Kelly Malia Aylward circled the neighborhood for about 10 minutes looking for parking for her weekly canoe paddling practice in Lanikai. She finally got out and moved a boulder blocking a spot on the grassy side of the road — only to be yelled at by a resident.

The spat speaks to the growing tensions between Lanikai residents and visitors, including tourists and other Oahu residents who want to explore the neighborhood’s pristine beach, scenic hiking trails and kayaking and paddling activities.

Aylward, 33, heard about Lanikai’s parking problem when she was on the Kailua Neighborhood Board, noting that it seemed like a small issue until she was directly affected.

“The residents will put big, huge boulders and plant trees just to stop tourists from parking there,” Aylward said. “While I understand that it’s very frustrating to have loud tourists in front of your house, I have had verbal altercations with people that live there.”

Large rocks placed on side of the road and palms planted along Lanikai's Mokulua Drive to deter beachgoers from parking near the residents' driveways.
Large rocks are placed on the side of the road along Lanikai’s Mokulua Drive to deter beachgoers from parking near driveways. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Visitors have raised concerns about Lanikai residents placing large obstructions like boulders, traffic cones, unofficial “no parking” signs and planting trees without permits to deter beachgoers and hikers from parking outside their homes.

Tom Cestare, president of the Lanikai Association, said residents are doing it out of self defense because visitors are parking irresponsibly and backing up traffic in the neighborhood.

“I’m going to be honest with you, I’m not going to trash my neighbors for that,” Cestare said. “I don’t do that, but I do know there’s one street in particular, which is a narrow street, that has a major problem with people parking in the street.” He was referring to Mokumanu Drive.

“In theory, if it’s within 4 feet of the street they should not have those rocks there,” he continued. “But they’re doing it out of self defense because people are going to park anywhere.”

‘Our Whole Way Of Life Has Changed’

Lanikai’s parking and traffic woes are not new. However, residents say the situation is getting worse and even causing safety concerns with emergency vehicles getting stuck in traffic and people blocking driveways.

For several years, the Lanikai Association has been working with the city and state to alleviate the problem by banning parking in bike lanes, creating a traffic circle at Kalapawai Market and banning street parking during three-day weekends and Covid shutdowns.

The association, a nonprofit mainly for homeowners, has oversight of the Lanikai Community Park and eight of the 11 beach right-of-ways while three are maintained by the City.

visitors hike on the Pillbox Hike overlooking the Mokulua Islands and Lanikai.
As tourism rebounds, social media posts have encouraged visitors to hike the Lanikai Pillbox Trail and explore the beach overlooking the Mokulua Islands. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

Lanikai is a residential neighborhood on the Windward side of Oahu that primarily consists of a one-way traffic loop with unpaved sidewalks, bike lanes and narrow side streets. Its beach is not a park and has no public restrooms, concession stands or parking lots.

That’s a problem for tourists arriving to explore the neighborhood’s popular Lanikai Pillbox Trail and Lanikai Beach, known for its calm water and fine, white sand.

The Honolulu Police Department issued 163 parking citations and towed two vehicles over the Fourth of July weekend.

“The parking situation in Lanikai has been a source of resident complaints for many years,” HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu said in an email. “To address the concerns about emergency vehicle access, the city began restricting parking on three-day weekends when parking is at its worst.”

Social Media’s Role

Cestare blames social media posts for exacerbating the problem by encouraging beachgoers and hikers to travel to the area. He said on some days traffic is so bad that it can take two hours to get out of Lanikai, noting that residents have missed doctor appointments and been late picking up kids from school.

Cestare has lived in Lanikai for 35 years and said there are times where he can’t open his mailbox because it’s blocked by a parked car. Even when he puts traffic cones to signal to people not to park, they’re sometimes run over.

“Other places have been affected strongly too, but nowhere like ours because we only have one way in and one way out. It’s a major issue,” Cestare said. “Our whole way of life has changed.”

Some Lanikai residents have placed no parking signs and traffic cones to keep visitors from blocking mailboxes and entrance gates.
Some Lanikai residents have placed no parking signs and traffic cones to keep visitors from blocking mailboxes and entrance gates. Cassie Ordonio/Civil Beat/2022

Zuko Yandell noticed the traffic and parking issue immediately when he moved to Lanikai more than three years ago. Yandell has a “no parking” sign at the gate in front of his home saying that it’s the only accessible entry for emergency responders.

“It’s been the No. 1 complaint that everyone has,” Yandell said. “There’s constant traffic through here because everybody is trying to come in and park as close to the beach as possible because Instragram told them this is the beach to go to.”

“A lot of people who live on the island know when not to come here, and they’re quieter,” he added. “But visitors come all the time like it’s Waikiki. It starts every single morning and it goes to late afternoon and early evening.”

Lanikai Canoe Club head coach Scott Freitas said some paddlers are late for 5:30 p.m. practice because they’re getting off work and waiting for a parking spot to free up.

“I can’t keep complaining about it,” Freitas said, adding that the team paddles for 15 minutes then comes back to pick up people who are late. “You have to make little adjustments.”

Easing Traffic Woes

The Honolulu City Council passed a resolution on July 6 calling on the Department of Transportation director to create a plan to mitigate the problem. Possibilities raised included more restrictions, off-street solutions and improving transit and public transportation services.

Council member Esther Kiaaina, who introduced Resolution 22-125, said it has taken her about an hour to get out of Lanikai following a visit.

“This has been around for a long time. I think we need to look at a more tangible solution as opposed to a short-term (solution).”

Although the resolution is non-binding, the transportation Director Roger Morton has 90 days to act on the City Council resolution.

DTS spokesman Travis Ota said the department “will evaluate different measures.”

But there is confusion about who is allowed to park on the unpaved sidewalks. Some Lanikai residents say there shouldn’t be parking on dirt paths at all.

According to HPD, it’s not illegal to park on unpaved sidewalks unless there’s a sign that says no parking. Also the vehicles have to leave enough space for pedestrians to walk safely away from oncoming traffic.

Some residents have tried to take matters into their own hands by blocking parking with boulders and other large objects.

Large rocks painted red placed on the side of Lanikai's Mokulua Drive to deter beachgoers from parking near the residents' driveways.
Large rocks painted red placed on the side of Lanikai’s Mokulua Drive to deter beachgoers from parking near the residents’ driveways. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Confusion About The Rules

Department of Planning and Permitting spokesman Curtis Lum said trees and other plantings are allowed on unimproved sidewalks with a variance. However, boulders and other barricades are usually denied.

“We would not issue a surface encroachment variance to prevent vehicular parking on the sidewalk area, which is prohibited under the City traffic code,” Lum said in an email.

“A typical request for a variance mentions ‘sidewalk area landscaping and beautification.’ Of course, this can indirectly discourage parking,” Lum added. “But if a surface encroachment variance is authorized, adequate space for pedestrians must be provided with other special and standard conditions.”

Yu said it’s illegal for people to place signs or other objects on public roadways.

“Plants, logs, rocks, or other objects may not be used to block or reserve the public street parking areas fronting homes,” Yu said, adding that some people will be asked to remove the objects or receive a citation.

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