HONOLULU (KHON2) — The city said it will be stepping in and taking over Leahi Avenue after the privately owned road has caused conflict and confusion among neighbors for years. 

A wooden structure built on top of a food truck would not stand if it was parked on a city street, but in this case, Ala’s Mediterranean Kitchen sits on a grey area, as Leahi Avenue is not operated by the city.

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The Department of Transportation Services Director Roger Morten said the city is working to gain control of Leahi Avenue within days. 

Morton said, “It is kind of a street in limbo really it was determined by the city to be not to be part of the city inventory of streets.”

Safe Leahi LLC bought Leahi Avenue from the Lunalilo Trust through a quitclaim deed back in 2020, they said with the intention to make the street safer for children walking to school. 

But what followed were issues among neighbors and drivers, parking stalls were added, which removed the two lanes on the road. Traffic congestion became an issue and prompted calls from residents for the city to take ownership of the road. 

Arleene Velasco lives on Leahi Avenue, she said the issues on the road have caused conflict among drivers. She has been calling on the city to take over the road for almost three years. 

Velasco said, “We want the streets to be safer, everyone walking, I run this road everyone walks it, we have a lot of park goers that used to park on this street.”

Morton said the city will assert its right to take over Leahi Avenue. 

Morton said, “We don’t usually do that, we feel that this case is so unusual that we are going to assert our authority under state law at the same time we are going to try to obtain a clear title to the street, and that may be a longer process.”

In a statement, Safe Leahi LLC said, “Safe Leahi is working with the city to complete the conveyance of Leahi Avenue to city and looks forward to the city’s efforts to improve the safety of Leahi Avenue.”

Morton said once the city takes ownership of the road, they will cease commercial operations and return the two-way lanes on the road.

The PARKLINQ CEO Tyler Saenz, which operates the parking stalls where Ala Mediterranean Kitchen food truck sits said he felt for Ala Thavata’s story. Thavata said he started to build the wooden structure on the roof of the truck out of desperation, as he faces eviction. He said his son is also dealing with health issues. 

Saenz said he received a helping hand while going through issues and he said he wants to pay it forward. 

Saenz said, “We’re going to be moving into one of our Waikiki locations and no rent for the next 90 days. So he’s able to try and get back up on his feet with, you know, better foot traffic at that location.” 

Thavata is working to get the truck in shape to move and get his business running again. 

Thavata said, “It’s a relief now I have something to look forward to another beginning actually.”

Morton said they plan to take over Leahi Avenue and remove the food truck before the start of the school year.

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PARKLINGQ has also started an online fundraiser to help Thavata and his son.