City sued over plans to restore Natatorium

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
By Debra Barayuga

A suit says repairs are set to begin without necessary state health permits

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.

Natatorium legal woes grow

Honolulu Advertiser
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 or 525-8030.

Hannemann vows to build administration with unity

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
By Crystal Kua

Mufi Hannemann greeted supporters at his Dole Cannery Square headquarters late Tuesday after the third election printout showed him winning the mayoral election.

The mayor-elect will soon select a new Cabinet

E Komo Mai. Welcome.

As Mufi Hannemann begins the transition of becoming Honolulu’s next mayor, he says: “The philosophy is going to be exactly what I said in the campaign. I say, ‘Komo mai,’ welcome to anyone who wants to be part of our administration.

Text excerpted from below:
Hannemann said he will talk to Harris about not moving forward with the planned construction at the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium project, which he brought up during the campaign.

“I think there are a lot of issues that Mayor Harris and I will have discussion on. I’m sure that’ll come up,” Hannemann said.

“It doesn’t matter to me what party you belong to, whether you voted for me or not. I just want to know that you’re competent, you’re qualified, your heart’s in the right place and you’re ethical.”

In his first news conference as Honolulu’s mayor-elect, Hannemann also talked about the issues that he and Mayor Jeremy Harris will likely discuss in the transition process and how he will bring supporters of challenger Duke Bainum into the fold of his administration.

Hannemann said he will set up a formal process to begin selecting a new Cabinet.

He is hoping to get an office at City Hall to begin the transition process, but if not, he will handle the transition out of his campaign headquarters at Dole Cannery in Iwilei.

He is asking people not to call until the process is set up, but they are welcome.

Harris called Hannemann yesterday to congratulate him and to arrange for transitional meetings.

Harris said he will arrange for briefings by key departments for Hannemann’s new appointees.

Harris said one of the biggest hurdles for Hannemann will be to find qualified appointees willing to give up high-paying jobs in the private sector and undergo the scrutiny of public service with the city.

“The key challenge he’s going to face is being able to attract the very best to the government, with all of the drawbacks,” Harris said.

Hannemann said he will also reach out to those who supported Bainum during the campaign.

“(Bainum) got a significant amount of votes, and he campaigned on some themes that people obviously wanted to hear about, so I believe it behooves me to reach out to them and I will,” Hannemann said. “I want to be a leader who unites rather than divides.”

That includes also reaching out to those on the City Council who supported Bainum, including Councilman Gary Okino.

“I don’t think I’ll have a problem working with Gary Okino. I’m going to respect the fact that he was elected in a Council district that I represented,” Hannemann said. “I’m sure Mr. Okino will have good ideas, like (Councilwoman) Ann Kobayashi has good ideas. I’m all about wanting to work with the Council.”

Okino said he will also work toward that goal.

“If it’s actually coming to the middle and working together, of course, but it has to be a cooperative kind of thing,” he said.

Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz said that because Hannemann is a former councilman and Council chairman, he will be able to understand the position of the Council. “It’s refreshing that the mayor-elect will respect and appreciate the legislative function.”

Harris said he hopes that Hannemann continues with the curbside recycling project that the mayor has already started.

Hannemann said he will talk to Harris about not moving forward with the planned construction at the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium project, which he brought up during the campaign.

“I think there are a lot of issues that Mayor Harris and I will have discussion on. I’m sure that’ll come up,” Hannemann said.

About 3 a.m. yesterday at a Waikiki restaurant, Hannemann was eating breakfast when he got word that he was elected the new mayor of Honolulu.

A ballot-counting snafu — more than 5,000 uncounted absentee ballots — resulted in Hannemann waiting several hours to find out if the results that put him on top in the mayor’s race would stand.

Heavy turnout pushed Hannemann to victory

Honolulu Advertiser
By Johnny Brannon
Advertiser Staff Writer

Honolulu mayor-elect Mufi Hannemann shook hands early yesterday morning with every one of the supporters crowding his campaign headquarters before he went home to await the final vote tally.
Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

After his rally ended yesterday morning at Dole Cannery, Mufi Hannemann, his shirt stained with sweat, stayed behind to help campaign workers rearrange chairs. Hannemann credits his volunteers for helping to build momentum for his campaign.
Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

Mufi Hannemann, with his wife, Gail, said he would reach out to the opposition. “I want to be a leader who unites, rather than divides.”
Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

Duke Bainum, who had been favored to win the mayoral race, said a negative rumor spread via the Internet “left a cloud over our island.”
Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

Mufi Hannemann, shown on his way to a press conference yesterday, said he remained committed to stopping Mayor Jeremy Harris’ project to drive piles into the beach to shore up the Waikiki Natatorium.
Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

Mufi Hannemann’s dramatic come-from-behind victory over Duke Bainum triggered jubilation, sighs of relief, and anguished post-mortems among the candidates and their supporters a day after the polls closed.

Text excerpted from below:

He said he remained committed to stopping Harris’ plan to shore up the crumbling Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium. He said he favors creating an open beach that preserves the Natatorium’s distinctive archway.

Mufi Hannemann, shown on his way to a press conference yesterday, said he remained committed to stopping Mayor Jeremy Harris’ project to drive piles into the beach to shore up the Waikiki Natatorium.

Both campaigns agreed yesterday that the presidential race greatly increased voter turnout, which benefited Hannemann. Both candidates also said O’ahu must not remain divided over the mayor’s race, which Hannemann won by just 1,355 votes.

Hannemann said he believed his vow to bring strong and experienced leadership to City Hall had made a big impact on voters, and that hard work by committed volunteers created unstoppable momentum.

“They never gave up, they were never willing to give up the fight,” Hannemann said. “It was truly a situation where I found great energy and enthusiasm, and I fed on that type of spirit, and that’s what I believe pulled us through in the end.”

But Bainum said he believed that allegations spread over the Internet about an inheritance dispute that involved his wife, Jennifer, had taken a heavy toll.

“This election has left a cloud over our island,” Bainum said.

He called the reports “vicious attacks” but stressed that he was not directly accusing Hannemann of starting them. He called the spread of the allegations a deliberate smear, however, and said that’s a bad sign for Hawai’i politics.

“You’ve got to ask yourself what kind of qualified person is going to want to put themselves and their family through this,” he said. “The Internet and good-old bad whispering campaigns are not good for this island. They’re not good for Hawai’i. … When these smear campaigns occur, and if they work, and if they’re a factor, that just motivates people to use them again and again.”

Innuendos denounced

Hannemann said he had nothing to do with the allegations, but that he believed Bainum supporters had unfairly tried to blame him for spreading them.

“I know there was an organized effort on their part to pin it on my campaign,” he said.

Hannemann had trailed Bainum in the primary election by nearly 6,000 votes, and was behind in polls published weeks before Tuesday’s election.

Bainum adviser Andy Winer said it was clear that the increase in voter turnout helped Hannemann. But the allegations about Bainum’s wife, and other damaging information spread anonymously, also played a significant role, he said.

“This campaign, in my view, was probably one of the most negative and vicious campaigns that this state has ever seen,” he said. “It was more than just one factor, and I think the people of Honolulu have got to understand that if they’re going to be affected by these kinds of innuendo and attacks, they’re going to be fed up with these kinds of campaigns time and time again.”

Brooms backfired

Mayor Jeremy Harris said Bainum may have shot himself in the foot with his own negative campaigning, however.

Harris, who beat Hannemann in the 2000 election and did not publicly support either candidate this time, said advertisements in which Bainum and supporters toted brooms and pledged to sweep out City Hall had backfired with many people he knew.

“I think thousands of city employees resented it greatly, and certainly all my appointees greatly resented it,” Harris said. “It was opportunistic politics.”

Negativity ignored

Peter Pulido, an 18-year-old mechanic from Mililani said negative tactics, including e-mail messages on Bainum’s wife, did not play into his decision to support Hannemann.

“I heard something about that Internet thing,” Pulido said. “But (Bainum) was the one running for mayor — not his wife.”

Pulido cited Hannemann’s performance in the debate as among the factors that attracted his vote.

“I think he just had better opinions,” Pulido. “He’s a smart person who will do a good job.”

Robert Rivera, a 51-year-old entrepreneur from Kailua, said Hannemann comes across as honest. “He seems to be sincere, and that appeals to me,” Rivera said.

Money may have hurt

Bainum pumped more than $2.2 million of his personal money into his campaign, and spent nearly twice as much as Hannemann. Harris said Bainum’s money probably helped him early in the race but may have hurt him later.

“I don’t think anyone wants to feel like the mayor’s office is for sale,” Harris said. “I think while it helped him initially overwhelm the airwaves with TV ads and build up huge name recognition in the primary (election), I think ultimately the more ads he ran, it was a case of diminishing returns and actually when people would see an ad, they would simply think of how much of a personal fortune was being invested in the race.”

And endorsements of Hannemann by some high-profile Republicans probably eroded Bainum’s support in key areas, such as East Honolulu, Harris said.

Debbie Mena, a 50-year-old elementary school employee, said familiarity with candidate records accounted for her vote.

“I voted for Duke,” she said. “I’ve already seen what Mufi could do, and I wasn’t impressed.”

Ready to reach out

Hannemann said he wanted to make it clear that he does not consider Bainum supporters his enemies.

“I believe it behooves me to reach out to them, and I will,” he said. “I want to be a leader who unites, rather than divides. During the course of the campaign, Duke and I stressed many of the same things. In fact, sometimes people thought we were tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee.”

He said he would form a blue-ribbon committee to help screen potential cabinet appointees, and had begun working with Harris to plan the transition.

Hannemann said one of his first priorities will be to improve the way the city picks up bulky items that residents throw away. The job is currently split between two city departments, and Hannemann said that leaves some neighborhoods poorly served.

He said he remained committed to stopping Harris’ plan to shore up the crumbling Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium. He said he favors creating an open beach that preserves the Natatorium’s distinctive archway.

Harris said he was committed to ensuring a smooth transition, despite their differences over such issues.

“We look forward to working with the mayor-elect and his new team as he puts it together to have a smooth transition so that the public and public services don’t suffer in any way,” he said.

Staff writer Karen Blakeman contributed to this report. Reach Johnny Brannon at, or 525-8070.

Natatorium repairs, scheduled to begin today, postponed

Honolulu Advertiser
By Johnny Brannon
Advertiser Staff Writer

Emergency repairs to the crumbling Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium that had been scheduled to start today have been postponed until late next month because construction materials have not arrived from the Mainland, city officials said.

Meanwhile, Mayor Jeremy Harris criticized mayoral candidates Duke Bainum and Mufi Hannemann for both saying either of them would stop the project if elected on Tuesday.

Harris said failing to shore up the 1920s-era pool and deck structure “could endanger people’s lives and place the city in legal jeopardy for any harm that could result from such a short-sighted act.”

Parts of the structure have “deteriorated so badly that it is in imminent danger of crashing into the water below,” Harris said in a written statement. ” … It is urgent that we mitigate the hazards immediately.”

But opponents of a stalled plan to restore the natatorium applauded Bainum and Hannemann for pledging during a debate Tuesday to halt the work, which is expected to cost $6 million.

“Obviously, we’re pleased as could be,” said Rick Bernstein of the Save Kaimana Beach coalition, a group fighting to have the pool demolished and replaced with open beach. He said the group opposes any commercial activity at the site, and wants to make sure the concrete bleachers are also demolished.

Activists and city officials have debated for more than a decade over what should be done with the pool and decorative archway, built in 1927 to honor World War I veterans from Hawai’i.

Harris had planned to restore the entire structure and spent $4 million in 1998 to repair its bleachers and adjoining wall before a lawsuit forced the work to stop. Bainum and Hannemann said the pool portion should bedemolished. Both said that any future use of the site must recognize veterans.

A contractor hired by the city had been scheduled to begin deploying construction equipment and materials at the site today. But that won’t happen until at least Nov. 29 because steel trestles and heavy lumber for the project have yet to arrive from the Mainland, according to city spokeswoman Carol Costa.

Contractor Healy Tibbitts Builders Inc. did not return calls seeking comment.

The plans call for driving more than 80 pilings into the interior of the pool area to shore up the pool’s deck and seawalls. The nearby Waikiki Aquarium has raised concerns that the work could disturb its collection of rare fishes.

Reach Johnny Brannon at or 525-8070.

Natatorium repair plan comes under criticism

Honolulu Advertiser
By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Staff Writer

Shoring up the crumbling War Memorial Natatorium will require placing 82 piles in the ground along the Waikiki shoreline, but a contractor will try to minimize the impact on neighbors, including the aquarium, city officials said yesterday.

Critics said the project could have a dangerous impact on the area’s reefs, animals and beaches and should be scrapped.

“We’re looking at ways to place the piles with a minimum of heavy driving,” said Tim Steinberger, director of the city Department of Design and Construction.

Alternatives could include pre-drilling holes beneath the natatorium’s long-closed swimming pool and letting the piles sink into place with a minimum of pounding, Steinberger said.

That would create a whole new set of environmental problems, said Rick Bernstein of the Save Kaimana Beach coalition, which has been fighting to have the natatorium torn down and returned to open beach space.

“The silt stirred up by the drilling and pounding will spill out of the pool and have a devastating effect on the reef and surrounding beaches,” Bernstein said.

The director of the Waikiki Aquarium also expressed concern that noise and vibration from the pile driving could be detrimental to its animals.

City Council members yesterday asked why the city is pushing ahead with the repair when both mayoral candidates have said they have no plans to finish restoring the natatorium’s pool, built in 1927 as a memorial to World War I veterans.

“I’m not trying to construct a swimming pool. I’m just trying to do some structural repairs,” Steinberger said.

“So you’re going to spend almost $6 million to do essentially nothing,” countered Councilwoman Barbara Marshall. “No access, no hope of ever getting the pool repaired.”

Repair to the natatorium was halted by a lawsuit in 1998, but city officials restarted work this year, citing the need for emergency safety repairs.

Bernstein said his group would seek a temporary restraining order as soon as work on the pool substructure begins, possibly early next month.

Reach Mike Leidemann at 525-5460 or

Aquarium objects to pile driver proposal

Honolulu Advertiser
By Johnny Brannon
Advertiser Staff Writer

Driving reinforcement pilings into the reef below the crumbling Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium might cause serious vibrations that could damage the nearby Waikiki Aquarium and dangerously disrupt the environment of its rare fishes, according to the aquarium’s director.

“The effects of the vibrations and noise from pile driving on these animals could be very detrimental,” Dr. Andrew Rossiter said in written testimony to be presented to a City Council panel today.

“Fishes, especially, are very sensitive to even minute vibrations, and the shock waves emanating through the fossil reef foundation shared by the natatorium and the aquarium seem sure to cause extreme stress, or worse, to some of our animals. This is unacceptable.”

A section of the natatorium’s deck collapsed in May, and engineering studies found other parts of the aging structure at risk of falling apart.

The pool and decorative archway were built in 1927 to honor World War I veterans from Hawai’i.

The repairs are meant to shore up the deck and stabilize the pool’s seawalls, and plans call for driving more than 80 pilings into the interior of the pool area.

Rossiter is requesting that the project be halted “until a thorough investigation of its potential effects on the physical structure of our property has been carried out.”

He said the city never contacted the aquarium about the work, which is scheduled to begin within weeks. The aquarium is run by the University of Hawai’i, and Rossiter was named its director five months ago.

The aquarium would need at least a month to make preparations for protecting its inhabitants before any pile driving begins, according to Rossiter, who was formerly senior research scientist and deputy chief of the aquarium exhibition at Lake Biwa Museum in Kusatsu, Japan.

The City Council’s Budget Committee has requested an update on the natatorium project during a public meeting that begins at 9 a.m. today.

City managing director Ben Lee said he was surprised to learn of Rossiter’s worries about the aquarium.

“If there are legitimate concerns, then we can work it out, rather than just kind of shotgun it at a committee meeting,” Lee said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C.

“He’s certainly welcome like everyone else to pick up the phone and say, ‘Ben, I’ve got these concerns here.’ ”

Lee said it might be possible to drill holes for the pilings so less force would be required to ram them into the reef.

Residents and community activists have debated for more than a decade over what should be done with the natatorium. Some City Council members oppose the emergency work because the structure’s overall future remains undecided.

But Lee said that the natatorium’s condition is dangerous and that repairs must be made as soon as possible to ensure no one is injured.

The city had planned to restore the natatorium, and spent $4 million in 1998 to repair its concrete bleachers and adjoining wall before a lawsuit by opponents of the restoration forced the work to stop.

The aquarium houses more than 1,200 animals that represent more than 400 species of marine life, including endangered monk seals and many rare fishes found only in Hawai’i.

Reach Johnny Brannon at or 525-8070.

Pull the plug

By Rick Bernstein
Published in the Honolulu Weekly, September 29, 2004

The Kaimana Beach Coalition wants the Natatorium demolished once and for all.

It appears that Mayor Jeremy Harris is hell bent on sinking more money into the decrepit Natatorium whether the public or the Honolulu City Council likes it or not. Despite City Council resolutions urging our lame duck mayor to halt the $6.1 million Natatorium “patch up” of seawalls and pool decks, he has issued a “Notice to Proceed” with construction. The Sept. 15 notice sends a clear and defiant message to City Council that Harris intends to spend the encumbered funds regardless of council desires.

Pool saga

August 24, 1927: The War Memorial Natatorium and swimming arena is officially opened. It is built in 150 days at a cost of $252,000.

1949: The Legislature sets aside $70,000 for major repair work and turns over management of the pool to the city.

1963: The Natatorium gradually falls into disrepair again and the pool is shut when its outlets to the sea become clogged by seaweed.

1965: A number of city officials want the pool to be demolished instead of spending more than $250,000 to fix it.

1979: The Department of Parks and Recreation closes the Natatorium permanently, citing safety issues.

1998: The City Council votes in favor of repairing the Natatorium at a cost of $11.5 million. Repair work is scheduled to begin in March and is expected to take 16 months.

1999: A Circuit Court judge allows the city to continue with part of the restoration. The saltwater pool cannot be included in the work until the city abides by state rules for saltwater swimming pools, a requirement that stalls the remainder of the $11 million restoration.

2000: $4.6 million of the $11.5 million is spent restoring the facade, bleachers and restrooms. The pool is not repaired.

May 2004: The city closes the restrooms after a section on the pool deck collapses, leaving a crater at the edge of the bleachers on the mauka wall.

August 2004: Mayor Harris proposes spending $6.1 million to once again restore the Natatorium. City Council members discuss tearing down the Natatorium instead of spending the money to fix it. Harris says the council has no say in the mattre because the money had already been set aside for the restoration project in 1998.

September 2004: The City Council passes two resolutions that could halt or scale back the $6.1 million repair project. Mayor Harris says that he intends to go ahead with the repairs in spite of the resolutions.

The council resolutions specifically queried the mayor about his plans for the swimming pool design, its price tag and if it will comply with mandatory Department of Health specifications. It’s only reasonable that the citizens of Honolulu receive answers to these questions before construction begins.

The resolutions also propose some inexpensive solutions that address safety issues such as keeping people out of the Natatorium-build a better fence around the structure and hire a security guard to keep out trespassers who might be injured. In 25 years of the Natatorium being locked up and off limits to visitors, no one has ever been hurt.

Mayor Harris did not provide answers to the council’s questions nor respond to their common sense solutions. Instead he stonewalled the council, giving them no information, and proceeded to sign a contract with contractor Healey Tibbitts Builders to begin work immediately.

Big plans, dubious logic

Mayor Harris will embark upon a major construction project that will leave the future occupant of City Hall with a dubious investment of precious monetary and waterfront resources. Plans include repairing seawalls surrounding the Natatorium and driving two rows of concrete piles around the pool on which to hang new concrete decks. The ten-month project will, in a band-aid style, pour new concrete over old in an attempt to preserve the crumbling seawall portion of this decaying experiment in 1920s ocean engineering.

Unfortunately, it will also leave the future mayor with limited options on what to do with this valuable piece of oceanfront real estate. When work is completed, the pool, bleachers and bathrooms will have to be once again locked and closed to the public, because the renovation plans do not include repairing the cracked beams that support the bathrooms.

In this era of limited budgets, building a 100-meter swimming pool in the ocean is an expensive and extravagant proposition.

Not only has there been no money allocated for the pool but the original SMA (special management area) permit granted for the project is invalid due to court-ordered design changes (necessitated by Department of Health rules and regulations).

The Kaimana Beach Coalition has a court-ordered injunction prohibiting the city from doing any work on the ocean-based portion of the Natatorium. In spite of this, Mayor Harris pushes forward as if to defy the laws of physics and common sense. Every facet of the last $4.4 million rehabilitation of the bleachers, bathrooms and memorial arch has been flawed and logic dictates that the same fate will befall the next incarnation of Mayor Harris’ folly.

Intelligent planning would call for plans, permits and costs to be in place for an entire project before any work is done. Unfortunately, that is not the case and the mayor will be long out of office when the Natatorium begins to crumble once again. Taxpayers will bear the fiscal responsibility of the mayor’s recklessness.

It begs the question, “Why is Mayor Harris doing this?” One can look at the evidence and make an educated guess that the Natatorium is prime for development by commercial interests. At the beginning of the Harris administration he spoke openly of commercializing the facility and turning it into a hula show venue. Talk of this abruptly stopped when public sentiment went against him but we believe the plan is still very much alive.

Whatever the motive, if this scheme continues, Honolulu taxpayers will be locked into an endless cycle of construction, repair and maintenance. Taxpayers should be outraged that the mayor is railroading this project on the citizens of Honolulu whether they like it or not.

Jeremy Harris continues to defy City Council requests for information about restoration costs and plans. He is also defying a court-ordered injunction regarding work on the ocean-based portion of the project.

The Kaimana Beach Coalition supports a one-time expenditure of $6-8 million to demolish the Natatorium and create a new beach. The plan includes new or restored arches, groins to protect beach sand, a sand volleyball court, new bathrooms, memorial areas for the Hawai’i soldiers of WWI and the Hawai’i swimmers of the 1920s and ’30s and a new lifeguard office. This plan opens a 500-yard near-shore swimming course that would run from Kaimana Beach through the Natatorium, and on to the Queen’s Surf groin. This would be one of the prime recreational areas in Honolulu. We have so much to gain with this inexpensive and low-maintenance plan. Several people who have viewed the new beach plan have said, “What a perfect keiki beach.” We agree.

You can view computer-generated images of the new beach on the home page of our website

Join us for our Oct. 22 fundraiser featuring music by Makana. Visit the website for details.

Let Mayor Harris know what you think of his actions. Call him at 523-4141.

Rick Bernstein is a member of the Kaimana Beach Coalition.

Natatorium project under way

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
By Crystal Kua

But some City Council members are still trying to derail spending

Mayor Jeremy Harris’ administration is moving ahead with the $6.1 million project to shore up the aging, crumbling Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium.

The city has given contractor HealyTibbitts Builders notice to proceed with construction, Managing Director Ben Lee said yesterday.

“We cannot afford to have the pool deck continue to collapse into the ocean. … We’re going to move forward with making sure that the health, life and safety of our residents and visitors are intact,” Lee said. “I think it’s the right thing to do.”

But City Council members who oppose spending millions of dollars more on the deteriorating structure are searching for a way to stop the project.

The Council followed the recommendation of Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi to send back to her committee one of two resolutions urging the administration to stop or curtail the planned work on the Natatorium.

Kobayashi said after yesterday’s meeting that she will research options available to the Council.

“There’s a way the Council can take action to stop if it’s a (special management area) project,” Kobayashi said. “They’ve spent $4.4 million. They’re going to be spending over $6 million more. What is the plan? So I think they should not spend money until there is a plan and we know what we’re going to do in the future.”

Lee said that construction could start within the next 30 to 45 days. “They need time to mobilize and order some new equipment.”

Rick Bernstein of the Kaimana Beach Coalition said the group is pursuing going back to court to try and stop the city’s work. “I kind of resent that we’re back in this position.”

Lee called the coalition’s complaints “frivolous.”

A 1999 court order allowed the city to continue with part of an $11 million restoration but prevents restoration of the saltwater pool until the city abides by state rules, a requirement that has stalled the project.

In May the city closed the restrooms at the Natatorium after a section on the pool deck collapsed, leaving a crater at the edge of the bleachers on the mauka wall.

The city received reports from two firms that the entire structure is at risk of collapsing and that work should be done to shore up the pool deck and stabilize the sea walls.

Council committee urges halt to Natatorium work

Honolulu Advertiser
Advertiser Staff Report

A key City Council committee yesterday urged Mayor Jeremy Harris’ administration not to spend $6.6 million for emergency work on the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium pool and deck structure until final plans for the pool are complete.

A resolution, passed yesterday by the council’s budget committee, awaits full council approval.

It is nonbinding, and council members said they realized the administration might ignore it.

City officials said yesterday the goal is still to make emergency repairs to the historic structure and pool after the collapse of a section of the deck in May.

“We need to do repairs as soon as possible to protect people,” said Tim Steinberger, director of the city Department of Design and Construction.

Reports from two engineering firms found the entire structure at risk of collapse, and that work should be done to shore up the deck and stabilize the sea walls.

Residents and community activists have debated for more than a decade over what should be done with the pool and decorative archway, built in 1927 to honor World War I veterans from Hawai’i.

Yesterday, the Kaimana Beach Coalition continued to urge that the pool portion be torn down and replaced with a beach dedicated to veterans.

Others said the entire structure should be restored to its original grandeur, and tearing the pool down would cost more and trigger complex environmental regulations.

The city spent $4 million to repair the natatorium’s concrete bleachers and adjoining memorial wall before a 1999 lawsuit stopped additional work.