The Kaimana Beach Coalition was created in 1990 to protect this precious beach area from commercialization, environmental degradation, and to assure public access to this last remaining beach and gathering place on Oahu’s south shore.

We join with Mayor Kirk Caldwell in favoring a new beach plan as the best option for the Waikiki Natatorium site.

A new draft environmental impact statement is now available for public reading and comments. It presents three distinct plans for the area — the beach plan, full restoration, and a new perimeter deck plan.

The beach plan was fully vetted by a Natatorium Task Force in 2009 and agreed upon by the governor and mayor in 2014 as the preferred plan. The plan includes two L-shaped groins at either end of a new beach that would cover the existing pool bottom and parking pit with new sand, creating an open and stable beach with minimum, if any, sand depletion. Other amenities include a new comfort station mauka of the beach and a newly reconstructed memorial arch situated in line with the seawall.

Removal of the driveway and its parking spots and the addition of a 77-stall parking lot next to New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel and in front of Kaimana beach is an arbitrary decision made by the city’s Office of Design and Construction and not by the Natatorium Task Force. We consider it a poison pill that has served to create opposition to the beach plan. We recommend that it be removed from consideration.

The entrance to the natatorium pool. The Kaimana Beach Coalition opposes a “perimeter deck” plan for the pool, currently pending before the city.

Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

The new perimeter deck plan, which is in service of restorationist organizations, has several potentially fatal flaws.

Flaw No. 1 — The plan calls for using porous, rigid checkerboard-patterned, fiberglass-reinforced plastic grates on the makai and Ewa sides of the pool to replace the existing solid concrete pool walls. This concept poses a danger to swimmers, both inside and outside the natatorium. The system will open the pool to ocean currents and wave surges.

As the full force of waves enter the pool, they will crash against a restraining wall in front of the natatorium bleachers and will be reflected back, creating a surge force proportionate to the size and velocity of the incoming wave. People or children near the pool edge could be sucked onto the grate by this surge force.

Conversely, any snorkeler on the outside of the pool would be subject to powerful hydraulic forces pushing against their trapped bodies. This is a potential drowning scenario. The public needs to know if the grate wall idea has been studied and modeled tested by ocean engineers. We cannot afford to be cavalier about this important safety concern. The stronger the surf, the bigger the risks.

Flaw No. 2 — The bottom of the enclosed natatorium swimming pool contains 90 years of degraded, silted sand and seaweed which has, because of anaerobic decomposition, become black and sulfuric muck below its surface. This fine particulate material is up to 16 feet deep in the area below the old diving towers and represents an environmental time bomb if released into the waters and already challenged reef system of Waikiki as it will further contribute to water turbidity and spread with the currents, up and down the coast.

The Memorial Beach Plan: After the two L-shaped groins are constructed and the existing makai and Ewa sea walls are removed, clean beach sand (a minimum depth of 2 feet) to form the new swim area bottom and beach would be brought in. A new replica memorial arch would be constructed and sited to frame the new beach as viewed from the existing Roll of Honor plaque.

Flaw No. 3 — As it relates to the swimming pool, obviously the water quality will be murky and will not pass pool rules drafted for the natatorium by the Hawaii Department of Health. The most important rule states that a 6-inch white disc on the pool bottom must be visible from the pool deck at all times to assure that lifeguards can see drowning victims on the pool floor.

Aware of this, the proponents of the perimeter deck believe that by changing the pool walls from concrete to FRP grates, the pool will no longer be designated a pool, and thereby eliminate the need to comply with health and safety rules (Hawaii Administrative Rules, Title 11, Chapter 10).

This carelessly designed and newly named “swimming basin deck plan” seems to place historic restoration interests before public health and safety.

Flaw No. 4 — In his press conference announcing the EIS, Mayor Caldwell stated that the perimeter deck plan will most likely be a public private partnership. We all know that PPP translates to “commercial venture” for private profit in exchange for up front capital to underwrite construction of a public place. This 2,500-seat stadium in the ocean could become the premier sunset cocktail hula show destination on Oahu with huge financial returns.

Consider the hula show in the stadium followed by a luau dinner at the Diamond Head Luau located steps away at the Waikiki Aquarium, which currently operates four nights a week, and charges $160 per person. This plan would in effect create a financial turnstile on the beach and in the ocean of Waikiki.

A commercial show venue will overwhelm this already crowded public resource.

Imagine an influx of customers and staff for the sunset shows taking up available parking and crowding out the local population. Many local people who cannot afford private clubs, gather here after work for fresh air, peace of mind, picnics, swimming, paddling, sunset viewing and socializing.

A commercial show venue will overwhelm this already crowded public resource and squeeze out the community who counts on this important recreational resource. This park was set aside for the quiet enjoyment of the people of Honolulu by King Kalakaua. Let’s keep it that way.

To summarize, we oppose the perimeter deck plan for the following reasons:

  • No model testing for efficacy or safety, especially the potential suction problem.
  • No public health or safety rules for the swimming pool.
  • Environmental contamination of ocean and reefs.
  • Commercialization.
  • Public access.

All ocean users should weigh in. Please read the draft EIS, especially the perimeter deck plan (Section 3.1, only 7 pages) and send in your comments by Dec. 24, 2018.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

About the Author