DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Many small businesses and restaurants in Kaimuki share this metered parking lot.
Kaimuki parking lots to be privatized
The city seeks bids for a three-year contract that will be awarded after rates are raised
The cost of parking in the scarce spaces in the Kaimuki business district will go up as the city converts from meters to parking attendants.
The city has put out a request for bids seeking a private company to manage the two municipal lots bordered by Waialae, Harding, Koko Head and 11th avenues.
According to the bid request, the three-year contract won't be awarded until the City Council raises parking rates to $1.50 an hour after two hours, in an effort to discourage long-term parking. Parking would remain at 75 cents an hour for the first two hours.
The plan also requires the vendor to repave and maintain the parking areas. Last year, the Kaimuki municipal parking lots generated $835,360.
The city is moving ahead with the privatized parking-lot plan after the Kaimuki Neighborhood Board asked the city to look at alternatives to building a controversial $7.5 million, three-story parking structure.
The parking structure would have created 300 to 400 spaces, compared to the 270 stalls in the existing parking lot. But businesses would lose parking during the 18 months of construction, prompting opposition to the plan.
The parking-attendant proposal is also creating controversy in Kaimuki.
"My concern is the company would only care about maximized profits, and to hell with anybody else," said Mike Abe, chairman of the Kaimuki Neighborhood Board, which will discuss the proposal at its meeting Wednesday night.
The contract would require the winning vendor to hold two public meetings to discuss the plans, but Abe said the community should be informed of the plan before a contract is awarded.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The parking in the area has been tight for many years and will be privatized to become an attendant parking lot.
Mary Jane Ahrendes, a 62-year-old Manoa resident who frequently shops in the area, thinks parking attendants could be a good idea, especially if employees park elsewhere and more spaces are freed up for customers.
"It's just finding a space that's so frustrating," Ahrendes said. "Sometimes you just circle and circle and circle."
A city consultant in 2004 found that half the lot was being used for long-term parking, many of them employees of the area businesses.
In the attendant plan, monthly parking would be available for $125.
"The whole idea is to allow people to come in and have a meal or do their shopping, and then leave," said city Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, the budget chairwoman. Kobayashi said the council will meet in November to raise the rates.
Lois Shimabukuro opened Ka Lei Eggs on Waialae Avenue about a month ago, and said she's found most of her customers are elderly and take mass transit to shop there. Her employees are often dropped off or live close enough to walk.
Shimabukuro, also an area resident, said a structured parking would change the distinct small-town quaintness of Kaimuki.
"I think the reason why people like to shop here is because of the neighborhood feel," Shimabukuro said. "That's the reason why I went into the area. I like the old-town feeling."
Sean Akita, the owner of MechaHawaii, a Japanese anime hobby shop, called attended parking a "business killer," citing his experience as a motorist who has shied away from attendant parking lots.
He favors building the parking structure as a long-term solution to the problem.
But he said there's no use arguing about it.
"I just got locked into a lease here for five more years," Akita said. "It doesn't make a difference. There really is no compromise."