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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, August 13, 2002

'Iolani Palace grounds to be locked at night

By Kapono Dowson
Advertiser Staff Writer

Because of vandals and vagrants, 'Iolani Palace grounds will close its gates to vehicles and pedestrians from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., beginning Sept.15.

A visitor walks in front of the 'Iolani Palace gates, which will be closed between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. starting Sept. 15. A study of damage costs from vandalism and graffiti led to the decision by the group that manages the landmark.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

The 11-acre grounds, bordered by Capitol Mall and Richards, King and Likelike streets, will lock its four gates to keep out loiterers, palace officials said.

More than 140 alarms a year have sounded at the palace during the last two years, said Dan Quinn, state parks administrator. The palace and grounds fall under the State Parks division of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

"We see probably more homeless at the palace now than in the past," Quinn said.

The Friends of 'Iolani Palace had requested permission to close during the late-night hours, which are most vulnerable to break-ins, Quinn said.

"The number of alarms indicated people were crossing the security barrier. Waiting for another break-in would not be the prudent way to go," he said.

The Friends of 'Iolani Palace security board looked at the damage caused in the mid-1980s and early '90s, and thought it would be good to set hours, said Deborah Dunn, executive director of Friends of 'Iolani Palace.

At that point, damage for graffiti and replacement of etched glass and broken doors had run to more than $20,000.

There have been no more major losses since the mid-1990s, Dunn said, but "everybody just felt it be better if we had set hours."

Church organizations downtown report an increase in homelessness in the area.

Linda Verdugo, administrator at St. Andrews Cathedral, said that as places downtown are closed off, the homeless will move somewhere else. She said St. Andrews also had more homeless around the grounds at night.

Places for the homeless to go have been shrinking by the day, said Hans Bochentin, social services director at the Institute for Human Services. "More and more criminalizing just adds to their misery. I can understand why public and private are closing themselves off to the homeless — Fort Street Mall, A'ala Park, benches and beaches. The homeless are prosecuted everywhere and have no where to go."

IHS operates a downtown homeless shelter and recently opened its doors as a daytime drop-in center where people can sit without getting into trouble during the day, Bochentin said.

"But the center only handles 350 people, which includes families. There are an estimated 13,000 to 15,000 homeless on O'ahu alone, not including 'hidden' homeless."

The state and private contributors have spent about $10 million to restore 'Iolani Palace, according to the Friends group. The nonprofit organization has managed the palace since 1966.

Registered as a National Historic Landmark, 'Iolani Palace is the nation's only royal state residence, and contains artifacts from around the world. It was the official residence of King Kalakaua and Queen Kapi'olani from 1882 to 1891. Queen Lili'uokalani lived there until the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in 1893.

The palace grounds, which contain a temple, royal burial site and the Coronation Pavilion, are considered to be of special significance to the Hawaiian people, the Friends group said.

The Board of Land and Natural Resources gave the group permission to set hours after a meeting with Hawaiian organizations, Quinn said.

Reach Kapono Dowson at kdowson@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-8103.