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Wednesday, August 25, 2004



Group fails to halt
work on Ala Wai

A judge denies the lawsuit
seeking a restraining order
against the project


Waikiki residents have failed to get a court order to block the city's $2.4 million Ala Wai Boulevard beautification project.

City & County of Honolulu Acting Circuit Judge Hilary Gangnes denied a request yesterday for a temporary restraining order sought by Waikiki resident Robert Kessler, but set aside three days in October for a hearing on the request for a preliminary injunction.

Deputy Corporation Counsel Gregory Swartz said two or three of 20 proposed landscaping hubs on the makai side of the boulevard, referred to as "bulb-outs," have been landscaped and the project is expected to be completed early.

"We'll continue to work on the project and will make rapid progress," he said.

Robert Kessler filed a lawsuit against the city Aug. 9 on behalf of a group of residents to stop the project until an environmental assessment is completed. Kessler said he was disappointed but not surprised at the court's ruling.

"We knew the odds were against us because the city accelerated the project and it was almost a fait accompli as Mr. Swartz had pointed out," Kessler said.

In his complaint, Kessler alleged that the city failed to consult with the state Historic Preservation Division on the impact of the project and that the city improperly exempted itself from environmental assessment laws.

Kessler and a group of about 40 residents maintain that the project has caused delays and disruptions in traffic and eliminates sorely needed parking spaces.

Swartz said the city understands that there are people unhappy with the project but that the city followed proper procedures. "These projects are exempted because they're not perceived to have major impact on the environment," he said.

The principal impact is the loss of parking and the city has made a commitment to replace the stalls, he said.

Saying she was not ruling on the merits of the complaint, Gangnes concluded that the city had showed its plans to the Historic Preservation Division and the review process was completed. She also found that exemptions from environmental assessment requirements claimed by the city did apply. The city had exempted itself from the environmental assessment because it claimed the project did not take away a traffic lane.

The residents said Ala Wai's far right parking lane was open to traffic during peak hours as late as May.

Gangnes said a temporary restraining order would not maintain the status quo but would cause irreparable harm to the city and public with a work stoppage cost estimated at $2 million and the loss of parking stalls for many months. "So the court finds no public interest that would support the granting of a TRO," Gangnes said.

Kessler said residents plan to regroup and decide what to do at the upcoming hearing, but he noted by then, the Ala Wai project will have been completed.

The real issue, Kessler said, is that the city is taking away lanes on Kuhio Avenue and Ala Wai Boulevard at the same time, while Mayor Jeremy Harris has stated that he is trying to divert people from cutting through Waikiki to get from one part of town to the other. "So the city is not necessarily doing beautification work -- it's traffic obstruction," he said.



City & County of Honolulu
www.co.honolulu.hi.us
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