolution but the council on June 25 deferred Resolution 12-143. But the resolution could be scheduled for another hearing at any time.1
North Shore residents argue that the sale would restrict beach access for park users. The Save Haleiwa Beach Park Coalition is suing the city, saying the city didn’t properly close the park before it auctioned it off.
This new lawsuit contends that members of the community — particularly Native Hawaiians — rely on the parkland as a public recreational resource.
“This community-based park is needed as an active recreational facility for North Shore and Oahu residents,” wrote Obrey. “It is not a remnant or excess property, and the City does not have authority to dispose of it.”