Parking in residential areas would essentially be limited to those who live there.

Neighborhood parking, one of Honolulu’s most salient and frustrating issues, may soon get new city treatment. 

City officials are considering allowing residents to petition for a restricted parking zone system on local streets.

This comes after enforcement of an initial pilot in Kalihi languished almost six years after it started. Now, Kalihi’s system is inching toward permanency – with more areas to follow.

As currently drafted, Bill 20 would enable residents to rally support from a majority of their neighbors and then Honolulu Department of Transportation Services would decide whether to designate the area a restricted parking zone.

Cars line both sides of a narrow street
Residential street parking in McCully-Moiliili can be difficult to find, especially in areas closer to UH Manoa. (Ben Angarone/Civil Beat/2023)

Residents would pay $80 for an annual pass for street parking to hang on their mirror. The price would increase with each additional pass, and households would be limited to four total along with one annual visitor pass and a to-be-determined number of day passes.

Motorcycles and mopeds would be exempt.

Parties would also become less spontaneous as hosts would be required to apply for and pick up extra guest passes from a DTS office.

Elected officials hosted a town hall at Kaewai Elementary School Tuesday to discuss the bill and sell it to a few dozen residents attending. Tyler Dos-Santos Tam, who introduced the bill, was joined by state Rep. John Mizuno and officials from DTS as well as Honolulu Police Department officers.

Tam started the town hall a few minutes late to allow people more time to arrive. “It’s tough to park around here,” he said.

Learning From Kalihi

It’s no secret that many residents of Oahu neighborhoods have a hard time parking on their own street as empty spots are filled up, often by people who don’t live in the area.

Who are the culprits? Take your pick.

In some neighborhoods, they’re beachgoers and hikers, both Hawaii residents and out-of-staters. In others, they’re students at the University of Hawaii who need to attend class. 

The car-sharing app Turo has helped create a landscape where some hosts purchase over a dozen cars to rent out, clogging street parking with their fleets. 

One man at the town hall referenced a house on his street that he said has three parking stalls but 19 cars. A collective “whoa” swept the cafeteria, and Tam said he was familiar with the house. 

Kalihi’s system started as a city-run pilot program in 2017. The problem began with a public housing complex that Mizuno said wouldn’t let unregistered cars into its lot, forcing those drivers to park on neighboring streets. 

Residents of the area who showed up to the town hall overwhelmingly applauded the program, saying that the difference was night and day. 

The pilot program report corroborates these claims, showing that the ratio of spaces occupied by residents versus nonresidents increased by almost ten-fold. The number of open spaces more than tripled.

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 were placed on the side of Lanikai’s Mokulua Drive to deter beachgoers from parking near the residents’ driveways. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022)

Enforcement Has Been A Challenge

Restricted parking zones could represent a drastic change to many people around the island, and not everyone is so keen to implement them.

“I don’t think you need restricted zones, you just need to create the community expectation that you park your own vehicles on your own property,” said Adriel Lam, a Kaneohe resident and member of the organization Friends of Haiku Stairs, a popular but now-closed local trail. The neighborhood where the trailhead is located is under consideration for the program.

Part of the problem is that so many residents park their cars on the street because driveways and garages are already being used, said Honolulu resident Natalie Iwasa, who testified in opposition during the bill’s second reading. She believes that these areas should be used for cars rather than for miscellaneous storage.

But many households also accommodate renters or extended family, adding to the number of vehicles.

Enforcement has been a challenge in Kalihi, which officials partially chalked up to an hourlong grace period. HPD might spot a violating car and monitor it, but officers would often be pulled away by a more pressing call. Bill 20 would allow no grace period, making enforcement more straightforward.

Tam said the fee for residents could be lowered, perhaps to a $50 annual charge for the first car.

“It’s just really some amount to make the budget and fiscal guys happy that the program is not just going to bleed a ton of money,” he explained to residents.

Restricting the parking doesn’t get rid of the problem, it just pushes it elsewhere. During the Kalihi pilot program, a street just outside the restricted parking zone saw a small increase in the percentage of spaces filled.

But residents who stand to benefit find restricted parking zones too promising to worry about that.

Paul Robotti, who lives in McCully-Moiliili where UH students park up and down the streets, said residents should have preferential treatment.

“The more we sell cars, the more we have people moving to Hawaii, that problem is going to continue,” he said. He suggested that there could be a partnership with TheBus for free rides.

Honolulu TheBus Route 67 Kailua Waimanalo travels thru the Ala Moana Shopping Center.
Parking restrictions could push more residents and visitors in the direction of public transportation. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022)

Robotti’s suggestion is something that Tam has already been considering. Residents in a restricted parking zone who don’t use the program could receive some sort of credit on their Holo cards, Tam said.

That philosophy is somewhat in line with state Sen. Chris Lee’s. Lee represents a district spanning from Kaneohe down to Hawaii Kai and chairs the Senate Transportation, Culture and the Arts Committee. 

Lee’s district endures notorious levels of visitor traffic, and some residents have resorted to guerrilla tactics to ward off nonresidents.

“Parking permit systems if done right can definitely help local communities deal with some of that,” he said.

Lee advocates for shifting infrastructure priorities toward alternative methods of transportation like public transit and bicycling, and noted that Hawaii experiences about 100 traffic fatalities each year.

He says it’s not fair for residents without cars to subsidize free public parking around the island.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity here to make sure everyone pays their fair share for the services they’re getting,” he said, “which will reduce the tax burden on everyone else.”

Bill 20’s next step is a hearing on May 23.

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