A Honolulu City Council committee has deferred a resolution that would allow the city to acquire eight private Kakaako streets where traffic has been obstructed by parking slots that a company has rented out.

The Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee expects to take up the issue again at its October meeting, citing the need to evaluate legal issues. A lawsuit has been filed seeking to establish ownership of the roads.

Resolution 16-213 stems from Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga’s working group that was tasked with making suggestions on what the city should do about the roads.

With Council approval the city can, by eminent domain, take possession of Curtis, Dreier, Cummins and Ilaniwai streets and portions of Kamakee, Waimanu, Kawaiahao and Queen streets.

The city council committee on executive affairs and legal matters met on Sept. 20 to discuss Resolution 16-213, which would allow the city to acquire eight privately-owned Kakaako roads.
Members of the City Council Committee on Executive Affairs and Legal Matters met Tuesday. Noelle Fujii/Civil Beat

Even if the City Council were to adopt the resolution, it would still take years to condemn the roads, said Robert Kroning, director of the city Department of Design and Construction.

“Because of the situation of these roads, what they are really, are vacant areas between properties,” Kroning said. “It would take a little over two and a half years just to get to the condemnation process to where we have control over it. So that entails searches, surveys, the offer, the appraisals, all of that work would have to be done before we begin the condemnation process.”

That’s a long time for area residents and businesses to wait, and they are eager for the city to find a solution.

Judith Atiyeh, who has lived at the Pacifica Honolulu condominiums on Kapiolani Boulevard since 2011, said cars parked in Kakaako Land Company stalls have obstructed Waimanu Street, limiting it to one lane or completely blocking it. People are forced to walk in the middle of the street because sidewalks are blocked by cars, she said.

“We need help as quickly as possible,” Atiyeh said at the meeting. “Two and a half years is too long a time to wait.”

Kathy Dean, a resident of the Imperial Plaza on Kapiolani Boulevard, said the roads have been in poor shape for about a year, citing numerous large potholes along Kawaiahao Street.

A lawsuit was filed by several small businesses challenging the legitimacy of Kakaako Land Company’s ownership of the streets. Hearing dates are set for later this year.

The eight roads were dedicated to the Territory of Hawaii by their original owner, Charles Desky, in 1903. Because the territory accepted these roads in a joint resolution, Kakaako Land is not the owner, attorney Michael Carroll told Civil Beat.

However, a deed from 1903 has not been located, state Rep. Scott Saiki told Civil Beat. Earlier this year, his House Bill 2604 became law, clarifying that the Territorial Legislature accepting a private owner’s dedication of land in Kakaako is sufficient enough to establish that the state owns the streets.

Until 1985, the roads were used for public parking and access without interference. Then, brothers Calvert and Cedric Chun executed a quit-claim deed with Desky’s last living heir, giving them ownership of the streets at a price of $5,000.

Since 1986, they’ve operated under the name of Kakaako Land Company, and in recent years, began putting up “No Parking” and “Restricted Parking” signs and charging rent for parking stalls along their roads, according to a motion filed by Carroll.

He argues that because the company stayed quiet until around 2010, an existing state law that says roads should be considered surrendered if no ownership is exercised over five years also shows that the roads belong to the state.

“Somebody has to step up and pay for the land, whether it’s the city or the state, so that the streets can become public again,” said Keala Simoes, co-owner of Motor Werkes on the corner of Kawaiahao and Cummins streets. “Because I’m not talking about out in the country. Kakaako is major. And there’s traffic on all these streets.”

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