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“The permit is no longer valid if they’re doing a different project,” Bickerton said.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 kkobayashi@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8030.