Friday, December 21, 2007

Private Property v. Beach Access in Hawaii

Kaaawa_beach_walk Reader David Peterson pointed me in the direction of a series of news articles on an interesting beach access dispute in Hawaii.  From an overview article in the Star Bulletin:

Some beachgoers are upset that a gate was installed on a private road in Kailua that blocks access to Kailua Beach Park.

A "no beach access" sign was placed at the entrance of L'Orange Place when the gate was installed a month ago. . . .

Some mornings, Dianne Price would find used condoms on her mock orange bushes.

Some nights at 2 a.m., large groups would walk down her lane to build bonfires on Kailua Beach.

Those and other concerns led the residents of L'Orange Place to put up a locked gate blocking their private road. That was a month ago.

Some beachgoers are now complaining about the loss of convenient access.

"It seems, at best, unneighborly," said Ben Willkie, a Kainui Drive resident who had used the route at least once a week to head to the beach with his wife, Veronica, and 5-year-old son. . . .

"There are a lot of people alarmed by this," said Robert Moncrief, a resident since 1970. "I think this whole thing is a travesty. ... They're excluding all these people."

The Moncriefs said they fear more gates will be installed at other private side streets along Kalaheo Avenue, further blocking access to the beach.

"It's going to start this chain of reaction of exclusivity," he said.

City Council Chairwoman Barbara Marshall, who represents District 3 (Waimanalo-Kaneohe), said that while it is frustrating for beachgoers, the residents are within their rights.

"It's a private beach access owned by the adjacent homeowners," she said.

Homeowners who allow public access receive a tax break. L'Orange Place residents had opted to pay additional taxes when the gate was installed, she added.

There is another public access route about 200 yards away, near Kailuana Street.

The dispute is discussed in this op-ed, and in this follow-up article.  Some useful discussion of the issue can also be found at the Beach Access Hawaii website.  I'll defer substantive discussion to our resident Aloha Jurisprudence experts, Al Brophy and Carl Christensen.

Ben Barros

Photo from Wikipedia Commons

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This is what comes of having too many people on a small island. Beachfront property owners in Kailua are located on one of the best beaches on Oahu, and they quite rightly complain about ill-mannered members of the public. But the problem (state-wide) is aggravated by the fact that state and local governments are all too often reluctant to defend the public's right to use NON-private rights-of-way in the face of politically influential private interests, or to spend the money necessary to equip and maintain public parks (surprising, since our beach and other public parks are a big part of what keeps our tourist economy going). Like much of the rest of the state, Kailua is also under siege from an influx of poorly regulated (or flat-out unlawful) bed and breakfast operations opening up in residential areas. Again, official inaction and non-enforcement of existing law add to the problem. As can be seen from the discussion of the issue in Robert Thomas' excellent land use blog [link to specific article here: ], Maui County is in the midst of a major legal dispute over unlicensed bed and breakfasts, and the Honolulu City Council is struggling with the same issue here on Oahu. Again, too many people and too much change happening too quickly.

Posted by: Carl C. Christensen | Dec 21, 2007 7:09:00 PM

PS: Your photo is NOT of the beach at Kailua, which isn't rocky and is much wider than the one in your photo.

Posted by: Carl C. Christensen | Dec 21, 2007 7:11:41 PM

Yeah, I know. I couldn't find a public domain photo of Kailua beach.

Posted by: Ben Barros | Dec 22, 2007 9:15:49 AM

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