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[Star Advertiser] Column: Costs balloon for Haiku Stairs' dubious demolition

By Chris Dacus

Published April 12, 2022

Honolulu's mayor and City Council are increasing the Haiku Stairs demolition budget by a whopping 30% and the project has not even started.

It's a bad start for a project in which a mere 180 people testified in favor of demolition last year, versus 3,600 people for saving the stairs. The City Council's vice chairwoman, Esther Kia'aina, was so flustered by the overwhelming opposition to her bill that she did not allow 1,000 residents with non-808 phone numbers to testify.

Defying 95% of residents and spending millions on the demolition of Haiku Stairs make no sense, especially during a raging recession with inflation causing milk, eggs, bread, gas and home prices to increase weekly, pricing many residents out of Hawaii.

Public records show that between 2002 to 2021, the city spent $4,617,859 on the Haiku Stairs: $875,000 for improvements, $2,594,648 for security, $14,000 on the Puoni Place gate, $23,000 for swing removal, and $1,111,211 for the environmental impact statement consultants. On April 13, this Wednesday, the City Council appropriations Bill 14 will ask for an additional $1.3 million for the demolition of the Haiku Stairs, topping $5,917,859.

But this does not include staff hours of the Honolulu Police Department, Honolulu Board Water Supply, Department of Parks and Recreation, and the Department of Design and Construction. Residents deserve to know the real project cost that only an independent audit can deliver.

The environmental impact statement exaggerated the benefits of demolition regarding the public safety, liability, aerial rescuers, trespassing, invasive species and rare native plants - but omitted the benefits of eco stewardship (managed access), which clearly is better for all stakeholders, including Haiku residents and the environment.

This year, the Haiku Stairs celebrate 80 years without a single accidental death. No court cases. No liability. No aerial rescues for hikers starting in Haiku Valley. The Haiku Stairs has a proven safety record. No invasive species due to hikers. In fact, the worse invasive species in Haiku Valley, umbrella trees, arrived 122 years before the Haiku Stairs - and strawberry guava, 197 years before. And rare native plants have no chance of survival without the Haiku Stairs.

This is a demolition project that 95% of Honolulu residents do not want, and we clearly do not need. The city has been going down this rabbit hole for 20 years with nothing to show for its efforts except spending $4,617,859. It's time for the 95% to show up at City Hall on Wednesday and stop this insanity.

Full article here.

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