Old-timers rue new rules on surf-racks
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By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Loren Moreno
A months-long crackdown on abuses at the municipal surfboard lockers in Waikiki will soon result in increased rates, a limit on the time one person can rent a locker, and opening the popular spots to more people.
The prospect has some surfers worried they will be crowded out of the Waikiki tradition.
"I don't think it's fair to penalize people who have had racks for 10 years or more," said Caroline Yacoe, who has been renting a stall since 1970. "I can understand if someone abuses it and they get kicked out."
The nearly 600 surfboard racks at Kuhio Beach behind the Honolulu Police Department's Waikiki substation go for $10 a month. They have long been a favorite with beach boys and others for their convenience in the heart of Waikiki Beach.
But the lockers have been riddled with problems. Some renters haven't paid their fees for years, some illegally sublet stalls for high rates, and hopefuls who covet one of the lockers languish on the waiting list for years.
"The City and County of Honolulu has not done a good enough job of oversight on collecting rental fees," said Sidney A. Quintal, director of the city's department of enterprise services. "It is true that some renters have not paid in months or, in some cases, years."
He estimated that the city is owed anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 in back rent.
Under a bill before the City Council, Quintal's department would be given new authority to clean up the abuses and improve the rental system without council approval. Bill 67 goes for final consideration before the council on Wednesday and is expected to be approved.
Since at least May, the city has been cracking down on abuses surrounding the lockers, but more changes are needed, Quintal said.
Chief among them is a limit on how long surfers can rent a locker. There is a waiting list of about 600 surfers, many of whom have been waiting for about four years, Quintal said.
To help increase availability, stalls will be split among four groups of people: those with disabilities, seniors, residents and nonresidents.
The department also plans to limit the number of lockers people are able to rent. Under the proposed rules, renters with two or more lockers will have to give up all but one when they renew leases in 2008.
The city already has identified surfers who have been illegally storing their boards in the lockers, in addition to people who haven't paid their rental fees, Quintal said. Some of the rentals that were being paid were even registered to dead people, he said.
To combat the widespread abuse, the city has issued about 130 delinquency notices on lockers in which ownership was unclear or fees had not been paid.
Those who don't comply by paying their back rent will be evicted, he said.
"We just had a guy come in here and write us a check for $600."
City Councilman Charles Djou, who introduced Bill 67, said he did so to solve a number of problems surrounding the lockers, including lack of bookkeeping and a growing black market of people renting city racks and subletting them for profit.
"Up until a few years ago, there was neglect on behalf of the city government," he said. "No one really knew this was happening."
He said his office received complaints from people who have been on the waiting list for a stall for years.
"No one has been taken off of the waiting list for four years," Djou said.
TERM LIMITS QUESTIONED
Waikiki surfer Todd Camenson said his group, the Waikiki Surfers 'Ohana, has been attempting to get the city to run the racks properly for years. He complained that the city has done a poor job of keeping track of delinquent renters, but takes issue with the city's proposal for term limits.
"I've been paying my rent for years. Why should I be penalized for the few rotten apples in here?" he said, standing next to his 10-foot surfboard locked in the rack. Camenson said he has had his locker for at least 12 years.
"I'm not giving up my locker. None of the old-timers will give them up. We'll have a riot before we give them up," he said.
Camenson said the city should focus its attention on penalizing delinquent renters and not place term limits on renters in good standing.
"There are dead people in here. There are people selling their racks. Kick them out, not us guys," he said.
Yacoe, whose husband also rents a surf rack, said she has heard of other illegal activity happening at the racks, including vendors who store boards in the municipal lockers and then rent them to visitors.
"There's no question if someone abuses it and uses it to rent out boards, that they should be evicted," Yacoe said.
She commended the city for cracking down on the illegal activity, but said the city needs to do a better job of securing the area.
"There is no security. I've had two boards stolen," she said. "I'd like to see the rates remain the same, but if they raise them, they need to provide security."
Surfer Teene Froiseth, who has been a lifeguard for 25 years, said he would like a surf rack but doesn't bother, knowing the wait is so long.
"I want a board rack. Got any connections to get me in there?" he asked.
Froiseth said he thinks the solution is more municipal racks at the various beach parks.
Reach Loren Moreno at firstname.lastname@example.org.