Lunch wagons operating illegally on Kapahulu lot

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Kapahulu Avenue is a busy street, lined with restaurants and shops.

There’s even a lot with a number of food trucks. The problem is the lunch wagons are doing business there illegally.

“Normally a lunch wagon wouldn’t need a building permit because it’s a transient type of vehicle that moves on a daily basis,” said Department of Planning and Permitting Deputy Director Art Challacombe.

But the lunch wagons at 755 Kapahulu Avenue are there around the clock. One was even propped up on bricks. The food trucks don’t go home with the owners.

“So they’re no longer considered vehicles at this point. They’re considered structures so they’re in violation of the building code,” Challacombe said.

The Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) sent a Notice of Violation to the property’s owner on June 13, which says that building permits are required.  They have 30 days to either get permits or correct the violation.

But July 13 came and went, and nothing was done.

“So we’re preparing a notice of order which would basically initiate civil fines. I am going to recommend the maximum which is $1000 a day,” Challacombe said.

The Wong Family Trust is listed as the owner of 755 Kapahulu Avenue.

For years, it was the site of Shell gas station.  But that got torn down a couple of years ago and the lot sat vacant until this past February.

The property manager says that’s when he got a lease from the owner with the intention of turning it into a food truck venue, until the owner starts to develop it. So he rents out spots to food trucks like Hank’s.

“Until they start construction, I was told we’re going to be able to do business here for as long as it’s feasible,” Hank’s food truck operator Mark Okamoto said.

On June 27, the DPP issued a second Notice of Violation, for a different offense.

“The second notice of violation the owner has chosen to evade us, basically not accept service,” Challacombe said.

Under City law, a B-2 business zoned lot must have an all-weather surface and landscaping.

“Basically you cannot put a commercial operation on an unprepared lot,” Challacombe said.

The DPP is a complaint-driven department. They don’t go out looking for lunch wagons in violation, they simply followed up on complaints.

“The City and DPP are not against lunch wagons and we think they’re great, but they need to be in the right place and they need to obey the law. That’s the bottom line,” Challacombe said.

The landowner now faces hefty fines, and potentially a lien on the property — even the possibility of foreclosure if nothing is done.

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