Second lawsuit filed to stop Haiku Stairs’ demolition

2022 May 27 CTY - Honolulu Star-Advertiser photo by Jamm Aquino/ A view of the Haiku Stairs in the Koolau mountains on Friday, May 27, 2022, in Kaneohe.

For the second time in less than a year, the Friends of Haiku Stairs has filed a lawsuit to stop the city from demolishing the more than 3,900 steps that lead to the top of the Koolau Range in Kaneohe.

Under a plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, the group says the city’s work to remove the World War II-era stairs, above Haiku Valley and the H-3 freeway, was temporarily halted May 1.


The group’s 91-page complaint is now expected to be heard by Senior Environmental Judge Lisa W. Ca­taldo at 9 a.m. today at 1st Circuit Court.

“We are currently fighting to save the Stairs in two separate lawsuits, as well as an administrative challenge before the Hawaii Historic Places Review Board,” the Friends said Thursday in a written statement. “On May 1, we succeeded in temporarily halting the city’s demolition efforts based on deficiencies in the city’s procedures, the State Historic Preservation Department’s failure to preserve historic structures as required by law, and violations of a recorded deed covenant that requires the Stairs to be maintained and preserved in ‘perpetuity.’”

“We are now asking the judge to prohibit demolition while these claims work through court. … We encourage all supporters of the Stairs to attend the hearing,” the group stated.

However, the Mayor’s Office says it opposes the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary restraining order and that the project continues to advance.

“The city’s project to remove the Haiku Stairs has not been stopped, and work preparing the stair modules for removal is ongoing,” Deputy Communications Director Ian Scheuring told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser via email Thursday. “The city has voluntarily agreed to not physically remove any of the stair modules until the conclusion of an evidentiary hearing on May 10, at which point we expect to move forward with the removal as planned.”

Justin Scorza, an attorney and Friends of Haiku Stairs vice president, told the Star-Advertiser that Friday’s hearing included the group’s request for an injunction “to stop the city from moving forward until the case can be heard.”

“We don’t know how the judge is going to rule on that,” he said, “but we’re obviously hopeful that she grants an injunction and stops them for as long as it takes to litigate our claims.”

Besides the court hearing, Scorza said his group also filed an appeal to the state Historic Places Review Board.

That eight-member panel Wednesday notified the Friends of Haiku Stairs that a closed-door hearing at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday will be held “to address our appeal of the state Historic Preservation Department approval of the city’s planned demolition of this protected, historic landmark,” he said.

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