The state agency overseeing Kakaako redevelopment has approved new rules for its parks, including areas that have frequently been the sites of homeless encampments.

The updated rules were approved by the Hawaii Community Development Authority last week. They address property confiscation and prohibitions on skateboards, scooters, smoking, inflatable bouncers and inserting stakes into the ground. They also specify where water can be accessed.

HCDA spokesman Garett Kamemoto said the updates mostly clarify rules that already existed to make them “more enforceable.”

People tapped into the electric and water systems at Kakaako Waterfront Park in 2016. Chad Blair/Civil Beat

In 2105, Kakaako Waterfront Park and Kewalo Basin Park were home to more than 100 homeless campers who moved in after the city swept the Kakaako Makai area.

And in 2016, Kakaako Waterfront Park faced issues with vandals tapping into the park’s electricity and breaking into its water system, prompting the HCDA to close the park early each day. Water service to a nearby homeless shelter, the Kakaako Family Assessment Center, was also disrupted.

Unlike many other parts of urban Honolulu, Kakaako has no sidewalk sit-lie ban.

The rules apply to six parks under HCDA’s management: two Kakaako Gateway parks, two Kolowalu parks, Kewalo Basin Park and Kakaako Waterfront Park. Mother Waldron Playground, which is also located within the district, is owned by the agency but managed by the city.

City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, who represents part of the Kakaako district, said she believes the updated rules are an attempt by the HCDA to address the complaints from the University of Hawaii medical school and the Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center regarding homeless people in the area.

H. Doug Matsuoka, 64, said he thinks the rules are aimed at homeless people because they focus on activities that people living in a park would do. He testified at a Wednesday hearing on the updated rules, describing himself as an advocate for homeless rights.  

The updated rules state that people can’t access water from sources other than the parks’ comfort stations and showers, or access electricity without a permit.

In addition, language was added to clarify activities already considered illegal, such as washing clothes or household items in certain park areas and kindling a fire unless it’s in a grill or brazier. Additional language clarified that soap or detergent can’t be used for washing clothes or household items anywhere in the park and that fire can only be used in a HCDA-designated barbecue pit.

The updated rules also include new procedures for the disposal, removal, notice and storage of property abandoned in Kakaako parks.

“The problem with the rules as they are is that they require selective enforcement,” Matsuoka told Civil Beat. 

While he said it seems reasonable that the HCDA can throw away items that are perishable, it’s detrimental to homeless people who may have to store their food in containers with ice.

Scott Morishige, the state’s homeless coordinator, said the rules on how the agency will remove, store, notify and dispose of abandoned property is probably the only section of the updated rules that appears to address homelessness.

He said the process is clear and the rules seem to protect property rights.

“By setting this … clear process for the items to be retrieved, I think that does show a respect for the personal belongings of park users who leave behind items, including individuals who may be experiencing homelessness,” he said.

Kamemoto said the updated HCDA rules – which are to make the parks safe for all users, regardless of who they are – are generally based on city park rules, though the Kakaako rules are more stringent and detailed.

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