Harris pledges work at Natatorium to go on

Honolulu Advertiser
Masuoka Brandon
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Pool restoration to await new rules


Despite growing opposition to renovation of the Waikiki Natatorium, Mayor Jeremy Harris said yesterday that work on the facade, bleachers and restrooms would proceed, but he would await state Health Department rules for salt-water pools before deciding if the swimming area would be restored.

No part of the restoration will be done, however, if enough members of the Honolulu City Council agree to revoke a special shoreline management area permit for the project.

Councilwoman Donna Mercado Kim has introduced a resolution directing the Department of Planning and Permitting to investigate and hold a hearing on revocation of the permit.

The permit was approved in a 6-3 vote, but Councilman Mufi Hannemann, who voted for it, now says he is opposed to the restoration. Only one more vote would have to be changed from “yes” to “no,” to revoke the permit.

Natatorium restoration hit a major snag this week when Circuit Judge Gail Nakatani declared the facility a swimming pool that must adhere to state pool regulations. Other concerns focused on the clarity of the water and bacteria levels in the pool.

Harris said yesterday the because there are now no salt-water pool regulations, he will wait to proceed with fixing the Natatorium pool until the state Department of Health devises rules.

Harris said it would be reasonable to require the water quality around the Natatorium to match water quality inside the pool.

“We can do that,” Harris said.

But if the regulations enforce “non-sensible” regulations, such as forcing water quality inside the pool to be twice as clean as the outside water, “then we won’t do the pool,” Harris said.

Harris said work on the other areas would start in two weeks and construction would take about four to six months.

The partial restoration is a “conservative and responsible approach” for the city to work only on the facade of the facility until the rules are in place, he said.

The Natatorium was closed in 1979. Harris called conditions there “a disgrace.”

There are signs to warn people to keep out and to watch for falling debris. A headless stone eagle, a victim of wear and tear, is perched on top the archway. A dangerous-looking hole on the ewa-side pool deck is fenced off.