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Kaleo Nakoa

Honolulu Councilmember, District 4


Many Haʻikū Valley residents are rightfully concerned about trespassing by hikers illegally accessing the Stairs. Trespassing is entirely a government-created problem caused by closing off access. When the Stairs were open to the public under the Coast Guard, trespassing was virtually nonexistent. Moreover, spending millions to remove the Stairs will not end trespassing. The City plans to leave behind the anchor pillars underneath the Stairs, providing a ready-made scaffolding that will encourage climbers to attach ropes and scramble to the summit. More effective solutions to trespassing merit exploration: As an interim measure, barriers could exploit natural chokepoints along the Stairs’ steep terrain. Combined with community-driven policing and smart technology, trespassing could be curtailed cheaply and effectively. The longer-term solution would be to reopen the Stairs, providing public access that alleviates the incentive to trespass and generates revenue to pay for ongoing security. What is your opinion of these cost-effective, public-private solutions to address trespassing?

I love to be outside, and, particularly in times of Covid, the stuff outside is the best medicine. I
haven’t climbed the Stairs, but I do hike the Koko Stairs, and it’s so beautiful up there. I am sure that Ha‘ikū Stairs is equally beautiful, and I would love to go out there. So, I’d like to preserve that option. If the state's willing to open it up and give access to the people, then that will solve the trespassing issue. We just have to take steps to make sure there's no trespassing on private property. To me, the important thing is to listen to the community and work with the City to
problem-solve and meet their needs.

The Honolulu City Council recently voted to appropriate $1.3 million to demolish the Ha‘ikū Stairs — aka “Stairway to Heaven”— and Mayor Blangiardi has stated his intent to proceed with demolition. By contrast, previous administrations solicited requests for managed access proposals to reopen the Stairs and 14 were received in 2020 that were never acted upon. The Kāne􏰁ohe Neighborhood Board recently unanimously passed a resolution urging the City to halt demolition for one year “to allow time for a community-driven process to develop alternatives to demolition based on collaborative, non-profit stewardship.” What is your position on whether the City should explore these and other alternatives before proceeding with any action?

I like being involved with the community. I like hearing what the community has. I like to give everybody the option to hear both sides because we need to hear both sides so we can make a sound decision with the majority, and that way everyone has a voice. So I’d favor stopping the process to give a chance for those discussions to happen.

Significant questions have been raised about the adequacy of the current $1.3 million budget for removal. The City itself had earlier estimated removal costs in the range of $4-5 million in the 2014 Ikaika Anderson Task Force Final Report. The City has also yet to complete required environmental reviews and biological surveys to proceed with demolition. Given cost overruns commonly associated with Honolulu City projects, do you have concerns about the Stairs removal budget? If so, what would you do to protect taxpayers from escalating removal costs?

The City’s budget for $1.3 million is unrealistic. Nothing costs 1.3 million dollars nowadays. It doesn't make sense to me to spend all that money to fly helicopters. The city's going to spend a crazy amount of money to demolish something even though people are still going to go up there.
So why not just make it safer and easier on the City and County by turning the Stairs over to another group to manage. Give it to the people, or support the people who are willing to take care of it.

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