For the last five months, parking lots at city-owned West Loch and Ewa Village golf courses have also served as junkyards for abandoned cars registered to military personnel.

That’s upset area residents, who worry the vehicles might attract criminals.

The City Council Parks, Community and Customer Service Committee approved a resolution Tuesday that urges the city to talk with military leaders about putting the cars on federal land, including the parking lot of an Army-owned golf course.

“We need to press military leaders to stow these cars on their property,” said Councilwoman Kymberly Pine, who represents Ewa. “To see (the cars) stored near residential homes has been very hurtful to my community.”

The city usually sells unclaimed cars at auction, but a federal law prohibits doing so with cars left behind by active-duty service members. Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

Towing companies contacted by the city move cars from roadways to company-owned lots. If unclaimed, the cars are moved to city-owned lots of after a certain period.

If a civilian’s abandoned car sits unclaimed for more than 30 days, the city auctions it off without the owner’s permission.

Not so with active-duty service members, who are protected by a federal law that requires the city to get permission from the car owner before auctioning the vehicle.

City officials are struggling to locate the car owners. Towing companies contracted by the city keep picking them up, but are increasingly pressed for space to store them.

The military doesn’t pay the city to store the vehicles.

Randy Leong, deputy director of the Department of Customer Service, said military officials are working with the city to locate the car owners, but it’s taking a long time.

It seems to be very difficult on their part to actually find these guys,” Leong said. “I don’t know why.”

Honolulu City Council member Kymberly Pine. 8 feb 2017
Councilwoman Kymberly Pine, who represents Ewa, said cars stored in city-owned golf course parking lots have upset nearby residents. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Stefanie Gutierrez, a Hawaii spokeswoman for the U.S. Army, said the city provides Army officials with the names of service members who are listed as the registered owner of abandoned cars. 

“In tracking down vehicle owners, Army officials have found that the majority of individuals reported selling or transferring their vehicles to other parties,” Gutierrez said in an email. 

If a car is sold in Hawaii, it’s up to the new owner to change title, so if service members sell their cars it might still be registered under their names even if they no longer own it.

Pine said the military should have enough land to store its own cars.

“I have gone to every military base on this island and I could get maps out and recommend to them spaces that are not being used,” she said.

In August, Lt. Col. Ken Phillips of the U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii told Civil Beat that parking lots on Army bases are near capacity.

Junk cars are piling up on the side of state- and city-owned roads on Oahu, particularly in rural areas.

Councilman Ernie Martin, who represents the North Shore, proposed the recommendation in the resolution that the city move the military-owned cars to Leilehua Golf Course, which is owned and operated by the Army.

“You’ll see, the base commander will jump on it then,” Martin said. “I can guarantee you that there will be action immediately.”

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