Caldwell Offers A New Multimillion-Dollar Option For Natatorium

Civil Beat, December 11, 2017
by Marcel Honore

He’s not sure yet whether he would embrace the perimeter-deck design.

“This is a mishmash,” Bernstein said of the proposal after listening to Caldwell on Monday.  “I haven’t studied it. I don’t know. I think that keeping the bleachers is a giant mistake because it opens the door to commercialization.”

“Twenty-five hundred seats in service of what?”

Meanwhile, Mo Radke, president of the nonprofit Friends of the Natatorium, which has spent more than 30 years pushing city and state officials to restore the memorial, said he could support the perimeter decks because it  keeps the facade and keeps the bleachers.

Dueling visions over the Natatorium have led to spirited debate — and even bad blood — for about 50 years.

That was apparent Monday after the news conference, when things got testy between Bernstein and Radke. While being interviewed, Bernstein told Radke to “keep moving” as Radke passed by. The two had a heated exchange before Bernstein resumed the interview several paces away.

Mo Radke, president of Friends of the Natatorium, wants to ensure the Natatorium’s facade and bleachers remain intact. Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

In May 2013, Caldwell joined then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie in front of the Natatorium to announce their joint plan to replace the dilapidated war memorial with a beach and park area.

Little appears to have changed since then. But Kroning said Monday that “we have made significant … progress.”

“Some of the reasons why it does take so long is because that process is very complicated. And on top of that, when it’s a controversial issue … you get a lot more input in your process, and so that takes time.”

Pressed for more details on what stalled the previous push with Abercrombie  more than four years ago, Caldwell replied, “if you were listening to what I said, we haven’t stopped. We haven’t stalled.”

Mayor Kirk Caldwell addresses the media in front of the Natatorium War Memorial on Monday. Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

“What has happened is there’s another alternative for people to consider,” he said.

Caldwell hopes construction on the selected plan could begin before his second term through 2020 expires. Otherwise, work on the controversial issue might stall under his successor, he said.

When Caldwell asked Kroning whether that was possible, he hesitated. “If things all line up perfectly, we can get that to happen,” Kroning eventually answered. He added that if the project got the necessary permits expedited, “there’s a chance.”

Bernstein, meanwhile, hasn’t given up on his preferred beach option.

“Hope springs eternal,” he said Monday. “I would love to see progress made. It’s such a contentious issue and there are vested interests that are entrenched.”

City outlines potential options for future of Waikiki Natatorium

KHON, December 11, 2017

City outlines potential options for future of Waikiki Natatorium

What should happen to the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial?

Construction was completed in 1927 as a memorial to honor veterans of World War I.

But over the past several decades, the facility fell into disrepair. It’s been closed to the public since 1979, and is considered a public health and safety issue for beachgoers and marine life.

On Monday, city officials outlined several possibilities for the landmark’s future.

An environmental impact statement (EIS) is underway with a completed draft scheduled by summer 2018.

Its purpose is to recommend projects to renew the memorial and re-establish full public access to the area.

“We’ve been making steady progress with the EIS and the process is working,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. “Through this process, and the consultations it requires, we’ve developed four alternatives to address the long neglected memorial. An additional alternative has recently been added, which looks promising. We’re labeling it Alternative 2 and it consists of a flow through perimeter deck where the original, crumbling deck is now.”

The four alternatives proposed for the site include:

Alternative 1 – Closed Pool System

  • Reconstructs and restores the Natatorium in general accordance with the 1998 plans, except for the ocean-fed pool design.
  • Ocean-fed pool qualifies as a public swimming pool and would be subject to health provisions.
  • Estimated cost $40 million to $60 million.

Alternative 2 – Perimeter Deck

  • Retains the bleachers, arches, and reconstructs the pool deck in the same location but on new supports.
  • Large lengths of the seawall below the deck level would be removed, allowing the free flow of water between the swim basin and ocean.
  • Estimated cost $20 million to $30 million.
  • Additional renderings below.

Alternative 3 – Beach

  • Creates a war memorial beach between constructed groins with the removal of all structures built seaward of the 1927 shoreline.
  • Replica memorial arch would be aligned with the existing Roll of Honor plaque with construction of a new bathhouse, replacement offices for Ocean Safety, removal of the existing roadway and construction of a new parking lot.
  • Estimated cost $20 million to $30 million.

Alternative 4 – Debris Removal

  • All structures would remain in place with some debris removal and limited access to the public in the event of a collapse.
  • Estimated cost $2 million to $4 million.

“It needs to be done for a lot of different reasons. One, the historic value of this structure, the fact that it sits right on the ocean in the heart of Waikiki at the foot of Diamond Head,” Caldwell said. “The EIS is something that is important, because it gets the input from the community, and we address the various impacts both positive and negative on many of the alternatives that we may take.”

Following the draft, public hearings are anticipated for fall 2018 with the publication of the final EIS scheduled in spring 2019.

Monk seal pup reunited with mom after getting trapped in the Natatorium

Honolulu Star-Advertiser, July 28, 2017 (Updated July 29, 2017 5:25pm)
By Leila Fukimori

Monk seal pup reunited with mom after getting trapped in the Natatorium

CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / JULY 3 A Hawaiian monk seal known as “Rocky” and her pup, Kaimana, were briefly separated on Friday when her pup took a dip at the Waikiki Natatorium.

Kaimana, the 4-week-old monk seal pup born at Kaimana Beach in Waikiki, wandered away for the first time from her Kauai-born mom, “Rocky,” Friday night.

The two were separated for about 40 to 50 minutes when Kaimana took a dip at the Waikiki Natatorium, while Rocky kept calling out for her baby girl.

All the while, mom had been “pacing up and down and vocalizing,” said David Schofield, Marine Mammal Health and Response Coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries.

“Pup is getting stronger and more adventurous and swimming farther away and got herself in a precarious situation,” said Aliza Milette-Winfree, NOAA Oahu Marine Mammal Response coordinator.

Volunteers from the Hawaii Marine Animal Response Team, who have been keeping a watchful eye over mom, designated by NOAA as RH58, and pup, PO3. But they lost sight of Kaimana for about 30 minutes, and immediately called Milette-Winfree and her team. They quickly arrived and gained access to the Natatorium and had to be guided through the dilapidated area.

They discovered the pup swimming in a shallow inner canal at the Natatorium, and not the main pool.

After observing Kaimana and assessing the situation, Milette-Winfree ran out and got a beach blanket from someone on the beach for use as a stretcher.

In minutes, team members, some in the water, rolled her onto the blanket, carried the roughly 100- to 200-pound, 4-foot chubby pup out and got her back to mom on nearby Kaimana Beach.

They were reunited at about 8:40 p.m.

Schofield said they expect mother and daughter to remain at the beach for another two weeks.

After the pup, dubbed “Kaimana” by the community, is weaned, she will be tagged with two official NOAA tags, one on each flipper, and an official designation, but for now is simply PO3.

Milette-Winfree warns the public that the mother seal may get protective and recommends that people swim at another beach.

“Mom is going to be incredibly vigilant and looking out for her wily, little daughter, so she’s going to be incredibly protective right now as the pup gets stronger and stronger and moves farther away from her,” she said.

“Moms can move like a rocket in order to try and protect their pups,” she said.

“It’s been a stressful time for us because of concern about mom’s protective behavior,” while trying to keep the public safe.

Schofield says that after the mom leaves, the danger of aggression will be over, but the next concern will be for the pup’s safety.

The state and NOAA officials continue to urge people to use other beaches.

City considers new alternatives for crumbling Waikiki Natatorium

KITV, June 22, 2016
By Catherine Cruz

City considers new alternatives for crumbling Waikiki Natatorium

HONOLULU – The Waikiki War Memorial was recently designated as a national treasure even though it has been closed for almost 50 years. Its last major face-lift was 16 years ago.

Next week, the natatorium becomes the focus of a week-long series of meetings in an effort to decide what to do with it.

KITV-6-22-2016

“We have preservation groups and park and beach groups, veteran groups and Native Hawaiian groups that we will be sharing what we have gotten so far on the alternatives,” said Robert Kroning, director of the city’s Department of Design and Construction.

The city has been considering two alternatives: full restoration or demolition, which involves creating a new beach and rebuilding the historic arch inland.

But the city said two other alternatives will be considered next week.

The State Historic Preservation office recommended looking other options, including doing away with the pool but keeping the bleachers.

“One of alternatives has preserving the bleachers with a beach. That option requires groins to stick out further. Another keeps the bleachers with no beach, only the ocean,” said Kroning.

Next week’s meetings will involve natatorium stakeholders, but will later include the general public.

Kroning said keeping the salt water pool may prove to be a very expensive proposition because of new health department requirements.

So should it be restored no matter what the costs?

“If they can spend all that money to shorten rail, why not spend it on this?” said veteran Randy Howard.

“People see it and think it’s this old thing that’s falling apart, so just tear it down. But I think it would be interesting if they restored and provided information about it,” said Honolulu resident Caleb Woodfin.

“I think it would depend on how much it would cost, but I think it would be interesting if they had a museum or something,” added Emily Grumling who came down to the memorial for the first time.

No matter what gets decided, something’s got to happen soon. As every day passes, more cracks appear on the walls.

The city has been monitoring reports about the facility. There are cracks that have developed in the women’s showers as well as in other areas.

It’s not clear if they are cosmetic or structural, but the city said it may take action if health and safety become an issue.

Tearing down of the Natatorium stalled by city over state’s concerns

Honolulu Star-Advertiser, June 16, 2015
By Gordon Y.K. Pang

KRYSTLE MARCELLUS / KMARCELLUS@STARADVERTISER.COM Studying an option somewhere between full restoration of the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium and preserving only its arches would delay action on the project by more than a year.

KRYSTLE MARCELLUS / KMARCELLUS@STARADVERTISER.COM
Studying an option somewhere between full restoration of the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium and preserving only its arches would delay action on the project by more than a year.

KRYSTLE MARCELLUS / KMARCELLUS@STARADVERTISER.COM Built in 1927 to honor those killed in World War I, the Wai­kiki War Memorial Natatorium was a popular pool for many years but fell into disrepair and was closed for safety reasons in 1979.

KRYSTLE MARCELLUS / KMARCELLUS@STARADVERTISER.COM
Built in 1927 to honor those killed in World War I, the Wai­kiki War Memorial Natatorium was a popular pool for many years but fell into disrepair and was closed for safety reasons in 1979.

Historic Preservation officials want a third “alternative” considered before the razing

The city’s plan to tear down the Wai­kiki War Memorial Natatorium is being pushed back more than a year.

Robert Kroning, the city’s director of design and construction, said officials with the State Historic Preservation Division have asked that the city look into inserting into its draft environmental assessment a third possible “alternative” for the future of the long-contested plan.

Studying such an alternative — something in between full restoration and saving only the arches — would take about 16-18 months, pushing back completion of a draft environmental assessment that the city had hoped would have been completed by April, Kroning told the Hono­lulu Star-Advertiser on Friday. “An 18-month delay would probably put us toward the end of 2016,” he said.

A final EIS would probably be completed about six months after that, he said.

Kroning emphasized, however, that the Caldwell administration is not wavering from its previously stated preferred position that calls for most of the nearly century-old structure to be torn down and the area turned into a beach. The Beaux Arts-style arches would be saved and moved back from the shoreline under the plan, which is estimate to cost about $18.4 million.

The draft assessment lists, as the only alternative to demolition, full restoration of the pool, bleachers and arches, as has been sought by preservationists.

SHPD officials, however, recently told the city that they “feel pretty strongly that we should be including at least one more alternative that takes into consideration … saving a little bit more of the memorial than what we have in our preferred alternative,” Kroning said.

Debate over what to do about the dilapidated facility has dragged on for nearly four decades. Built in 1927 as a memorial for those who died in World War I, it was a popular pool for many years. But after years of neglect and disrepair, it was shut down for safety reasons in 1979.

The decision to tear down the Natatorium was reached by the city following the recommendation made in 2009 by a task force comprised of various stakeholders.

In May 2013, Caldwell and then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced that the city and state would work cooperatively to raze the pool and bleachers, and leave the area as open space.

“The city is moving forward with the preferred alternative,” Kro­ning said.

In a statement, the state Architecture Branch did not say outright that it asked for a third alternative. However, the branch said, “We did attend a site visit on May 29, 2015, to assess the condition of the Natatorium and discuss options that may be identified within the EA including restoration, adaptive reuse, and redevelopment of the site.”

Representatives for both the Friends of the Natatorium, which supports full restoration, and the Kai­mana Beach Coalition, which wants a beach there, voiced cautious optimism that the latest developments are positive steps in their respective directions.

Mo Radke, president of the Friends, said the delay “gives me hope that the City and County of Hono­lulu (is) looking at all the alternatives that they should be looking at and not just narrowing it down to just a couple of options.”

He added, ”If they’re looking to do the right thing historically, socially, civically, financially, well, then looking at all the different options is the smart thing to do.”

Rick Bernstein, Kai­mana Beach Coalition leader, said he’s being philosophical about the delay. He said he’s been told that including the third alternative is only a precautionary move that would put the city in a better legal position should a tear-down be challenged.

Bernstein said he expects the city will continue on a course toward tearing down the pool and bleachers. To restore it, he said, would require bringing in commercial entities to support such a costly endeavor.

Let’s Face It: Natatorium Arch Is Ugly

MidWeek: Politics: Just Thoughts, September 24, 2014
By Bob Jones

midweek-9-24-2014-1

Hawaii’s first World War I casualty is honored at Oahu Cemetery. BOB JONES PHOTO

Hawaii’s first World War I casualty is honored at Oahu Cemetery. BOB JONES PHOTO

I just don’t understand the reasoning by those who say we cannot demolish Waikiki Natatorium because it was erected as a memorial to World War I soldiers from here.

I mean, we’re not suggesting tearing down the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or unearthing the National Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.

This is … well, let’s approach it honestly:

It’s a rather unattractive cement arch. Nobody’s buried there. Nobody even knows to whom, individually, it’s dedicated.

There’s a stone and plaque mauka of it that hardly any visitors bother reading. It’s a weathered cement arch and nothing more.

If Frank Fasi were still mayor, you’d probably wake up one morning and find the natatorium no longer there, and in its place a wonderful beach and family picnic area.

Of course, my critics will say, “That was the problem with Frank Fasi. He didn’t follow the democratic process. He just did things.”

I had my problems with Fasi “just doing things,” and I can’t recommend that method of governance. We used to call it fascism.

But, in this case, we’ve had studies; we’ve taken the issue out to communities. I’d say it’s past time for the governor and the mayor to quit playing Mr. Nice Guy, make a decision and go with it.

The sensible decision is to demolish the pool. That’s for sure.

The other decision should be to gauge just how strong public opinion is against either taking down or moving that so-called “historic arch.” I sense that there’s about a 5 percent gang that says no. Most people who don’t live near it would vote “who cares?” It does not affect their lives one way or the other.

But, realistically, look at that facade. I cannot fathom why any organization favoring historic sites considers that one of them. It is grotesque architecture not even admired for the time in which it was built. It looks like something done with leftover cement from some nearby high-rise project. Check out those “bottles” on top made to look like ancient Greek amphoras. Cheesy.

A compromise would be to commission some appropriate — and small — sculpture adjacent to the memorial stone and plaque honoring our few WWI dead.

We did not suffer heavily in that war. It was far away and involved very few soldiers from Hawaii. It did not interrupt our social or economic life for a single day. It’s not intertwined with our history.

So let’s quit mythologizing Waikiki Natatorium and get on with restoring that area as a much-needed beach access area for today’s families.

I’m thinking that even Pvt. John Rupert Rowe, the first from Hawaii killed in combat in WWI, might agree with that because we already honor him at Oahu Cemetery, not at the natatorium.

banyantreehouse@gmail.com

Redevelopment of Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial gains traction

Pacific Business News
July 23, 2014
Duane Shimogawa

The City and County of Honolulu submitted an environmental report to the state for the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial redevelopment project. | PBN File

The City and County of Honolulu submitted an environmental report to the state for the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial redevelopment project. | PBN File

The project to redevelop the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial, which includes creating a new beach fronted by a replica World War I memorial arch that could cost more than $18 million, is gaining some traction.

The City and County of Honolulu recently submitted a 141-page final environmental assessment and environmental impact statement preparation notice done by Aiea-based WCP Inc., to the state.

This notice, which triggers a 30-day public comment period, is to let the public know that a full environmental impact statement will be done because of the anticipated impacts it could have on the environment, as well as gather input on the project. A final EIS on the project is expected to be completed in summer 2016.

Last year, Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced a plan to spend $18.4 million to demolish the pool, which has been closed for years, move the historic arch identifying it as a war memorial, and create a new public beach on the site.
Officials at the time said it would cost $69.4 million to restore the pool decks, which are crumbling into the ocean. An updated cost of the project is expected to be disclosed in the EIS.

The plan, which includes aligning the replica arch with the existing Roll of Honor plaque and hau tree arbor, also involves building a new bathhouse, the removal of an internal roadway and construction of a consolidated parking lot.

The purpose of the project is to improve the Waikiki War Memorial Complex area of Kapiolani Regional Park by renewing the memorial to World War I veterans and to fully reopen that portion of the park to the public, as well as to bring new life to the deteriorating structure.

The Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial was recently named a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which supports the search for alternatives to the city and state plan to redevelop the 6.7-acre site bounded by the Waikiki Aquarium, Kalakaua Avenue, the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel and the ocean.

Making Progress On Natatorium Future

Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial as it looks today. It has just been named a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation on the heels of demolition vs. preservation plans here | Photo courtesy Sandra Sagisi

MidWeek: Lifestyle/Island Matters, June 4, 2014
By Mufi Hannemann

Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial as it looks today. It has just been named a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation on the heels of demolition vs. preservation plans here | Photo courtesy Sandra Sagisi

Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial as it looks today. It has just been named a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation on the heels of demolition vs. preservation plans here | Photo courtesy Sandra Sagisi

A crumbling structure with faded memories is the focus of a newly designated national treasure in Hawaii, which continues to serve as a setting to remember those who lost their lives in the armed forces during the first World War. Last week, on Memorial Day, dignitaries, residents and visitors alike had a chance to hear moving tributes at the Natatorium War Memorial in Waikiki.

Now a ruin and one of the last standing architectural landmarks of old Hawaii, the island icon has received a great deal of attention both nationally and locally this month. It has just been named a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which comes on the heels of demolition and preservation plans — pending further review.

“To be demolished or not to be” has long been a subject of controversy over the decades. I applaud the City and County of Honolulu and the state of Hawaii, which are following through on plans that stemmed from a task force I commissioned as Honolulu mayor back in May 2009. I accepted the findings back then made by a 16-member task force to demolish the historic site and build two groins in order to create a beach, and restore/rebuild the arches inland. In its place would be a public memorial and a stadium, ensuring that we always pay proper tribute to our World War I heroes, and also providing our water enthusiasts with an expanded Waikiki beach area.

This dual commitment by both the city and state governments showing collaborative restoration efforts is a positive step forward to getting beyond the status quo predicament in which we have been mired for much too long. For those who feel that the $18.4 million price tag delves too deeply into the pocketbooks of Hawaii taxpayers, a full restoration of the natatorium would cost nearly $69 million! Moreover, a recent Honolulu Star-Advertiser online poll resulted in 90 percent of the respondents in favor of the plan recommended by the 2009 task force. The work is expected to begin in 2015 with a timeline completion of two years.

I would like to personally acknowledge again Collin Lam (my former deputy director at the city’s Department of Design and Construction) who chaired the Waikiki Natatorium Task Force, and all the community members who laid the groundwork with the help of city and state officials and consultants for the plan that is being lauded today. Other members are Lt. Gen H. C. Stackpole (veteran), Rick Bernstein (Kaimana Beach Coalition), Jean Pierre Cercillieux (Kaimana Beach Hotel), Dr. Chip Fletcher (UH professor of ocean engineering), Edgar Hamasu (veteran), state Rep. Ken Ito (veteran), Dr. Andrew Rossiter (Waikiki Aquarium), Rick Egged (Waikiki Improvement Association), Donna Ching (Friends of the Natatorium), Kiersten Faulkner (Hawaii Historic Foundation), Fred Ballard (veteran), Art Caleda (veteran), Brian Keaulana (waterman), Hannie Anderson (paddler) and Tim Guard (businessman and military affairs advocate).

Their recommendation was no easy task. The other options thoroughly studied were: 1) Keep the natatorium as is; 2) Relocate the arches to a different site on Oahu; 3) Conduct a full restoration; or 4) Turn it into a beach volleyball and aquarium site. The final vote was nine to three — seven members were in favor of the creation of a new beach, three raised their hand for full restoration and two voted for the demolition and construction of a world-class aquarium.

* Since we are on the subject of national treasures, William W. “Bill” Paty Jr., a veteran of the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944, is himself a living treasure. He was an Army captain and member of the 101st Airborne Division during World War II, who parachuted into Normandy on D-Day with thousands of other soldiers. He was captured as a POW, had two failed attempts at fleeing the enemy and was later decorated with a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his bravery and survival.

Paty, a former agricultural executive and chairman of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources in the Waihee administration, will be the guest of honor Friday at the Home of the Brave Brewseum. It is the newest edition to Glen Tomlinson’s World War II museum located at 909 Waimanu St. in Kakaako. Tomlinson features one of the largest collections of WWII memorabilia that you will ever see in the Pacific. How fitting it is that Paty, who rarely speaks of his combat experience, will be recognized there for his valiant military service on the 70th anniversary of D-Day this Friday.

On behalf of his countless admirers, I send a special salute to a very deserving patriot of our times.

mufi@mufihannemann.com

The Conversation: Natatorium Follow-Up: Jim Bickerton

Hawaii Public Radio
Town Square: Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

 

Excerpt transcribed by the Kaimana Beach Coalition.

Beth-Ann Kozlovich: Maybe you remember the picture from last year – Governor Abercrombie and Honolulu Mayor Caldwell standing together at the Natatorium to announce their decision to replace the crumbling structure with a memorial beach. Many people thought the issue had been settled; then last week the National Trust placed the Natatorium on its list of national treasures. That stirred up a whole debate again and brought out one point on which all sides can agree: nothing can actually be decided until the Environmental Impact Statement comes out next year.

Jim Bickerton is here representing the Kaimana Beach Coalition. Nice to have you back.

Jim Bickerton: Good morning, Beth-Ann, thanks for having me.

BAK: So how much of a surprise was that announcement last week for all of you by the National Trust?

“People don’t realize that the National Trust is not a government agency – it’s a private organization, just like the Historic Hawaii Preservation Society.”

JB: Not really a big surprise, it’s just an extension of what they’ve been trying to do for a while. People don’t realize that the National Trust is not a government agency – it’s a private organization, just like the Historic Hawaii Preservation Society. They’re well-intended people with – their plan is to preserve things, we certainly understand people want to try to do that. But this is a mainland group and this is a homegrown solution that we have here that it looks like the community has really gotten behind. Right after you had the gentlemen from the National Trust on your show, the Star-Bulletin ran a poll – I think they had over 4,000 responses, which is very high, if not the highest level of response – and over 80% of the people [who] responded supported the solution that both the Mayor and the Governor have gotten behind.

And a lot of people don’t also appreciate that it’s a compromise solution – it is a memorial beach. I watched the Memorial Day service on television on Sunday and the beautiful arch was in the picture, the wall was in the picture, the great stone with the plaque, those were all in there – and they’re still gonna be there in the memorial beach. Instead of having a dead memorial, which is what we have now, we’ll have a living memorial that the community can use 365 days a year.

BAK: Their point is that it should also be a living memorial, but in the way it would be preserved, as it is right now. Don’t we really need to sort of wait it out and just see what happens with the EIS next year? Because their point seems to be, well, if you get in there and start disturbing a bunch of stuff you really don’t know what it is you’re going to do, and until that EIS is done, should we all just not be talking about this for a while?

JB: Well I think that’s a fair point. We should all wait for the EIS, but one of the things – you know, they call themselves restorationists, but what they really are is rebuilders. Because what people need to know is that the Natatorium was built with very outdated technology – it’s falling apart. And so to restore it requires it to be scraped right down to the seabed and built from the ground up again. And so it really isn’t about restoring something; it’s what are we gonna build there. What’s there now has to go away. Are we gonna build something that’s outdated, that isn’t healthy in an environment where people can fly in from all around the world with every virus and bacteria known to man, or are we gonna build something that has worked around the islands, which is a public beach park? That’s the question. We think we know the right answer, but we’re certainly looking forward to the city’s Environmental Impact Statement.

BAK: Jim, this is such an emotional issue, and it’s emotionally generational too, given the fact that it’s been around for most of my life and for a lot of people who say, enough already, get we just get a decision and do something – do you think that once we get that EIS we’re actually going to be at that point? And not where a lot of people perhaps thought we were last year with the decision?

“…as people become aware of how limited our beach resources are and how tough it’s going to be to get to Ala Moana Park when they build ten, twenty, thirty thousand units in Kaka‘ako, they’re really gonna cherish that open space on the beach and realize how valuable it is.”

JB: I think that the EIS is going to answer a lot of questions. I do think that we’ll be at that point. But I think that the emotions about this will continue for a long time to come. But it has changed over time. I mean, support for the current solution that the Mayor and the Governor are proposing is at its greatest level that it’s ever been. And so I think part of it is that as people become aware of how limited our beach resources are and how tough it’s going to be to get to Ala Moana Park when they build ten, twenty, thirty thousand units in Kaka‘ako, they’re really gonna cherish that open space on the beach and realize how valuable it is. And so I think – one thing I have great confidence in, this community – we do work things out in the end, and good solutions are found. What we’re saying is, this is the solution that’s already been found. It was through a task force, it was through debate, it was a compromise, and so really to come in and try to say, well it’s got to be this all-or-nothing solution that the rebuilders want, it goes against I think the way that we’ve solved our problems here.

BAK: In the meantime, over the summer there will be hearings; people will be able to weigh in. It’s not as if it’s either/or but it’s still in the business of gathering information.

JB: Yes, and I think in that regard I’d like to give a plug to our Web site, because we have lots of just objective, concrete information, old articles –

BAK: No pun intended?

JB: There you go. Concrete. It’s savekaimanabeach.org, and we’ve got archive materials going back many, many years. So people who are interested in the issue can bone up on it and give their input to these hearings.

BAK: Well part of that is what obviously both you and the Trust have been asking of people, [to] really do some homework, do some research, look at it – and if you can, get yourself down there too, and see what’s really there, because very often what’s in your memory isn’t necessarily what’s there in reality. And then try to compare some of those ideas. But once we have the EIS, there sort of is the feeling that maybe that will be the point. Given all the emotionalism, the opposite may be true too.

JB: Well, it’s – you know, I’ve been with this for over twenty years now, and I –

BAK: That’s why I’m asking you!

JB: – I have a hard time believing that we’ll ever come to a complete end to it. But we keep plugging away. I think information is the key, information to people is very key. And you just have to also look to the future and think about what we really need in this community. And that’s what I think is gonna drive it in the end – what does the community need? The environmental impacts are gonna be there no matter what you build. And there’s an environmental impact to doing nothing, because it’s crumbling into the sea. We just have to find out what they’re gonna be, weigh them, and make a good decision.

BAK: The community, though, is changing. And we’re watching more people move to Hawaii. There are a lot of suggestions – as we come closer to 2020 there will be far fewer people who were born and raised in Hawaii, and that changes sensitivity to what Hawaii may be all about as we move forward into the future. The idea of the beach versus the memorial, obviously very far away from the first World War, and the need for the beach. Do you think that is going to be, what’s going to be uppermost in people’s minds?

“People talk about, how much does it cost to build it? But how much does it cost to maintain going forward? We have beach parks all around this island because they are easy to maintain. They don’t cost the government a lot, they bring a lot of joy and recreation to people.”

JB: Well, I do think that serving the community is the most important thing. Remembering the past is a very important thing. That’s why the memorial’s incorporated into the beach idea. But you can’t take that whole hundred yard stretch of beach and devote it to something that can’t be used on a daily basis by the people. The other thing is the expense – we don’t talk about that. People talk about, how much does it cost to build it? But how much does it cost to maintain going forward? We have beach parks all around this island because they are easy to maintain. They don’t cost the government a lot, they bring a lot of joy and recreation to people. And so when you weigh that cost versus the high cost of maintaining a pool, a concrete pool in the middle of the ocean, against the benefits that it can bring, I think that type of comparison will drive the decision too.

BAK: Right. As we talk about with many things, that it’s not just getting it to a certain point, but how are you gonna keep it at that point as you move into the future? One thing is for sure – in our future we have a lot more discussion about the Natatorium whether we like it or not!

JB: I think I’ll be back next year!

BAK: Thanks very much, Jim. Jim Bickerton has been practicing law in Hawaii for more than 25 years and is a founding partner of the firm that bears his name. He represents the Kaimana Beach Coalition.

Honolulu Star-Advertiser poll: 90% support pool removal

Honolulu Star-Advertiser, May 22, 2014

What should be done with the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium, now named a “national treasure”? 

  • B. Raze pool, create beach and move arches (90%, 3,811 Votes)
  • A. Full restoration, including pool (10%, 484 Votes)

Total Voters: 4,252