Honolulu Councilmember, District 2
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 would be open to these solutions. I generally support managed access plans and community involvement in preserving our natural resources and access to public spaces. My coursework at the William S. Richardson School of Law included earning certificates in environmental and Native Hawaiian law, which instilled in me an appreciation for the government’s responsibility to preserve our environment and community access.
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 Kāneohe 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 would support the City exploring these alternatives with buy-in from the community and area legislators. Given the stated position of the Kāneʻohe Neighborhood Board, I would want to find out more from stakeholders. As a Councilmember, I would want to know more about the opinion of the residents most impacted by the activities at Ha‘ikū Stairs and the opinions of the area legislators. I see value in preserving the the Ha‘ikū Stairs if possible.
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?
I would need to review any final environmental assessment, impact statement, or biological surveys to determine whether the anticipated costs for removal are reasonable in light of any needed mitigation required to protect the surrounding environment. I would also welcome input from and make myself available to the Friends of Ha‘ikū Stairs. Oversight by the Council would occur during the budget process, and I would be proactive in ensuring that any additional funds allocated are reasonable.