Looks like parking fees on way up
Just when you think things may be improving at the state-run marina in the Ala Wai Harbor, suddenly there is more conflict.
On the positive side, the new, state-of-the-art, 70-slip F-Dock is nearing completion and there are some pretty solid rumors of a similar replacement of the disintegrating B/C/D-Dock complex. But now, another cloud looms on the horizon: increased parking fees.
More than a decade ago, when Hawaii's economy was on the skids and the harbor's surrounding Waikiki neighborhood was seeing far less construction activity and tourism than today, the competition for parking was negligible.
Boat owners managed to coexist with the surfers who parked mostly at the old heliport, close to the break at Kaisers.
Boat owners paid just $20 a year for permits that allowed them unlimited parking anywhere in the area, including the few dozen metered stalls adjacent to the Ilikai Hotel. For anyone else, the metered parking cost a mere 40 cents an hour and parking was free elsewhere on a first-come, first-served basis.
Curiously, those fees remained unchanged until now, even though DOBOR's needs for revenue have grown and the competition for parking has intensified as more and more construction workers and hotel employees have taken advantage of the free parking.
In a move calculated to appease the surfers who, however illogically equate parking fees with limiting their access to the ocean, DOBOR intends to preserve free parking in the heliport area. However, for the remaining 900 parking stalls, there will be a new fee structure.
Boat owners will still be offered special permits, but the price may go up to $35 a month (not per year, as before) if the new rules are adopted, and general parking will be priced at "City and County rates" and controlled by a parking management company.
So -- no surprise -- the Ala Wai's boat owners and their families and friends aren't very happy with such a dramatic increase and, in a sense, I can't blame them.
But they should be reminded that in most other marinas in the U.S., boaters are charged mooring fees that are sufficient to cover the other ancillary conveniences like vehicle parking, restrooms, and showers. Hawaii's slip fees, on the other hand, are a third of that found elsewhere and often don't begin to cover the marina's operating costs.
One amusing reaction to the new parking plan came from the surfers who looked their free parking "gift horse" in the mouth and diagnosed it as ailing because they said, "All of it will be taken over by people trying to avoid the fees in the other lots."
As the new parking fee schedule is a part of an amendment package to the Hawaii Administrative Rules, DOBOR will be conducting public hearings around the state prior to taking to the Land Board for approval.
For those interested, the hearing for Oahu is scheduled for Wednesday, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Jefferson Elementary School in Waikiki.