Public beach a great idea


POSTED: Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium is crumbling into the ocean. I was elated to see the task force vote on this issue and support establishing a simple, elegant beach in its place. The Kaimana Beach Coalition was created out of a need to protect the special ambience of the last local beach in Honolulu. It joins a wide range of organizations, recreationists, preservationists, infectious disease experts and many others who are urging the preservation of the arched facade and swift demolition of this monolith so that the Oahu public can enjoy the beauty of a sandy beach.

Many of us were dismayed when former Mayor Jeremy Harris intended to restore the Natatorium and host tourist events at sunset. Demolishing the dangerous structure would be fiscally responsible and in the best interest of the public. It will not serve the interests of many outspoken members of the community who harbor hidden agendas. These are developers, architects, planners and commercial groups who hope to benefit selfishly from a restoration of the bleachers. Bleachers are for preachers.

In our current economic climate, it is a no-brainer that we taxpayers cannot fund a $43 million dollar restoration of what the Department of Health says will be forbidden to swimmers because of potential staphylococcal skin infections.

And did anyone think about the escalating repair and maintenance cost burdens for our keikis? As a taxpayer, I am outraged. Or were the restoration proponents envisioning a positive cash flow with sunset hula shows where tourists are bussed in at $100 a head? There are few safe swimming beaches for Honolulu's growing population. There is no better public use of this precious, pristine parcel of land than to make it a wonderful swimming beach.

The magnificent open space will remind all of us of what the Hawaii people enjoyed long before the city was built and the high-rises dwarfed the mountain views.

As past president of Malama o Manoa, I have fought for the preservation of Waahila Ridge. I have fought against the high-rises planned for Kakaako Makai. I have strongly opposed the commercialization of Tantalus. I want to protect agricultural lands, residential neighborhoods and historic homes. There are times when preservationists must step back and make way for the public good. This is one of these times.

Jeremy Lam is a resident of Honolulu.