- Special Projects
State officials took another step Wednesday toward clearing out homeless encampments at two Kakaako parks.
At a special meeting, the Hawaii Community Development Authority board signed off on what its officials call “abandoned property protocol” — rules guiding how the agency will enforce nighttime closure rules at Kewalo Basin Park and Kakaako Waterfront Park.
Anthony Ching, executive director of HCDA, says the move paves the way for enforcement actions as early as next week at the parks, which are on state land overseen by his agency.
The nighttime closure rules have not been strictly enforced there by the Hawaii Department of Public Safety since the city’s weeks-long cleanup effort on nearby streets — the epicenter of what had been Honolulu’s biggest homeless community near the Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center — ended in October.
The homeless populations have since skyrocketed: The most recent count by the state found 110 tents at the parks — 29 at Kewalo Basin Park and 81 at Kakaako Waterfront Park, according to Scott Morishige, the governor’s coordinator on homelessness.
The parks are supposed to be closed from 10 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. at Kewalo Basin Park and from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. at Kakaako Waterfront Park.
The protocol adopted Wednesday is modeled after the city’s stored property and sidewalk nuisance ordinances, which allow the city’s maintenance crew to remove property left on sidewalks — either after issuing a 24-hour notice or immediately if the items are deemed “nuisances.”
Under the new rules, HCDA can remove any “abandoned property” that remains in HCDA-controlled parks during the park closure hours after its owner is provided a “reasonable opportunity” to move it.
HCDA defines “abandoned property” as any personal property including “clothing, personal care items such as personal hygiene products and medicines, household items, materials, containers, cardboard, camping items, furniture, equipment, fixtures, bicycle or moped or motorcycle.”
The rules also allow HCDA to immediately dispose of any items that are perishable, threaten “the health, safety or welfare of the public,” or are considered “inappropriate” to be stored for being “wet, soiled, dirty, sharp, odorous, contaminated by mold or infested with insects, roaches or bed bugs.”
For record-keeping, the HCDA is directed to film, photograph or take notes on any items it immediately disposes of to log the location and date of the disposal.
Other removed items are to be stored for 30 days, and their owners can reclaim them after showing “satisfactory proof of ownership” and paying HCDA for the storage expenses — though those who are unable to pay can get the charge waived.
State officials initially planned the sweeps of the parks to start as early as Nov. 12, but the plan hit a snag when eight outside vendors that had been invited to submit bids for the cleanup job all declined.
But Ching says he can firm up the contracts with other interested parties by next week.
Andre Betito, general manager of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, says his company is in the running for the job.
“We’re always trying to make Oahu a prettier place, with less junk in public. So helping out the state is something we’d be interested in,” Betito said.
Betito says he isn’t fazed by the high-profile nature of the job — or the prospect of getting criticized by homeless advocates.
“We have sympathy and empathy for the homeless. We’re not out there actively trying to displace them,” Betito said. “It would be our job to follow the state’s procedures and do the best job that we can to keep everybody as happy as possible. While I can understand there could be negative aspects to that, from the public relations standpoint, but I would hope that people will see us trying to be as polite and courteous to the homeless as we would be to any of our other clients.”