Honolulu Star Bulletin 08/31/02)
By Ray Pendleton
ONE OF THE things I've found most perplexing about the ongoing debate over the privatization of the Ala Wai Marina is the automobile parking issue.
Seemingly, most of the public sentiment -- or the most vocal anyway -- is in favor of maintaining the present system of providing free parking stalls to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.
According to the state Board of Land and Natural Resources, there are just short of 1,000 parking spaces in the area and on any given weekend it would appear most of them are filled.
A recent report to the DLNR from its Ala Wai Harbor Ad Hoc Advisory Committee noted the area provides one of the few free parking areas in Waikiki with direct access to the ocean.
Somewhat understandably, boat owners believe their slip rental fees should provide them with free parking around the marina. And such access is considered normal in most marinas of the U.S.
The advisory committee suggested allowing one stall per boat for live-aboard boat owners and the handicapped, and one stall per every three boats for all other slip holders as a fair equation.
Still, the question must be asked whether the present mooring rates -- which are absurdly low by anyone's standards -- can actually provide sufficient funding for anything other than the basic maintenance and administration of the marina's docks.
After all, even an asphalt-paved parking lot has funding requirements for periodic repair, resurfacing and sweeping.
The costs for security or policing of the parking lots could also be considered, but as most Ala Wai boaters will attest to, that harbor service is nearly nonexistent.
To date, the cost for maintenance has been covered by the Boating Special Fund which is supported by state mooring fees, licenses and marine fuel taxes -- that is, money generated by boat owners.
YET, ANOTHER user group demanding free parking is made up of surfers who argue the parking lot on the old heliport site at the Diamond Head end of the marina is one of the last places in Waikiki they can park for free.
With the break at Kaiser's nearby, it is easy to understand their concern, but unlike the Ala Wai's boat owners, surfers make no monetary contributions to the general upkeep and security of the area.
And the same can be said for a small outrigger halau and for a number of folks who have developed what might be called long-term "proprietary parking" in certain stalls. They too are using an amenity that's maintenance is charged only to boaters.
The most silent group of people hoping that parking remains free around the marina might be the most numerous -- hotel and construction workers.
How many stalls are taken up by this group each day is hard to estimate -- I'm sure the number is significant -- but their silence is surely based on maintaining a low visibility.
Unquestionably, beach and ocean access should always remain free, but there are costs involved in ancillary conveniences such as paved parking or showers and restrooms.
Why shouldn't these costs be borne by all of the people who use them instead of just boaters?
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