Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Monday, June 15, 1998


The war over noise
at convention center

PEOPLE like Bev Kai, who live contentedly in low-rises and condominiums along the polluted but usually tranquil Ala Wai, have a special love/hate relationship with their new neighbor, the Hawaii Convention Center.

Like other islanders, Kai marvels at the grandeur and workmanship of the just dedicated glass-and-concrete castle at the entrance to Waikiki. She knows the important role it will play in restoring clout to King Tourism.

But Kai and other residents near the center aren't satisfied taxpayers. They continue to harbor animosity from months of deafening explosions, courtesy of an unshielded pile driver during a lengthy construction phase; worry about the decibel level of future social functions on the 2.5-acre rooftop terrace; and are still angry at government entities like the Convention Center Authority for treating them with impatience and disdain.

It is a bitter war of words that continues to rage. The sentiment is this: Since the humans were there first, it is the center that should go out of its way to behave and, for goodness sake, to be quiet.

A brief truce was called last Friday night at The Ala Wai Pageant. Hundreds of voyeurs lined the stone walls of the stinky canal, some munching on bento dinners and sipping sodas, as canoes carrying kahiko dancers and chanters glided along the water in a unique parade.

Kai, 61, left the comfort of her one-bedroom apartment to watch the festivities with a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. She also chastised a certain editorial page columnist, who said in a recent article that those who complained about convention center noise were seriously lacking in aloha.

"We are not the bad guys here," Kai scolded, in a motherly sort of way. "The 20,000 people who live within earshot of it will not cave in concerning an open air bar in this acoustically sensitive neighborhood. In this horseshoe of high-rises, makai and Diamond Head of the center, sound bounces around like balls in a handball court. We can hear each echo three times.

"Allowing 'cultural events' on the rooftop terrace with liquor would allow Tahitian hula in a huge, high-rise arena of acoustic mirrors, with thousands of happy conventioneers. Can you imagine?

"What we would like in our neighborhood is a drinking establishment which conforms to existing liquor laws. There is no reason we should accept anything less. Laws are laws."

Kai continues, now directing her wrath at the CCA. "We wouldn't be so damn mad if the Convention Center Authority hadn't lied to us so many times during construction. I would call and ask when the pile driving would quit, so I could plan my life. They said, 'Two more weeks.' It went on for six.

"I believed them and hung around, and am now only just recovering from the stress of the pile driver all day, six days a week. And that was over two years ago.

"I am not the only person who got fed up. That is why we are so adamant now. If we show 'aloha,' we will be abused. There is no doubt of this, because of their past behavior."

Thus, the battle lines are drawn. There will be no carte blanche granting of liquor licenses for events on the center's rooftop terrace. Each applicant will have to go before the Liquor Commission and make a case, while Bev and her brigade monitor the procession.

All they desire -- in their own little low-rent, family-oriented corner of paradise -- is some peace, quiet and long-overdue respect. You know the adage: Silence is golden.






Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at
DianeChang@aol.com, or by fax at 523-7863.




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