Natatorium resolutions lauded

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
By Crystal Kua
ckua@starbulletin.com

A coalition supports measures that scale back current plans

The Save Kaimana Beach Coalition is applauding two City Council resolutions that could halt or scale back $6.1 million in work that Mayor Jeremy Harris’ administration has planned to shore up the aging, crumbling Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium.

The resolutions “let everybody know that the city is not of one mind on this and that the Council is in a different place with respect to this issue,” said Jim Bickerton, attorney for the Save Kaimana Beach Coalition.

Bickerton said he has not ruled out going back to court to enforce a 1999 court order that allows the city to continue with part of an $11 million restoration but prevents restoration of the saltwater pool until the city abides by state rules, a requirement that has stalled the project.

The group is waiting to hear from the city on when it plans to start work.

Bickerton said the injunction does allow for work on the pool to protect public health and safety, but the coalition disagrees that public health and safety are at risk.

“Going to court is not the preferred way. We asked the mayor to hold off on construction until the Council could get together and work out a solution, but they didn’t want to do that,” Bickerton said. “Our first preference is to work with the community and get a consensus. … The city is forcing us into court by insisting on going ahead.”

City Managing Director Ben Lee said in a written statement that the administration cannot allow the Natatorium to continue to collapse into the ocean and lose the beach that the coalition is trying to save.

“We are disappointed that the Kaimana Beach coalition has again made every effort to stop repairs of the Natatorium, especially when those repairs involve public safety and will prevent further deterioration of the pool,” Lee said.

In May the city closed the restrooms at the Natatorium after a section on the pool deck collapsed, leaving a crater at the edge of the bleachers on the mauka wall.

The city received reports from two firms that the entire structure is at risk of collapsing and that work should be done to shore up the pool deck and stabilize the sea walls.

Both resolutions were introduced by Council Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi and will be heard in her committee on Wednesday.

Kobayashi said that if approved by the Council, the resolutions will show that the Council does not approve of the administration’s plans.

One resolution asks the administration to consider less costly measures to address health and safety concerns, and the second resolution urges postponement on spending any money until final plans — including for the saltwater pool — are completed and the Council receives a cost analysis report.

“I don’t know why the administration has to rush to do this now, because they don’t have a plan and they don’t have the money to the finish the pool,” Kobayashi said.

Bickerton said he understands that the resolutions have no force of law, but he believes if the mayor ignores the resolutions, the Council has other powers, including revoking a shoreline management permit, it could exercise to stop the project.