- Special Projects
The private company that claims to own stretches of about a half dozen streets in Kakaako has reached a settlement with business owners located along those roads.
Nonetheless, the five-year-old lawsuit in state court against Kakaako Land Co. will continue into next year. That’s because the settlement does not include a key party still in the suit: the state attorney general’s office.
Under the deal reached in a settlement conference today, the two remaining businesses involved in the state Circuit Court action — Tropical Lamp & Shade Co. and U. Okada Co., will pay an undisclosed sum to KLC and the parties will dismiss the claims against each other.
The businesses, along with seven others originally listed in the suit, had challenged KLC’s title claim to about 2.5 miles of road in Kakaako and its right to charge tenants for parking there as the streets fell into disrepair.
The city stopped maintaining those roads under its right-of-way easement after 2010, when KLC started charging for parking and towing vehicles out of the company’s assigned spots.
KLC, meanwhile, countersued the businesses claiming they owed back payments to park on stretches of those half dozen roads, according to KLC co-owner Cedric Chun.
Both Chun and Michael Carroll, the attorney for the businesses, confirmed those terms but declined to provide more details.
Initially, there were nine businesses involved in the suit when it was filed in 2014. The others withdrew for various reasons, Carroll said Wednesday.
“The State believes the streets have been owned by the City & County ever since the 1960s,” attorney general spokesman Krishna Jayaram said in an email Monday. “If the City believes it needs to condemn these streets, it should do so expeditiously to put the issue to rest.”
A trial date is set for April 6.
Should KLC eventually prevail, it faces a fine of at least $250,000 levied by the Hawaii Community Development Authority, the state agency that oversees Kakaako.
KLC intends to challenge that fine, claiming it’s unconstitutional, but HCDA is waiting for the outcome of the suit before it schedules a contested case hearing.
Chun, along with his brother, Calvert, acquired a title for portions of Clayton, Waimanu, Cummins, Kawaiahao, Ilaniwai and Queen streets back in the mid-1980s from a granddaughter of those roads’ original owner, Charles Desky. The state continues to dispute that title’s validity, however.
A 1903 entry in the former territorial government’s Senate journal indicates that Desky intended to transfer the roads to the government, but no deed for that transfer has ever been found.
Chun said KLC would like the city to acquire the streets from them. Both the City Council and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell approved a resolution in 2016 to move forward with that but there’s been little progress.
The Council on Nov. 25 passed a subsequent resolution to expedite eminent domain proceedings on parts of Kawaiahao and Waimanu that don’t fall under the Chuns’ contested ownership.
“We understand the urgency of this resolution and we’re working diligently on preparing our mapping so we can make offers,” Scott Shigeoka, the city’s land division chief, testified before council members that day.
Nonetheless, Shigeoka told them it would probably take another four months to complete survey work along one stretch of road there.
“That seems like an extraordinarily long time for one property,” responded Carol Fukunaga, the councilwoman who introduced the latest resolution.
Chun said Tuesday that while city leaders are pushing for condemnation, city planning and transportation officials are reluctant to follow through because they don’t want to accept the liability of those roads.
The situation has left the Kakaako businesses stuck in the middle of the dispute frustrated.
“If they don’t want to do it, why can’t they just say they don’t want to do it?” Robert Emami, owner of The Car Store on Kawaiahao, testified to council members in November. “It’s totally amazing.”
It’s a critical time for our community as we all try to navigate unprecedented disruptions to our daily lives.
We want you to know that our nonprofit newsroom’s team of reporters, editors and support staff are committed to providing you with accurate and in-depth information on Hawaii’s important issues, including developments on how our island state is coping with this global pandemic.
Help ensure that our newsroom remains strong during this period when fact-based, trustworthy information is more important than ever. Please consider supporting Civil Beat by making a tax-deductible gift.