Friday, July 9, 1999

City & County of Honolulu

Mayor scraps work
on Natatorium pool

But foes on the restoration still
aren't satisfied and are going
on with their lawsuit

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


Mayor Jeremy Harris' decision to scrap pool improvements at the Waikiki War Memorial and Natatorium has not satisfied opponents of full restoration.

Flanked by Council members Duke Bainum and Andy Mirikitani, Harris yesterday told reporters the city will cancel portions of the $11.5 million renovation contract dealing with the pool."The pool will stay exactly as it is,"he said.

Opponents are not convinced.

"This leaves it open for (the city) to come back to a pool any old time," said Rick Bernstein of the Kaimana Beach Coalition, which has been battling the city in court over the issue.

"It seems to me the door is still open for the pool to resurrect itself at some point," said Councilman Mufi Hannemann, another opponent. "This is just a face-saving move."

Opponents also feel that the entire project might still be stopped.

Jim Bickerton, attorney for the Kaimana Beach group, said his clients will continue the lawsuit against the city before Circuit Judge Gail Nakatani that seeks an injunction against any construction.

Nakatani could order the city to go back to the Council for a new special management area use permit.

"All we can see is the mayor is intending to do what he wanted to do all along -- to build the bleachers without telling us what they will be for when they are finished," Bickerton said. "This gives us even more reason why the project should be stopped."

Councilman Steve Holmes called the change in direction "a clear case of segmentation. You're talking about a permit granted by the Council for the cumulative impacts in the special management area that specifically was for a swimming pool."

Councilwoman Donna Mercado Kim, who also opposes full restoration, said a change as substantive as proposed by the mayor would require at least an amendment to the permit.

Harris disagrees that a permit is needed but acknowledged that, given Nakatani's positions on the case, "Any erroneous ruling is possible from the court -- we've learned that."

Pending the clearance from Nakatani, the city could begin work on the facade, archway, restrooms and bleachers immediately.

Nakatani is to hear the request for an injunction July 23.

Harris said his decision was made, following consultation with majority Council members, based on the delays caused by the ongoing litigation.

"The project has been delayed considerably," the mayor said. "We are convinced we can no longer, with confidence, bring the entire project in under budget."

The project could be done in four to six months, he said.

Bainum said he is following through on his position to not support additional funding for full restoration.

"It looks like it will be impossible to bring that portion of that natatorium under budget at this time," Bainum said. "But our community needs to move forward."

Mirikitani said, "This is the best course of action to take at this time and it would be unwise to continue with the pool."

Harris said the door has not been shut completely on renovating the pool.

"It doesn't end the possibility in the future," he said.

Friends of the Natatorium President Linuce Pang said he was disappointed by the setback, adding that he hopes the pool will be considered in the future.

"What I find most disturbing is that misinformation from a vocal, self-interested minority and internal City Council politics have managed to further encumber a project that is already decades overdue," Pang said.

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