The city is taking steps to finally clean a mess that’s plagued a Kaimuki neighborhood for years, as promised.
On Tuesday, the city’s Department of the Corporation Counsel filed a complaint and motion with the First Circuit Court to declare the property at 1115 2nd Avenue a public nuisance due to unsafe and unsanitary conditions, and allow the city to clean it up.
It also asked the court to grant a temporary restraining order so actions can be undertaken promptly.
“After hearing the recent complaints about the condition of the property on 2nd Avenue in Kaimuki, Mayor (Kirk) Caldwell asked the Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) to investigate the situation and to take all necessary actions to eliminate the health and safety hazards on the property,” Art Challacombe, deputy director, Department of Planning and Permitting said in a statement.
“The city is disappointed that it had to reach this point,” said city communications director Jesse Broder Van Dyke. “The city has attempted to reach the homeowner a number of times, but the problem is really out of control and we’ve gotten quite a few complaints from neighbors, and there are rats and other problems there and the fire department went and determined there were issues.”
The city said the department, as well as the Honolulu Fire Department, found numerous Housing Code and Fire Code violations on the property.
According to Challacombe, “there is an accumulation of trash and combustible materials on the property, which are believed to be causing an infestation of rats and cockroaches. Residents of the area have reported that the property is littered with trash, infested with roaches and rats, and smells of urine, feces and mold.”
The city says it is also in the process of attempting to locate the property owner, who has racked up more than $195,000 in fines. Efforts have been made to contact relatives who may be able and willing to provide assistance and to connect the property owner with social service providers.
“The Mayor’s primary concern has always been the health and welfare of the people of the city. The neighbors reported that the property owner has not lived on the property for over a year and cannot easily be located, and so Mayor Caldwell believes it is in the best interest of the people who live in the neighborhood to take this enforcement action,” Challacombe said.
Real estate attorney Terence O’Toole says a decision will come quickly.
“I think it’s great the government is actually taking steps so that the private folks don’t have to deal with it,” he said. “I think to the extent that public safety, public welfare, fire safety issues, the judge will probably grant it for 10 days of relief while the court can figure out what to do when they hear the full evidence.”
Once a TRO is issued, O’Toole says the city can move into the property immediately if it chooses.
“The city can go in without notice, in this case they may decide to give notice,” he said. “If the court grants the TRO, that relief is going to be immediate and it’s going to be lasting for at least 10 days subject to being extended after a full-blown hearing.”
In addition to the looks and smell, neighbors tell KHON2 the property attracts homeless people who come regularly to pick through belongings.
They’re worried about the rats and cockroaches that could be infesting the area, and many say they just don’t feel safe walking in the neighborhood.
The city council drafted a bill that passed in last December, which gives more leeway for the city to enter the property.