Community members clean up Hale’iwa Beach Park Mauka
Image: blake mcelheny

A sea of red shirts emblazoned with “Public Park Land Not for Sale” flooded Honolulu Hale on Monday, June 25, for the City Council Budget Committee hearing of Resolution 12-143, which calls for “approving the sale of the Haleiwa Regional Park vacant parcels by sealed bidding between the two abutting property owners.” The bidders would be the Kamehameha Schools and the family of prospective Hotel Haleiwa developer Andy Anderson. The vacant parcels are 3.4 acres known to the community as Haleʻiwa Beach Park Mauka.

In the wake of the Haleʻiwa Farmers Market shutdown by the state department of transportation (DOT), plans to sell the park to the highest-bidding neighbor came across as another slap in the face to a community that so energetically cares for its public lands. Volunteers have spent thousands of hours a year maintaining a clear, open space for all to enjoy at no cost to the city.

Every Saturday, community members clean and maintain the Haleʻiwa Park area from 8am to noon. The work is coordinated by the Hui o Hee Nalu, which has an official Adopt-A-Park agreement with the City. Every third Saturday, community members meet at the park to help restore Kamehameha Schools’ Loko Ea fishpond. While Kamehameha School students and families use the area to access the fishpond, canoe paddlers and other recreational community groups gather there and care for the area as well.

Resolution 12-143 recommends that sealed bidding between the two neighboring property owners start at $300,000. However, because trusts like Kamehameha Schools are bound by fiduciary duty and federal tax law to purchase property at appraised value, KS could be at a disadvantage, easily making Andy Anderson the highest bidder.

Ironically, the land was originally condemned and purchased by the city from Kamehameha Schools in 1970. State law requires that proceeds from the sale of park lands be used to purchase other park lands. In this case, “the city [would be] required by law to provide park space near the ocean,” says community member Blake McElheny. Yet there is a “shortage of community-based parks in the North Shore area,” according to the 2011 North Shore Sustainable Communities Plan (NSSCP), which was approved by the City Council and Mayor Carlisle.

“The NSSCP also designates Haleʻiwa Beach Park Mauka for improvement [as] a community-based park,” McElheny said. “As with the majority of parks on the North Shore, this park actually serves the islandwide community and not just area residents,”

Before testimony on Resolution 12-143 began, Councilmember Ikaika Anderson recused himself from voting. “Andy Anderson is my grand-uncle. I have no financial interest on this project or any of my uncle’s other projects, but I do make this disclosure out of an abundance of caution,” Anderson explained.

Budget Committee Chair Ann Kobayashi then announced that the Council would defer action on the resolution due to some illegality in the wording that the Corporation Counsel had found, but that they would hear testimony from those in attendance. In a telephone interview afterward, Kobayashi said that Council Chair Ernie Martin, having visited the park that morning, had told Council members that he thought they had better defer action and look at what is the best use of the area. (Martin confirmed his request, based on need for further review, in an email.) Mayor Peter Carlisle requested the sale of the land, but “this all started during Hanneman’s term when Andy Anderson bought the Jameson’s [restaurant] lot,” Kobayashi recalled. “Then they started negotiating the sale of the park because he needs that neighboring lot to make the whole hotel thing work.”

If the resolution passes the committee, the full council votes. If it’s approved, the city can move ahead with the sale. “It’s just a two-step process,” Kobayashi explained. If the resolution continues to be deferred, it will expire within two years.

“The city condemned that land and now we would sell it?” Kobayashi asked. “It doesn’t make sense.”