Honolulu Council votes for long-sought Portlock beach access

"This is not only a win for our community, but for the Native Hawaiian culture who should soon have easier access to the shoreline once this process is complete.

This was never a campaign issue it was always about ensuring your legal right to access the ocean. This has been a goal of mine 4 years ago when I first got into office and it was a fight for the community for over 25 years. I was committed to getting this done and it was not easy. I am extremely happy that the City Council is moving forward with #TeamOzawa's Resolution 18-263." Trevor Ozawa


Honolulu Council votes for long-sought Portlock beach access

Following years of community campaigning and controversy, the Honolulu City Council approved a resolution Friday that clears the way for a public path across private land to the ocean in East Honolulu’s upscale Portlock neighborhood.

The resolution launches a condemnation action to establish an easement allowing unrestricted access to a small sandy beach at the end of a lane at 379 Portlock Road and a surf break known as Seconds.

“I am so happy,” said Ann Marie Kirk, a member of Livable Hawaii Kai Hui, who has been fighting for the Portlock beach access since 1997.

The path known as Lane N has been used for many years by surfers, fishermen and other oceangoers. But access to the lane was blocked last year by property owner Bert Dohmen-Ramirez, who installed a locked, chain-link gate.

Dohmen-Ramirez, one of two property owners with an undivided interest in the lane, complained of thefts and vandals doing drugs, trespassing, urinating and leaving food and broken bottles.

The resolution approved Friday was introduced by former Councilman Trevor Ozawa, who is awaiting a new election for his seat after the state Supreme Court agreed with opponent Tommy Waters’ challenge to November’s ballot results.

Dohmen-Ramirez earlier accused Ozawa of going after his property to score points with voters in a close re-election bid.

Interim Councilman Mike Formby, who is representing the East Honolulu district until next month’s election, said Friday he’s been asked by constituents to move forward with the action.

Last year the Council approved a similar measure giving city officials the go-ahead to initiate condemnation action against Dohmen- Ramirez. Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed the measure, but administration officials later determined the area did not provide safe emergency access for first responders.

Ozawa then introduced the new resolution, which was approved by a 7-0 vote.

Kirk said she and others in the community were pleasantly surprised by Friday’s Council action, believing the legislation would have to wait until after the election.

While “ecstatic,” Kirk said community members must remain vigilant to ensure the matter comes to a satisfactory conclusion.

“It’s not done,” she said. “When the blue (public access) sign goes up, that’s when it’s done.”

Kirk said she never thought securing the Portlock access would take this long. She urged other communities facing similar issues to keep up the fight.

“We have to take the bigger view — for future generations,” she said. “Every time I go by a beach access, I’m thankful for those who fought to get it.” 

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