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Waikiki cleanup closes parks


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POSTED: Friday, March 13, 2009

Advocates for the homeless are voicing some concern over Mayor Mufi Hannemann's effort to clean up and renovate sections of Waikiki Beach and Kapiolani Park.

Hannemann announced the project yesterday.

It sets new daily cleaning hours at all pavilions along Kuhio Beach and calls for temporary closures of grassy areas in Kapiolani Park for about one month at a time starting March 23. Comfort stations both in the park and along the beach would be closed for painting and other repairs starting March 30 for about a week at a time.

The program also sets new late-night hours, closing Kapiolani Park, mauka of Kalakaua Avenue, from midnight to 5 a.m. daily, starting April 20. Areas makai of Kalakaua are being closed from 2 to 5 a.m.

Max Gray, a program director with the H-5 advocacy group, noted that the Next Step Project homeless shelter in Kakaako was opened as a result of the city's cleanup of Ala Moana Beach Park in 2006.

“;This seems to be the same kind of an idea, although not on the same scale,”; Gray said. “;I don't want to condemn the cleanup plan. I think cleaning up the area is a good thought.

“;In theory it's a good idea, but I think in practice it's going to cause a problem.”;

Officials say the cleanup stems from long-standing complaints about vagrancy in the Waikiki and Kapiolani Park areas by neighborhood boards, community members, businesses and tourists.

Hannemann said the cleanup is needed to address sanitation and safety.

He added that the program can be accomplished with existing city resources, and no additional money will be sought.

“;We know this plan is not going to make some folks happy who have looked upon some of these areas here as theirs,”; he said. “;But it's clear to me ... we need our beach parks to be open and accessible to everyone, not just a select few.”;

Those who refuse to leave during the park closures will be asked to leave and could be cited for failing to comply, officials said. Arrests would be an option of last resort.

Social service providers have been contacted to prepare for what could be an influx of homeless. Hannemann said there is ample shelter space at the Institute for Human Services.

“;We are hopeful that if people are not able to stay in the park anymore that they will choose to come to a shelter or another homeless service provider so they can get some permanent assistance,”; said Kate Bepko, spokeswoman for the institute.

Hannemann's plan comes as the City Council prepares to debate a measure to ban people from sleeping in Kapiolani Park. The measure, Bill 2, was seen as a way to address the problem of homeless sleeping in the park overnight.

Councilman Charles Djou, who introduced Bill 2, said he supports Hannemann's cleanup but still would like to see his proposal advance when the City Council takes it up Wednesday.