Haiku Stairs Comments

Aloha, below are the public comments the O‘ahu Group submitted in response to the Environmental Impact Statement Prep Notice (EISPN) in regards to the future of Haiku Stairs, or the “Stairway to Heaven”:

To: OEQC and G70

The Sierra Club O‘ahu Group is concerned about the Haiku Stairs being torn down. Here are our comments and questions.


1) The Haiku Stairs should be preserved. It is well-known and attracts both locals and visitors. It is unique — no other hiking trail on Oahu is remotely similar. There are fantastic views all along the way and the stairs have a long history. To quote a recent editorial by Vernon Ansdell and Jay Silberman, the stairs “have been determined to be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, because of their integral role in the defense of the Pacific during WWII. Experts in botany and natural history have described the Stairs hike as unique in the Hawaiian islands, for several reasons. It would be an incalculable loss of an irreplaceable recreational, educational, historic and cultural resource.”

2) Managing the stairs has been done before with little or no difficulty. Again quoting Silberman — “Think about what was involved when the U.S. Coast Guard Omega Station did it in the 1980s: hikers parked in the parking lot next to the main building, filled out a sign-in sheet, and walked over to the Stairs. That’s it. The station and parking lot were open during the day, so no one had a reason to park on neighbors’ lawns and sneak up at night. During the six years that the Stairs were open, an estimated 20,000 people a year climbed it, with no supervision, and no impact on the neighbors.”

3) No one has been killed or seriously injured while hiking the stairs. This is an amazing record for a trail that has been drawing hikers for over three decades. People have been very careful because of the obvious danger if they fell off the stairs.

4) The City spent almost $800,000 fixing the stairs (and replacing the railings) over a decade ago. It has spent about $170,000 a year for the past several years to post guards at the gate near the end of Haiku Road. All of this money should go to making the stairs available to the public! And if the stairs are torn down, it will cost the city almost 3 million dollars. This money could be used to create a hiking trail that would draw tens of thousands of people a year without annoying the residents who live near the trailhead.

5) If the City won’t maintain the stairs, perhaps another government agency will. DLNR comes to mind. They have a lot of experience in managing trails (think Na Ala Hele). The stairs lead up to the Koolau Summit Trail (KST) and could be part of an all-day hiking experience unlike any other in the state. Up the stairs, along the KST, down Middle Ridge and out along the Kamananui Valley road would be an unparalleled recreational experience.

Another possibility: again quoting Ansdell and Silberman, “If BWS can’t be troubled to manage the Stairs, hire a contractor to do it, and collect entrance fees to cover all operating, maintenance, security and management costs, as well as all potential liability. The state collects hundreds of thousands of dollars per year from entrance fees to Diamond Head State Monument.”

6) The concerns the City has expressed about liability are overblown (again, no deaths or serious injuries in over 3 decades of hiking by everyone from first time hikers to experienced mountaineers). Liability should not be the primary consideration in deciding whether to preserve the stairs or not. The State’s experience with Diamond Head State Park and Manoa Falls Trail (the two most hiked trails on Oahu) should put to rest any concerns that the City has.

7) Oahu’s trails are being inundated by an unprecedented number of hikers. We had almost 9,000,000 visitors to the state in 2016. The situations at Maunawili Falls Trail and Kuliouou Ridge Trail and Mariner’s Ridge indicate that we need more, not fewer, popular trails. Haiku Stairs could be an attraction that helps alleviate the foot traffic on our most popular trails, thus taking some of the pressure off a resource that was not made to handle so many people.


1) Have other governmental agencies (besides the Board of Water Supply) been asked about their interest in “taking over” the stairs?

2) Have non-profits been asked about their interest in managing the stairs (for example, the Friends of Haiku Stairs)?

3) Has anyone from the City hiked similar trails in other states or foreign countries? Have they seen how those states and countries managed that recreational resource?

4) Has the City made an offer to Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to swap land that can be used for housing for the land that DHHL owns in Haiku Valley (courtesy of the US government when Coast Guard Omega Station closed down) and which is unsuitable for housing?

5) Has the City considered selling the stairs to a third party (such as Trust for Public Land) which would transfer the stairs to another government entity or non-profit or public-private partnership (PPP)?

6) Has the City considered reviving the Coast Guard method from the 80’s — i.e. renovating the parking lot and main building of the former Coast Guard facility to allow hikers to park there so that neighbors would not be inconvenienced?

7) Has the City considered using the Diamond Head State Park model — charging for parking ($5 per vehicle) or walking in ($1)? These monies could be used exclusively to maintain the stairs and provide a great visitor experience.

8) There is a serious shortage of funding to protect and maintain our natural resources. With almost 9,000,000 visitors last year, DLNR needs more resources just to maintain, much less improve, the visitor experience. This doesn’t even count the number of locals who also use the resource base. Has the City considered turning the stairs over to the State to use as a revenue source (similar to Diamond Head)?

9) Has the City considered convening a meeting of interested parties in resolving this situation? Representatives from the Board of Water Supply, DHHL, DLNR, the Friends of Haiku Stairs, Sierra Club, Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club, Trust for Public Land, City attorneys, State attorneys should sit down and talk to each other about possible solutions. This would cost very little and some innovative ideas might come out of this get-together. It is worth a try. The Haiku Stairs is a unique resource and definitely worth saving.

The Sierra Club looks forward to your response. And mahalo for this opportunity to share our mana’o with you.

Randy Ching
Sierra Club O‘ahu Group

Bill 59- O‘ahu’s Plastic Ban Ban 2.0

Tomorrow, Honolulu’s City Council will have its final hearing for Bill 59 (2016) CD2, FD1 – an ordinance that will “close the loophole” on O‘ahu’s plastic bag ban. We have been sharing action alerts on social media to encourage our members to submit testimony in support of the FD1 (1st floor draft) which is the preferred language for Bill 59. Below is the testimony the O‘ahu Group submitted in support of Bill 59 (2016), CD2, FD1:

May 9, 2017-

Aloha Chair Menor, Vice Chair Anderson, and members of the Honolulu City Council,

On behalf of the Sierra Club O`ahu Group’s 8,000 members and supporters and as a participating organization in the Rise Above Plastics Coalition, we are in STRONG SUPPORT of Bill 59 (2016) CD2, FD1, which will implement a 10 cent fee on all check out bags at grocery stores and phase out the thicker “reusable” plastic bags in 2020. This FD1 balances both business and environmental concerns: the stores have adequate time to use their stock of thick plastic bags and will receive money from customers to invest in paper or cloth bags, while our community moves towards eliminating plastic pollution and promoting sustainable consumer behavior. When the Council passed the first plastic bag ban there were unintended consequence of allowing thick plastic bags to be considered “reusable.” Bill 59 (2016) CD2, FD1, will effectively eliminate these types of plastic bags on O`ahu to help reduce cleanup costs, save vital resources, and protect our marine environment from plastic pollution.

We respectfully cannot support the CD2 as it is currently written. It creates more confusion and ambiguity about what types of bags are allowed in the future, particularly by allowing “non-recyclable bags” for prepared foods, beverages, and bakery items. It also does not phase out the thicker plastic bags or compostable bags, which was the intention of Bill 59 (2016). We would prefer to not have to revisit the plastic bag issue another time. Passage of the FD1 would successfully accomplish the intention of the initial plastic bag ban: to eliminate plastic bags on our island.

The Sierra Club O`ahu Group advocates for a reduction of all plastic bags – regardless of their thickness. If we cannot eliminate thick plastic bags in Bill 59 (2016) and truly move towards sustainability and waste reduction, we ask that the Council defer this measure until better a consensus between the Council, environmental groups, and industry representatives can be reached. Grocery stores can already impose a 10 cent fee for checkout bags without passing this bill. We cannot support a bill that will impose a mandatory fee on customers if it is not coupled with language to phase out the thick plastic bags; the point of having a fee on bags is to encourage a reusable mindset, not to help grocery stores purchase more plastic bags.


Sierra Club O`ahu Group


Congrats to Josh Stanbro for becoming Honolulu’s Chief Resiliency Officer

Mayor Caldwell, in partnership with 100 Resilient Cities, appoints Joshua W. Stanbro to be Honolulu’s first Chief Resilience Officer

Stanbro will lead island-wide efforts to build holistic resilience to the social, physical and economic challenges that are an increasing part of the 21st century

100 Resilient Cities – Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation – is dedicated to building resilience in cities around the world; Honolulu is a founding member of $164M effort

HONOLULU — Mayor Kirk Caldwell has appointed Joshua W. Stanbro to be Honolulu’s first Chief Resilience Officer. Stanbro will lead city and county-wide resilience building efforts to help O‘ahu prepare for, withstand, and bounce back from the ‘shocks’ – catastrophic events like hurricanes, fires, and floods – and ‘stresses’ – slow-moving disasters like water shortages, homelessness, and unemployment, which are increasingly part of 21st century life.

As Chief Resilience Officer, Stanbro will serve as part of Mayor Caldwell’s cabinet and oversee the development and implementation of a comprehensive Resilience Strategy for the city. He will also lead the new Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency, created by voters who approved a charter amendment in November 2016.

“Josh’s extensive knowledge of environmental issues, infrastructure, cultural land preservation, and community issues at federal, state, and city levels ensures he will be an effective advocate on issues surrounding climate change, resilience, and sustainability here on O‘ahu,” said Mayor Caldwell.

Appointing a Chief Resilience Officer is an essential element of Honolulu’s resilience building partnership with 100 Resilient Cities – Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation. The 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) organization is part of a $164M commitment by The Rockefeller Foundation to build urban resilience in 100 cities around the world. The position will be fully funded by 100RC for two years.

“I’m honored to lead this new Office and looking forward to working with Mayor Caldwell, the Honolulu City Council, and our communities to make O‘ahu stronger and safer,” said Stanbro. “I’m also proud that Honolulu was selected to be part of the 100 Resilient Cities initiative and that our voters overwhelmingly approved tackling head-on the tough climate change issues that threaten an island community. This is the right time for local governments to take a leadership role.”

Honolulu’s resilience initiative includes a unique focus on coastal and economic challenges in a city increasingly affected by climate change impacts and infrastructure issues, along with a clear eye toward other potential shocks the island may be exposed to. Disparities in access to housing and exposure to natural hazards threaten community cohesion and weaken Honolulu’s overall resilience. Stanbro will therefore be charged with fostering an island-wide dialogue about the most pressing vulnerabilities, helping the city to unite and build the collective capacity for change. O‘ahu voters clearly recognized these threats when they voted to establish an office dedicated to addressing these issues and focusing on fostering sustainability.

Hawai‘i Community Foundation CEO Kelvin Taketa lauded Stanbro’s work for the organization.

“For the past eight years, the Hawai‘i Community Foundation has been fortunate to have Josh Stanbro lead our environmental and sustainability programs,” said Taketa. “During his tenure, Josh has been an established thought leader for sustainability and an important collaborator for Hawai‘i’s nonprofit community. His commitment to bridge-building and collaboration make him an outstanding choice to lead the city’s new Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency. At HCF, we are proud of Josh’s many accomplishments and look forward to partnering with him, along with the Mayor and the city, to achieve greater change and make Honolulu a more resilient place for all of us.”

The Chief Resilience Officer is an innovative feature of 100RC’s resilience building program. Stanbro will work within city government to break down existing barriers at the local level, account for pre-existing resilience plans, and create partnerships, alliances and financing mechanisms that will address the resilience vulnerabilities of all city residents, particularly among low-income and vulnerable populations.

“Josh Stanbro joins a network of peers from cities across the globe that will share best practices and surface innovative thinking,” said Michael Berkowitz, President of 100 Resilient Cities. “Stanbro will become a global leader in resilience, and will be an asset for Honolulu and other cities around the world.”

Stanbro will receive personnel and technical support provided by 100RC; and utilize resilience building tools from 100RC’s Platform Partners in the private, public, academic, and NGO sectors.

About Joshua W. Stanbro
Josh Stanbro brings a wealth of sustainability experience and a track record of developing partnerships to his new role within the administration. He has served as a Program Director for the Hawai‘i Community Foundation since 2009, where he led the Hawai‘i Fresh Water Initiative and the Community Restoration Partnership. He previously served as Project Manager for The Trust for Public Land-Hawai‘i, where he completed the acquisition of over 25,000 acres of land for preservation in perpetuity. He has worked in various roles with Envision Hawai‘i, the Coastal/Estuarine Land Conservation Planning Advisory Group, the South Kona-Ka‘u Coastal Conservation Task Force, and the Hawai’i Forest Stewardship Committee. Stanbro earned a BA from Claremont McKenna College and his Juris Doctor from Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California at Berkeley. He spent a visiting semester at the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa where he earned a Cali Award in Native Hawaiian Rights.

About 100 Resilient Cities—Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation
100 Resilient Cities – Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation (100RC) helps cities around the world become more resilient to social, economic, and physical challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century. 100RC provides this assistance through: funding for a Chief Resilience Officer in each of our cities who will lead the resilience efforts; resources for drafting a resilience strategy; access to private sector, public sector, academic, and NGO resilience tools; and membership in a global network of peer cities to share best practices and challenges. For more information, visit: www.100ResilientCities.org.

Honolulu’s New Office of Climate Change

Every ten years the Honolulu Charter Commission proposes changes on the City’s Charter, or Honolulu’s constitution. Twenty proposed changes made it to the November 2016 ballot such as Question 6: a City Charter Amendment that would create an “Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency”. The O‘ahu Group was ecstatic when majority of residents voted yes on this Charter Amendment because we are already seeing the impacts of climate change, yet policies to combat these effects have not been a focus at the city level. Passage of this amendment shows community support to prioritize sustainability and resiliency in a transparent matter.

Here are some of the things the O‘ahu Group suggests the city considers when creating this office:

  • Holistic: this office should create and implement a comprehensive climate change plan and resiliency strategy tailored for Honolulu; incorporating all major climate change impacts, potential catastrophic events, and other social, economic, and environmental stressors into this strategy.
  • Action Planned: this office should prioritize sustainability projects consistent with the resiliency strategy to help adapt to sea level rise and plan development accordingly, end our dependence on fossil fuels, protect our natural resources and open space, and increase our food self-sufficiency.
  • Inclusive: this office should effectively convene city departments, policy makers, scientists, and community members. The staff should work on a variety of tasks: from implementing the resiliency strategy through policy and projects, to educating the public about climate change and promoting a vision of a resilient future, and engaging stakeholders to support a plan of action, including future revenues for major infrastructure work.

We believe that the formation of this office will help facilitate discussion about the impacts of climate change, promote environmental stewardship, and initiate sustainability projects on O‘ahu. Seven positions are proposed for this office in the Mayor’s 2018 budget with funding for 5 requested, including: a Chief Resiliency Officer/Executive Director, a Deputy Director, Secretary, Coastal Project Manager, and Energy Coordinator. The Chief Resiliency Officer position will be funded by a two year grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, but the other positions will need to be approved by the City Council during budget hearings from April to June. Eventually, we hope the office will be expanded to include a few more key positions, such as a grants manager, a communications coordinator, a food policy coordinator, and a water conservation coordinator. We’ll be lobbying Councilmembers to support this office, so stay tuned on how you can get involved. This is an exciting time for Honolulu, mahalo for your support!


O‘ahu Group Annual Meeting

Aloha all!

Mahalo nui for attending our Sierra Club O‘ahu Group brunch meeting last weekend at Ho‘omaluhia Botanical Gardens. This was a long-overdue gathering of our members and supporters and it was great to see over 50 familiar and new faces in attendance to enjoy a sustainable vegetarian brunch provided by Juicy Brew and World Centric.

As you heard at the meeting, we are joining the fight for a $15 minimum wage; we will be launching a campaign to switch the city bus fleet to electric buses; we will be fighting the Dillingham Ranch subdivision and proposing new rules to curtail “gentlemen” farms; we’ll be working with the city to shape the work of the new Office of Climate Change; we will be pressing the city to convert all its facilities to net-zero energy buildings, to close the plastic bag loophole, to promote local food farming, to increase re-use of “waste” water; we’ll be working to improve trail access, and so much more. And we’ll be hosting a series of social events. So there will be plenty of opportunities to engage and volunteer.

In the meantime I’d like to follow-up on one issue raised by our Chair, Anthony Aalto: sustaining memberships. As Anthony explained, most of the money from your yearly membership is retained by the national Sierra Club to finance our headquarters operation in San Francisco and the vital work they do in Washington DC. We only get about $1 per member for our work in Hawai‘i.

So we rely on local volunteers to become Sustaining Members. These are people who commit to regularly donating a small amount – typically between $10 and $25 every month. 100% of those donations stays in Hawai‘i on the sort of issues listed above.

To become a sustaining member of the O‘ahu Group, please visit www.sierracluboahu.org/donate and fill out the secure donation form, checking the box for “Make this contribution monthly”. There is also an “Additional Information” box at the bottom where you can further specify how you would like your money to be used (for example in a specific campaign, for outings, events, lobbying, advocacy, etc.). After submitting, you will receive a confirmation email as receipt of your donation.

We are one of the few non-profit organizations who are allowed to lobby at the City Council and State level. Monthly donations enable us to plan ahead and ensure the longevity of our organization, so that we can continue to protect what we all love about these islands.

I’ve been on the Sierra Club team for just two months and I’m only beginning to see how much work we have to do – We would love to be able to count on your ongoing support as we head into 2017.
Mahalo again and Happy Holidays!


Randy Ching, Volunteer of the Year 2016

Randy Ching is one of the Sierra Club’s most devoted, generous, and lovable volunteers. He has been a member of the Sierra Club of Hawai‘i since the 1980’s and has been an amazing environmental leader for the O‘ahu Group as an active Outings Leader and member of our Executive Committee. Along with committing his time, Randy has been an invaluable financial supporter to the Sierra Club and other non-profit organizations, helping numerous groups fulfill their missions to promote good government and protect Hawai‘i’s environment and people.


This year, the Sierra Club of Hawai‘i decided to start a new tradition and host a party to celebrate incredible volunteers like Randy. The “Randy Ching Award” will commemorate the volunteer of the year…and of course Randy Ching is the first recipient!


We celebrated the Randy Ching Award with over 60 friends and fans, where Randy was adorned in lei and received a volunteer of the year plaque gifted by Jen Homcy at Foundwoodworking. State Representative Matt LoPresti organized an legislative commemoration, while fellow outings leader Stan Oka and Hawai‘i Chapter Treasurer Nara Takakawa presented the gift of a wiliwili tree planting and city park bench at Kokohead Botanical Garden.


Guests were able to share a favorite Randy story, with many speaking about his generous nature, enjoyment of food, quirky snoring habits, and love for taking naps on the office couch.




Randy, on behalf of the Sierra Club of Hawai‘i, we love you and thank you for everything. We are grateful to have you a part of our ‘ohana are honored to create the Volunteer of the Year award in your name.