A bill to prohibit most commercial activity at five Waimanalo beaches was approved by the Honolulu City Council on Wednesday.

Waimanalo residents have complained of an increase in crowds of tourists arriving in tour buses and limousines.

In 2015, an internet top 10 list called Dr. Beach selected Waimanalo Bay Beach Park as the best in the nation. An earlier city ordinance banning commercial activity at beaches in Kailua also drove crowds to beaches in Waimanalo, just six miles south of Kailua.

A tour bus gets tourists a view of Kaupo Beach Park in Waimanalo. Courtesy of My Kailua Facebook page

The right of the resident to access our parks supersedes the right of anyone else to access those same parks for the purpose of making a dollar,” said Councilman Ikaika Anderson, who supported the bill and whose district includes Kailua and Waimanalo. 

The venues where commercial activity will be curtailed include Waimanalo Beach Park, Kaiona Beach Park, Kaupo Beach Park, Makapuu Beach Park and Bellows Field Beach Park.

Canoe regattas, music festivals and school events are among the activities not considered “commercial activities,” and would still be permitted at both Waimanalo Bay Beach Park and Waimanalo Beach Park.

“It’s taken us quite some time to get here,” Anderson said.

The vote was 6-3 in favor of the bill, which still needs the signature of Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

There are special provisions for commercial activity at Waimanalo Bay Beach Park, the details of which became the subject of debate at the meeting.

Committee on Zoning and Planning Chair Ikaika Anderson makes a point during committee hearing. 15 june 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Councilman Ikaika Anderson supported the bill, saying in this case the “right of the resident” comes first. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The bill allows permits for up to five tour companies to make stops at Waimanalo Bay Beach Park, known to many residents as Sherwoods. Only vehicles with 15 seats or fewer are eligible for these permits.

Councilman Trevor Ozawa voted against the bill, citing concerns that the permitting process for Waimanalo Bay Beach Park was too “vague.”

Parks and Recreation Director Michelle Nekota said a traffic study would be required before permits are issued.

It was unclear how Nekota’s  department would select the five companies, and how often new companies would be considered for the permits.

Lauren Carson, a Honolulu-based wedding planner, was one of four people who testified against the bill at the meeting.

“There’s no understanding of how these random five permits would ever be attained,” Carson said.

A number of people testified in favor of the bill, including Kari Kalima, who said she took the day off work to attend.

She cited the harmful effect overcrowding has on natural resources and local fishermen. She said tourists overwhelm the sparsely stocked public restrooms.

“It is unfortunate to have individuals who are not from, nor do they reside in, Waimanalo make decisions for what happens there,” she said. “I ask that our efforts, the community’s efforts, be heard, acknowledged and respected.”

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