The barriers at Laniakea unlawfully restrict access to public park land, according to a June 4, 2015 ruling by Circuit Court Judge Gary Chang. The specific details of this ruling were still being written at press time; nevertheless, the State Department of Transportation (DOT) will have 30 days to comply after the order is filed.
The court ruling may not mean that all the barriers have to be removed within 30 days. It does mean that DOT will have to try something different and will have to restore public access. DOT has known for months that they would need a Special Management Area (SMA) Permit if they intend to keep the barriers installed indefinitely. An SMA permit was not originally required because DOT claimed that the barriers were part of a test project and temporary. The City Department of Planning and Permitting informed DOT in February that after more than 14 months, the barriers could no longer be considered temporary.
The court ruled that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail on the merits of the case: that an SMA permit is required, that a variance is required because the structures are within 40 feet of the shoreline, and that public access to public lands was wrongfully restricted. This Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) allows the involved parties to work together to solve the problem before the court has to take permanent action.
Plaintiffs are encouraging the DOT to consider leaving most of the barriers in place, provided that an entrance and exit to the parking area is opened. This would allow public access, which was the court’s highest priority in the ruling, while continuing to restrict tour buses from parking along the shoulder of the highway. This configuration would also aggregate pedestrian crossing to two places rather than the length of the highway. They believe the court would allow this compromise while the SMA permit and variance are processed.
This configuration was previously explored by DOT, but an agreement between the City and State over indemnification could not be reached. The State is responsible for the highway and the City is responsible for the undeveloped City park land mauka of the highway. Hopefully, new officials in these governmental agencies will now be able to reach a suitable agreement.
Meanwhile, DOT indicates that they are ready to reset the tragically delayed Laniakea Realignment Task Force. The Department has been reluctant to work on this project since day one and the barriers were presented as a temporary test project while the DOT moved forward on studying a long range solution. Sadly, there does not appear to have been much long range progress in the 18 months since the barrier installation. Let us hope DOT finally has the focus and determination to address the traffic congestion at Laniakea.