Residents demand action in battle over East Oahu beach access

From brush fires to vandalized canoes, Hawaii Kai community members had a lot to discuss at a neighborhood board meeting Tuesday evening.

The latest issue surrounds public access to a beach fronting the 300-block of Portlock Road, which is home to a surf spot known as “Seconds.”

Concerned residents showed up in force at Hahaione Elementary School to address the recent installation of a gate that prohibits access to the area.

Beach access is a hot topic in neighborhoods across the state. No one can own the beach in Hawaii. It is considered public land all the way up to the vegetation line.

At Tuesday’s neighborhood board meeting, most residents spoke to the board about why they believe the gate should be taken down.

The access lane is privately owned. Landowners had complained of illegal drug activity, noise, and trash being left behind in the walkway to the beach.

Residents say regardless of ownership, the city needs to take action.

“What is happening all around our island, not just on this side of the island, is more private landowners are closing off beach access to the residents. Now, we just have landowners like this one claiming that we are intruders. I don’t like that word. I am not an intruder. That is my public beach,” said a resident.

The question was raised whether or not the stretch of property where the gate is located could be condemned so access could remain public.

“It’s not a process that’s going to happen overnight, but the process has begun. I plan on doing the exact same thing here, so I do plan on condemning that land and doing it in the right way,” said Honolulu City Council member Trevor Ozawa.

“I will say the mayor fully supports beach access and public access, but we also feel we need to make sure everyone respects private property rights, so there is a balance there that needs to be reached,” said Timothy Houghton, deputy director of the city Department of Environmental Services.

The owner of the property that put up the gate did not attend Tuesday’s meeting, but Ozawa says he’s been in contact with him.

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