Tidal Change

By Chad Blair
Published in the Honolulu Weekly, July 6, 1999

Following a June 21 ruling by Circuit Judge Gail Nakatani defining the Waikiki War Memorial and Natatorium as a swimming pool, the City & County of Honolulu has called a temporary halt to its renovation. Meanwhile, public opinion may be shifting against the ambitious plans of Mayor Jeremy Harris, Friends of the Natatorium and commercial interests.

City residents couldn’t pick up a newspaper, turn on the TV or listen to the radio over the past week without hearing strong support for keeping the Natatorium facade – the arch and wall, that is – in order to honor the World War I veterans the Natatorium was commissioned for over 70 years ago. while tearing down the long-closed saltwater pool and bleachers to replace them with sandy beach (Letters, “Natatorium lawsuit,” HW, 6/9). KHON TV-2, in its June 27 broadcast, called Kaimana Beach Coalition leader Rick Bernstein “The Man Who Fought City Hall And Won.” KCCN 105.1 FM’s Brickwood Galuteria and Frank B. Shaner took calls from the public decrying the public-health threat a renovated pool would likely pose. Even three columnists for The Honolulu Star-Bulletin knocked the project in print, bucking the paper’s editorial support for renovation.

On Wednesday, June 30, Judge Nakatani will consider the Coalition’ s request to halt construction for another 10 days. Further delays could be expected, perhaps lasting many months, as the state Department of Health would have to revise rules for saltwater pools.

“We hope that in the meantime, people will realize that there was once a beach there, and that it can he put back,” says Coalition attorney Jim Bickerton.

Also on Wednesday, City Councilwoman Donna Mercado Kim will present to the Council a petition signed by thousands, asking the Council to rescind the Shoreline Management Area permit it authorized in December. That permit was based on the assumption that the Natatorium pool was not a pool, and thus not subject to Health Department regulations.