Mayor Mufi Hannemann is calling for the removal of 80-85 Waikiki trees, like these fronting the Jack in the Box on Kuhio Avenue between Nohonani and Walina streets.

Mayor calls just-planted
trees a hazard to safety

Hannemann will take down
80-85 Waikiki trees installed
by the Harris administration

Between 80 and 85 trees along Kuhio Avenue will be removed because of public safety concerns, Mayor Mufi Hannemann said yesterday.

"The project as it currently stood was continuing to be difficult for large vehicles to navigate their way through. It was blocking access for emergency vehicles and creating pedestrian and driving hazards as well as other problems," Hannemann said.

"I don't think we're going to lose any of the aesthetic quality or the beauty that the trees bring to Kuhio Avenue."

Former Mayor Jeremy Harris' administration planted 277 trees as part of the controversial $19 million Kuhio Avenue improvements, bringing the total number of trees on that stretch to 350. They include coconut palms, rainbow shower trees and monkeypods.

A private contractor will be hired within the next 90 days to remove at least 80 trees. As part of the contract, all but four trees will be planted elsewhere, possibly even on private property.

"I was insistent that the new contractor that will come in to help us with this process be willing to replant the trees," the mayor said.

It will cost about $1,000 apiece to take down and replant the 80-85 trees, like these shower trees lining Kuhio Avenue, from Waikiki. Mayor Mufi Hannemann blames Jeremy Harris' administration for not having a maintenance plan in place.

The cost to remove and replant the trees is about $1,000 a tree, and the decision on where the trees will be transplanted will be left up to the contractor.

Mary Steiner, president of the Outdoor Circle, said that saving the trees was important to her organization.

"We did not want to see those trees destroyed," she said. "These trees are all going to have homes eventually."

Hannemann said he made his decision after consulting with the Outdoor Circle and several community groups in Waikiki.

chart Yesterday, Parks Director Lester Chang and Steiner walked the three miles to inspect each of the 350 trees that lined the sidewalks and the median strip along Kuhio and touched each tree.

"I'm much more confident today of this plan because of the timely input from the Outdoor Circle. I feel we would not have gone forward had we not had their blessings," Hannemann said.

Steiner said her organization's phones were "ringing off the hook" when the news about the administration's plans for Kuhio Avenue were announced.

"We think that the administration and the mayor has come forward with a really balanced plan," she said. "We understand the safety concerns, yet we still fully believe that the beautification of Waikiki, which is what matters most to us, is going to be intact and we're really appreciative of that."

Steiner said one of the remaining issues is whether to replace 13 of the newly planted monkeypod trees with 13 shower trees for design reasons.

Chang said there was no maintenance plan in place when the trees were planted, but the administration will be maintaining the trees that remain.

"There was really a rush to get it out, plant the trees and worry about the maintenance cost later or leave it for the next administration," said Hannemann, who has used his mantra of "Do we need, can we afford, can we maintain it" as a criterion to determining whether projects should stay or go. "I think now we have a better handle of what it's going to cost to maintain the trees, but, most importantly, you can't put a cost on public safety."

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