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City Taking On Kaka'ako Waterfront Park And Its Homeless

Casey Harlow/HPR
Aedward Los Banos, HCDA executive director, left, and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell sign an agreement on Oct. 29, 2019 transferring Kaka'ako Waterfront Park to the city.

Kaka'ako Waterfront Park will become City and County of Honolulu property on Friday. Honolulu officials are planning on repairing facilities – and addressing homelessness in the park.  


Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed an agreement Tuesday with the Hawaii Community Development Authority to transfer the park, which the HCDA has overseen for more than 20 years.

The authority’s board approved the move last year so that the park can be better managed.

The transfer consists of 16 parcels totaling about 41 acres in the Kaka'ako Makai and Kewalo Basin areas and includes nearby streets and parking lots.

Caldwell said the agreement resolves jurisdictional conflicts among city and state agencies working in the area.

"Back in 2015, we had 300 homeless folks live here," the mayor said. Working with city Facility Maintenance Director Ross Sasamura and Honolulu police, "we were able to tamp down on what was an extremely giant problem. And we're doing better. It's not perfect, but it's better."

Caldwell said it didn't make sense that the city was doing that kind of work on property that was not under its jurisdiction. That will change on Friday. 

"And we will have responsibility for dealing with the enforcement in this area and maintaining this area -- integrated with Ala Moana Park."

Sasamura said his staff will continue to enforce city laws, including its stored property and sidewalk nuisance ordinances that have been cited in clearing homeless encampments.

Credit Hawaii Community Development Authority
A map of the Kakaako parcels being transferred to the City and County of Honolulu

  As part of the transfer agreement, the city also received nearly $2.25 million from the HCDA for repair work and park improvements.

City Parks Director Michele Nekota said the money will go toward fixing lights and three restrooms in the area.

Part of the park will be closed for the repairs when the city officially takes over at the end of the week. 

Casey Harlow was an HPR reporter and occasionally filled in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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