Hawaii Public Radio | By HPR News Staff
Published August 9, 2023 at 1:33 PM HST
Community volunteer group Friends of Ha‘ikū Stairs filed a suit against the City and County of Honolulu earlier this week.
The plaintiffs argue that the city's violating the state's environmental protection act by using a dated environmental impact statement for the demolition of the stairs.
Mayor Rick Blangiardi and the city made the decision to destroy the 80-year-old staircase in 2021, citing issues with trespassing, deteriorating condition and injury. The city's latest budget approved $1.5 million for the work.
Kāneʻohe Neighborhood Board member Adriel Lam said that their board has passed resolutions supporting managed access over demolition.
"For the past year, a focus group of the KNB has done outreach and engagement, including going door-to-door, myself, in the Valley," Lam said in a press release. "The majority of residents tell us they are in favor of managed access and that trespassing has let up over the last few years. Yet, the mayor just awarded a contract to demolish the stairs."
Sean Pager, president of Friends of Ha‘ikū Stairs, said there are “common sense solutions” like fixing fences and community management.
"The ultimate goal, of course, is to stop the demolition and work on a solution that preserves the stairs and manages them responsibly," Pager said.
"The immediate goal of the lawsuit is to ask them to get a court order for the city to undergo an environmental review process which they have not done adequately. And that would be a public and transparent process, which would allow alternatives to be considered and community voices to be heard."
A spokesperson with the City and County said they are aware a lawsuit has been filed, but cannot comment as Corporation Counsel reviews the allegations.
For about 40 years, the community volunteer group has worked to care for the site.
"We've been talking to residents and they confirm that there's much less trespassing now than there was three years ago," Pager said. "So there are ways to solve the problem. And then they could do more of these things before moving forward."