Wednesday, May 23, 2001

The future educational center as seen from the
Hanauma Bay crater ridge.

City orders
Hanauma Bay
mounds lowered

The change will cost $80,000
and delay work by a week

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

The city has ordered mounds being constructed along the cliffs of the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve to be lowered by as much as five feet.

Construction on the $10.6 million project began last month and is expected to be done by the end of the year. Under construction on the upper level are an education center and administrative building, and a separate snack bar and gift shop structure.

Members of the East Honolulu Community Coalition had voiced a number of concerns, among them that the 19-foot berm -- into which the education center is to be built -- would be too high and present an ugly protrusion when viewed from the beach.

Project architects, Mayor Jeremy Harris and other city officials made numerous assurances over the past two years that the bermed buildings would not be visible from below.

But that is not how things turned out, said Harris, who visited the site with Managing Director Ben Lee over the weekend after Group 70 architects approached the city indicating that the berms might be too high, and suggested a solution.

"When we make a promise we're going to build this so that it's underground and unobtrusive, we need to stand by that commitment, and that's what we're doing," Harris said yesterday.

Only the frame and form work -- where concrete is poured -- had been completed, so the cost of the change is not expected to exceed $80,000, Lee said, and work should not be delayed by more than a week.

The construction as seen from the road leading to the
bay. The structures will be lowered five feet.

Harris refused to place blame on anyone for the high berms. "It's not an error at all," he said. "You can have the building serve its purpose, accomplish its mission and be five feet lower."

Dick Baker, immediate past president for the Friends of Hanauma Bay, said he and other members of his organization supported the overall project but also were troubled when the poles started going up.

"It is not what we had been led to expect," he said.

David Washino, spokesman for the East Honolulu Community Coalition, said the city's reversal gave his group some vindication to its argument that their concerns were never considered.

"We were basically ignored and told it was not a problem," Washino said.

The group continues to have objections about the locations of both buildings, which they believe could have been placed farther back.

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