By Lynda Arakawa
Advertiser Staff Writer
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is exploring an idea to create a new lagoon-type beach next to the Waikiki Aquarium.
The lagoon would be between the aquarium and the concession area, said Dolan Eversole, a University of Hawai’i coastal geologist and adviser to the state’s Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands. He added that it would be similar in concept, although a third or half the size of, the lagoons at Ko Olina.
Such a project would involve excavating part of Kapi’olani Park to make way for a lagoon-type beach spanning roughly 200 feet horizontally and about 150 feet inland from the existing shoreline, he said. Breakwater structures allowing for water circulation would likely be in line with the existing shoreline, he said. Eversole estimated the project could cost up to $4 million, but said there are many variables that would affect the cost.
“It would provide a new recreational opportunity — quiet water setting, swimming and recreational beach,” Eversole said.
Eversole emphasized that creating a lagoon is still a concept. He said department officials are bouncing around the idea of possibly creating two smaller lagoons, but are leaning toward one medium-sized lagoon.
The department doesn’t have funding for such a project and has yet to receive feedback from the administration and the community about the idea, he said. If state officials decide to go ahead with the proposal, the department would first need funding from the Legislature for a feasibility study, which could take up to two years and result in different designs for the project, he said.
“We’re a long ways off from actually implementing it, but we’re kind of bouncing the idea around,” Eversole said.
“We’re just thinking of another recreational opportunity and a way to enhance the (Kapi’olani) Park use. This hasn’t really gone through the channels. We want to talk to the mayor about it and the city officials and kind of get their ideas, too.”
The department also is looking at long-term approaches to protect beaches from sand erosion. Officials plan to begin a $500,000, 30-day sand replenishment project this month at Kuhio Beach.
“We’re always interested in protecting existing beaches where we can and enhancing those that are experiencing erosion and coastal damage — trying to enhance those opportunities,” he said. “And Waikiki is kind of a special case because of its social, recreational and economic value as well.”
Reach Lynda Arakawa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer
Next month, the city expects to hire a planning consultant to consider the future of the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium. Again.
The waterfront memorial to veterans of World War I awaits the next chapter in its 79-year history. The crumbling ocean-water pool remains mired in controversy with supporters still pushing for full restoration of the once-grand swimming pool and opponents arguing for more beach space.
The facility has been closed to swimming since June 1979. The last formal work on the structure ended in 2000 after then-Mayor Jeremy Harris oversaw the completion of a facelift and renovation of the arches and bleachers.
The new study will mark the first city action since emergency repairs in 2004 after a section of the broad concrete pool deck collapsed.
Eugene Lee, deputy director of the city Department of Design and Construction, said Mayor Mufi Hannemann requested and got a total of $500,000 for planning and design in the current budget. A portion of that money will be used to analyze alternate uses for the memorial that all stop short of full restoration.
Lee said the possible uses — including keeping the arches and bleachers — also “will run the gamut from essentially beach restoration or relocation of some of the structures to total elimination of the structures.”
He said the city expects to award a contract to a planning consultant by next month to complete an analysis over the next two years. Lee said the city will not pursue full restoration because of safety worries, cost concerns and the state Health Department’s published saltwater pool regulations, which “would be very, very hard to meet.”
He said the city monitors the crumbling structure and posted signs and erected barriers to keep people out.
In the fiscal year that’s about to begin, Hannemann asked for $40,000 in planning and design and $5.3 million in construction, but Lee said the council cut construction money in half.
City Customer Services Director Jeff Coelho said the Hannemann administration is trying to keep the structure safe while analyzing the best solution. Coelho said that means shoring up the shoreline and trying to stabilize the structure.
“We can’t let it deteriorate to the point where it becomes a public hazard,” he said.
Mo Palepale of Kalihi and Vehi Sevelo of Kane’ohe, both 20, say they like to go to the beach near the memorial. The Natatorium has been closed their whole life.
“Ever since we were little, it’s been locked up,” Palepale said.
Sevelo favors restoration: “They should fix it for the locals; they should make use of the areas.” But they both know that financing the project is a problem.
Lee’s department assured City Council members that the construction money would only be used to fix the memorial if other portions of it fell apart.
Lee said the city also hopes to engage the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a separate contract to study the impact on the coastline of different solutions. That study is estimated to cost about $300,000.
The fate of the memorial has been debated for decades. By May 2000, the Friends of the Natatorium group celebrated a big change: the restoration of the historical facade. That cost $4.4 million of the $11.5 million that the City Council had approved to spend on the monument.
But the project bogged down in controversy with concerns about the health and safety of trying to restore the ocean-water pool and questions about how much it would cost to repair, then operate and maintain it. The rest of the money was never spent on the memorial.
Council members backed away from other phases of restoration, and Harris, an advocate for restoration, left office. In a speech in February 2005, Hannemann said, “We’ve suspended work on the Waikiki Natatorium to save us from having to pour more good money after bad.”
Architect Ed Pskowski of the firm Leo A. Daly first started working on the project in 1988 and became a big proponent of full restoration. He remembers swimming in the Natatorium in the 1970s and still hopes for a day when his kids and grandkids could swim there, too.
He fondly recalls the Memorial Day service last month when Hannemann gave permission for the Royal Hawaiian Band to perform, and about 200 people gathered to honor the war dead and enjoy the memorial.
Pskowski said any projects will be complicated by the status of the monument on the national and state historic registers. While some people favor moving the arches, Pskowski said those options range from expensive to impossible.
“The arches are basically stucco over small concrete blocks that are on a foundation,” Pskowski said.”You just can’t separate anything without it crumbling.”
And he suggests that those who ask for beach restoration look to turn-of-the-century photos that show scoured rock rather than beach near where the Natatorium now exists. “The only reason the beach is there is because of the Natatorium,” he said.
The president of the Friends of the Natatorium is Linuce Pang, a 72-year-old Korean War Navy veteran who has been supporting restoration for 20 years.
Pang maintains that the memorial should be preserved as a monument to those people from Hawai’i who died: “These 101 men and women gave their lives to go clear over to Europe, all the way from Hawai’i. This was to honor them.”
Pang sees that political support for full restoration has ebbed and he’s tired of the politics. “We certainly don’t need any more studies,” he said. “What more do they need to know?”
Attorney Jim Bickerton represents the other viewpoint — the Kaimana Beach Coalition — made up of those who believe the pool should be filled in and the area used as a beach park for the many residents who swim and play there.
“We certainly support Mayor Hannemann’s approach of really studying ways to use the area that will benefit everyone but still pay respect to the veterans,” Bickerton said.
But the coalition opposes restoration of the ocean-water recirculating pool, any use that will increase commercialization of the area, and the idea of a freshwater pool as well. “It would be expensive and pointless to have a traditional chlorinated pool there,” he said.
Bickerton would like to see the expanded beach envisioned by the coalition, as a way to preserve and enhance one of the few ocean recreation areas in town favored by residents over tourists.
“We’re fighting to hold on to that and keep it that way,” Bickerton said. “This is one of the few public beaches in the urban area that’s not blocked off by hotels and has parking.”
Nancy Bannick, vice president of the friends group, said anything but full restoration will result in the memorial’s demise.
“There’s no second choice for the friends,” Bannick said. “We’d just have to stand back and watch it be demolished and say ‘shame, shame.’ ”
City Councilman Charles Djou, who represents Waikiki, sees wisdom on both sides. “I think in an ideal world the Natatorium should be restored. I think it’s a fitting tribute to our veterans,” Djou said.
But he also believes Hannemann needs to focus on core city services such as sewers, roads and public safety without spending money on other things.
“In the near term, they’re doing the right thing,” Djou said.
Reach Robbie Dingeman at email@example.com.
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Capitol Bureau
Mayor Mufi Hannemann, in one of his first acts in office, suspended repair work at the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium yesterday.
The move signals a major shift in the city’s policy on the memorial built to honor Hawai’i soldiers killed in World War I. During 10 years in office that ended Sunday, former Mayor Jeremy Harris succeeded in restoring the Natatorium’s facade and bleachers but was stymied in attempts to fix its deteriorating pool.
Tim Steinberger, acting director for the Department of Design and Construction, yesterday sent a two-paragraph letter to contractor Healy Tibbits Builders stating, “You are directed to suspend all activities and expenditures for this project until further notice.”
Hannemann could not be reached late yesterday but was expected to comment on the issue today, a spokesman for the mayor said.
Last month, Hannemann promised to halt the emergency repair work initiated by Harris. He has also said he hopes to remove the pool and deck while preserving at least the major arch of the facade and possibly the restrooms, and favors more recreational space at the site.
Peter Apo, a spokesman for the Friends of the Natatorium and one-time Waikiki development director under Harris, said his group is disappointed but not surprised by Hannemann’s decision to suspend work, particularly since a majority of City Council members have also gone on record opposing full restoration.
“We will do everything we can under the law to stop demolition and (attempts) to create a new use at that site,” Apo said.
The city would not need to discuss demolishing the Natatorium because of its poor conditions if government officials had provided the funding to properly maintain it through the years, Apo said.
The Friends group believes the city cannot demolish the pool without the permission of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Legislature, Apo said. What’s more, it will cost $20 million to establish the groins to save the beaches in the area — more than it would take to restore the pool, he said.
Jim Bickerton, attorney for the Save Kaimana Beach Coalition which has opposed full restoration, said his group was pleased by Hannemann’s decision. “We look forward to working with everyone on the next phase which is to make a functional memorial that will expand the beach space available to Honolulu’s public,” he said.
Bickerton said the Harris administration could not provide documents justifying the $20 million estimate for removing the pool and keeping the groins. “We believe Mayor Harris made that up out of whole cloth, it was pure fabrication,” he said.
Bickerton said students at the University of Hawai’i’s College of Engineering recently estimated it would cost “under $3 million” to put a beach at the site of the Natatorium.
He also disagreed that the city would need permission to tear down the pool. “The important thing is to have some form of memorial that Honolulu can afford,” he said.
Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 525-8070.
By Crystal Kua
Carlisle sworn in to third term
On his first full day at the helm of the city, Mayor Mufi Hannemann carried out his threat to stop repair work on the deteriorating Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium.
“This is to inform you that … you are directed to suspend all activities and expenditures for this project until further notice,” acting city Design and Construction Director Tim Steinberger said in a letter sent yesterday to Healy-Tibbits Builders Inc. President Rick Heltzel. The company could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Hannemann had vowed that one of his first acts as mayor would be to halt $6.1 million in remedial work.
“He’s making good on a campaign promise,” said Peter Apo, spokesman for Friends of the Natatorium, the group that wanted the structure restored. “We’re disappointed but it’s not unexpected.”
But critics of the Natatorium restoration were pleased with the mayor’s decision.
“We are very pleased with the sensible approach of our new mayor. We support his decision completely,” said Rick Bernstein, of the Kaimana Beach Coalition. “There’s finally responsible action being taken, and we celebrate the wisdom of Mufi Hannemann and this action.”
Former Mayor Jeremy Harris wanted to restore the 80-year-old memorial to World War I veterans, but legal wrangling, including formulation of rules governing the saltwater pool, brought the $11 million restoration project to a standstill.
A section of the pool deck collapsed in May, leaving a crater at the edge of the bleachers on the mauka wall. After the incident, the city hired a contractor to begin work to stabilize the structure.
But the structure’s future remains in question.
Hannemann contends it would be too expensive for the city to continue to maintain the Natatorium and instead wants to keep its arch as a tribute to the veterans. But he wants the rest of the structure — including the pool — scrapped in favor of expanding the beach, a plan endorsed by Bernstein’s group.
Bernstein said he is gathering a group of experts to volunteer to make that happen and, as much as possible, stay with the $6.1 million that has already been set aside for Natatorium work.
He said the pool needs to be dredged, the structure demolished, the groins stabilized, new sand brought in and bathrooms built.
Apo said that if the city proceeds with demolishing the Natatorium, they should expect legal challenges from his group and others, as well as permit approvals that could tie up the project for years.
“It’s not a threat. We will do everything we can to protect the Natatorium, and we’ll see where it falls,” Apo said.
Hannemann was expected to answer questions on the Natatorium at a news conference today.
Also at that news conference, he is expected to name the former chairman of the Hawaii Tourism Authority and former chief executive office of a national teeth-brightening company as his managing director, the person who will run the city in Hannemann’s absence.
John Reed is the retired CEO of the BriteSmile company. According to the San Francisco Business Times, Reed retired as CEO in April and stepped down from the company’s board of directors on Oct. 14.
Prior to joining BriteSmile, he was chairman of Pacific retail development for international duty-free operator DFS Group Ltd.
Reed was also the first chairman of the HTA after the panel was formed by the 1998 Legislature.
Hannemann is also expected to name former state Deputy Comptroller Mary Pat Waterhouse as director of Budget and Fiscal Services, who will be charged with formulating the city’s operating and capital improvement budgets.
By Crystal Kua
The Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium now more than ever is under threat of being demolished because of the changing political climate at City Hall.
“It’s gotten to the point now where we really feel seriously threatened by this attempt to demolish,” said Peter Apo, a spokesman for Friends of the Natatorium. “Today launches the day when we’re going to seriously try to do something.”
Apo and several other supporters who gathered at the Natatorium yesterday fear the days may be numbered for the deteriorating monument to World War I veterans.
Mayor-elect Mufi Hannemann has vowed to stop emergency repair work at the Natatorium. And a majority in the City Council is not eager to spend any more money to restore it.
“We don’t go tearing down war memorials,” said David Scott, executive director of Historic Hawaii Foundation. “We don’t go convert the Arizona Memorial into a volleyball venue.”
Natatorium restoration advocates said they are banding together to muster public support for full restoration.
“God bless them. They’re all good-intentioned people,” said Rick Bernstein of the Kaimana Beach Coalition, which wants to save the Natatorium arches but not the saltwater pool.
“But their information is inaccurate,” Bernstein said. “We don’t wish to destroy the war memorial. We simply wish to adaptively recreate a war memorial, making it a functional memorial beach as compared to a dysfunctional memorial swimming pool.”
Councilman Charles Djou said his district, which includes the Natatorium, is divided, but he can see both arguments. His biggest concern is the cost to taxpayers.
Supporters claim it will be more expensive to tear the structure down to create a new beach. Beach supporters say it will cost more in the long run to maintain an aging structure.
“If we had stayed on track with the construction with the original appropriation, we would be swimming in that pool right now. There’s no question,” said Friends’ member Donna Ching.
But Bernstein said engineers have told him that creating the beach would cost about $6 million to $7 million.
Djou said while it may be less expensive in the short-term to complete the restoration started by Mayor Jeremy Harris than to destroy the pool and make a beach, the city would be hit with untold maintenance costs for an aging facility for years.
Djou said Natatorium supporters have read the political tea leaves correctly because “I think the logjam is going to get broken … in favor of tearing this down.”
The emergency repair work to shore up the Natatorium came after the pool deck collapsed in May. City spokeswoman Carol Costa said a contractor will be installing a perimeter fencing before proceeding with other work.
“It seems completely illogical,” says the director of the Waikiki Aquarium in what may be the understatement of the year.
Dr. Andrew Rossiter was referring to the obduracy of outgoing Mayor Jeremy Harris in the matter of the crumbling Natatorium.
Harris insists he’s going to move ahead with a plan to shore up the sagging structure, even though the City Council and the incoming mayor, Mufi Hannemann, have indicated their opposition to the project.
Hannemann says he’ll halt the project as soon as he takes office.
Given that Harris’ plan involves driving more than 80 pilings into the reef below the Natatorium, it simply doesn’t make sense to undertake this project when it’s sure to be abandoned three weeks later.
Rossiter, meanwhile, warns that the pile-driving will be detrimental to the fish in his charge, and possibly to the structure that houses them.
We’re disturbed by the notion of pile-driving on the reef, and the ecological damage that’s sure to do.
Citing a consultant, Harris says the structure could collapse if it isn’t shored up. But it’s the pool and deck structure that Harris is rushing to save, and it’s the pool and deck structure that likely will be removed in the end, leaving the memorial and bathrooms — and a restored stretch of beach.
Throwing $6 million at this project at this time is “completely illogical” — to say the least.
By Johnny Brannon
Advertiser Staff Writer
The long fight over the crumbling Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium is triggering a mayoral showdown.
Mayor Jeremy Harris’ administration intends to move ahead with a plan to shore up the sagging structure, but Mayor-elect Mufi Hannemann said he would immediately cancel the work after being sworn into office next month.
“We’re talking about millions of taxpayer dollars that are going to be wastefully put out there when in fact the next mayor does not have any intention to go forward with that,” Hannemann said.
He said he hopes to tear down the structure’s pool and deck, but preserve its unique archway and public restrooms.
“This is what I believe the taxpayers want, this is what I know the majority of the City Council will support, and obviously this is what my preference is,” he said.
Harris was not immediately available, but city Managing Director Ben Lee said the work must begin soon, because the structure is at risk of collapsing. The plan includes driving more than 80 pilings into the reef below the Natatorium.
“We’re going forward with the repairs so we don’t endanger the health and safety of our residents and the general public,” Lee said. “If we don’t move forward, we’re subject to liability, and I don’t think that would be responsible. The responsible thing to do is stabilize the structure so it’s safe.”
Hannemann can evaluate the situation after he is sworn in next month, and consider the consequences of not making the repairs, Lee said.
Meanwhile, the director of the nearby Waikiki Aquarium said he remains very concerned that the pile-driving would cause serious problems for the aquarium’s collection of rare fish.
Dr. Andrew Rossiter said city officials had assured him in a meeting last week that the work would not begin if Hannemann made it clear he did not sanction it.
“They stated unequivocally that if Mayor-elect Hannemann indicated he would stop the project when he came into office, they would not pursue it any further from the time he said so, which means they wouldn’t go ahead with anything,” Rossiter said.
City spokeswoman Carol Costa could not confirm that, but said officials had agreed to halt the work immediately if it disrupts the fish, and to not resume it until the aquarium had moved any fish endangered by the work.
Rossiter said many fish and other creatures are extremely sensitive to vibrations, and that the pile-driving could also cause problems for the aquarium structure.
“This is a resource for the entire community, and to jeopardize it for the sake of political pride is, I think, rather foolish,” he said. “When one person says go for it, and another says it’s going to stop in three weeks, I honestly don’t understand it. It seems completely illogical.”
Reach Johnny Brannon at email@example.com or 525-8070.
By Crystal Kua
Mayor-elect Mufi Hannemann has promised that one of his first acts in office will be to kill a proposed $6.1 million construction project to repair the aging Waikiki War Memorial.
“I plan to send a letter to (Mayor Jeremy Harris’ administration) in writing to say in effect that I will cancel the contract, I will cancel the work on the Natatorium when I become the mayor,” Hannemann said yesterday. “So I’m asking (the Harris) administration to think about not proceeding.”
It is the most forceful declaration yet by Hannemann on his plans for the crumbling memorial to World War I veterans. The memorial has been at the center of a controversy over whether the structure, with its saltwater pool, should be fully restored.
But Harris administration officials said they will not back down.
“We’re going forward with the repairs to stabilize the structure so we don’t endanger health, life, safety of our residents and the general public,” Managing Director Ben Lee said. “We’re hoping that Mayor-elect Mufi Hannemann will read the technical report and our engineering report and get all the facts.”
A Circuit Court judge allowed the city in 1999 to continue with part of an $11 million restoration that included renovating the facility’s restrooms but not restoring the saltwater pool until the city abides by state rules for such pools, a requirement that has stalled the project.
In May a section on the pool deck collapsed, leaving a large hole at the edge of the bleachers on the mauka wall. After the incident, the city hired a contractor to begin work to stabilize the nearly 80-year-old structure.
“I just want to let the public know that it’s clear in my mind that this is not the prudent use of taxpayers’ dollars,” Hannemann said. He decided to make his feelings public, he explained, so Harris’ administration will reconsider and “maybe not proceed forward,” he said.
Hannemann has not been a fan of full restoration of the Natatorium and instead wants to save its arch as a tribute to the veterans. He also wants to expand the beach in that area.
Hannemann said he expects his decision could lead to a lawsuit but that it would be far more expensive to maintain the Natatorium in the long run.
Critics of the project applauded Hannemann’s stance.
“He’s showing a great deal of responsibility. He’s setting a tone on what he plans to do, which is to make the area into a functional memorial rather than a dysfunctional memorial,” said Rick Bernstein, of the Kaimana Beach Coalition, which is in court to stop restoration of the memorial.
But Peter Apo, spokesman for the Friends of the Natatorium, said that if Hannemann is not going to fix the structural problems, “it’s a huge accident waiting to happen.”
By Debra Barayuga
The city is violating state law by going ahead with restoration of the crumbling Waikiki Natatorium without the proper permits, according to a lawsuit filed yesterday in Circuit Court.
The complaint filed by the Kaimana Beach Coalition and Richard S. Bernstein lists the defendants as the city, outgoing Mayor Jeremy Harris and other city officials.
The group, which opposes restoration of the Natatorium, is asking the court to stop the city from doing any work until it obtains the proper permits for the altered project.
The plaintiffs claim that city officials are going ahead with plans that are substantially different than what they received permits for in 1998.
The suit claims city officials intend to implement a different plan that involves driving 90 concrete piles into the reef outside the Natatorium and replacing the concrete pool deck and ocean seawalls to create a noncirculating ornamental pool.
City spokeswoman Carol Costa said although officials have mentioned Nov. 29 as a possible “mobilization date” for construction, they have no exact starting date because they are waiting for materials to arrive from the mainland.
But, she said, mobilization does not mean “pile driving.”
City attorneys have not yet seen the complaint so they cannot respond, Costa said.
The complaint supplements one the group filed in 1999 seeking to halt the Natatorium’s restoration.
In 2000, the court granted an injunction as part of a settlement in which the city agreed not to construct, restore or repair the swimming pool unless it was necessary to protect the public’s health and safety or until they come up with a plan that meets state health requirements for swimming pools.
In May, the city closed the restrooms after a section on the pool deck collapsed and were told by two firms that work should be done to shore up the pool deck. City officials have argued that there is an immediate health and safety concern and delaying repairs could expose the city to lawsuits.
But James Bickerton, attorney for the coalition, questions why the sudden rush in the last month of Harris’ administration to drive 90 piles.
“We contend there is no danger as long as the Natatorium remains closed and there are adequate signs and fencing to keep people from wandering in or getting hit by a piece of rock,” he said. “We’re saying they’re using the claim of danger to basically try and avoid the injunction.”
The project design presented to the City Council for permit approval in 1998 is still unacceptable because it doesn’t comply with state health regulations, he said. The group plans to ask the court next week to enforce the injunction.
By Ken Kobayashi
Advertiser Courts Writer
A group that wants the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium torn down filed a lawsuit yesterday to halt any city work on facility.
The Kaimana Beach Coalition’s petition filed in Circuit Court contends that city officials altered plans that were approved in 1998 so much that the work should be halted until the city gets new permits.
City officials could not be reached for comment, but the suit could lead to more problems for the controversial project to restore the deteriorating facility and saltwater pool built in 1927 to honor World War I veterans from Hawai’i.
Mayor Jeremy Harris had planned to restore the entire structure and the city spent $4 million in 1998 to repair the bleachers and adjoining wall before a lawsuit halted the work. Both Mayor-elect Mufi Hannemann and his opponent Duke Bainum pledged during the campaign to halt the city work.
But city officials last month said they planned to start emergency repairs to shore up the pool and deck for public safety reasons.
James Bickerton, lawyer for the coalition, said the group had planned to ask for a halt to any work as a violation of a settlement of the earlier lawsuit. He said yesterday’s lawsuit is an another reason why the city should stop the restoration.
According to the suit, the city obtained a shoreline management permit approved by the City Council in 1998 based on plans calling for the restoration of the salt water pool for public use. But the suit alleges the city has not taken any steps to comply with Department of Health regulations for public saltwater pools.
Instead, the city plans to create what the lawsuit said is “a non-circulating ornamental pool” that won’t be usable by the public.
City officials, the suit said, “materially and substantially” altered the project.
“The permit is no longer valid if they’re doing a different project,” Bickerton said.
The coalition includes about 300 members who use the nearby public beaches and parks, Bickerton said. The members oppose commercial activity in the area and fear the restoration will lead to that outcome.
Reach Ken Kobayashi at firstname.lastname@example.org or 525-8030.