The view of Diamond Head from Kapolei is lovely, even 15 miles from Waikiki. This is where the City Council chose to have its vote on the building variance for the Hilton Hawaiian Village last Wednesday.
Parking for paddlers,
surfers at issue
More than 40 citizens showed up for the hearing on the issue that will affect one of the last free public parking areas for surfers and canoe paddlers in Waikiki.
It is ironic, as the state prepares for the celebration of the Duke Kahanamoku stamp release later this month, that it is Kalia Bay that is part of the focus and controversy. The Hawaiian Village was built where the Kahanamoku family had its home, where Hawaii's first Olympian grew up. Kalia Bay is where surfers and paddlers now gain access to the ocean.
Those who first testified were all for the variance that would allow Hilton to build a 35-story, 350-unit time-share tower and "other improvements." It would be a great development for the area where the Waikikian once stood, they said.
They also were all for the new intersection that is now Dewey Lane, the one-way road that passed the old Tahitian Lanai, that will become a two-lane street for mostly tour busses. As if the congestion on Ala Moana between Ala Moana Center and Kalia Road isn't bad enough ...
People were passionate about the new jobs that were good for the economy. Favorable testimony led 7-0 when the first wave of dissension began to rise.
Some had actually paid attention when Peter Schall, Hilton Hawaiian Village's senior vice president and managing director, said the project would include improvements from Ala Moana Boulevard TO Duke Kahanamoku Beach next to the defunct heliport.
Some had paid attention when Schall dismissed the claims that the 200 or so parking stalls would now be used by the time-share visitors. Or by more of the Hilton employees who already take advantage of free parking near the lagoon.
"The length of stay is minimal, 3-5 days," Schall said of time-share occupants.
Yes, but there's still the potential of 350 cars seeking that free parking.
"I'm not a radical," said Tony Agao. "I'm just a caring taxpayer and surfer. What little space the locals have is going to be gone. This is where we were brought as children to Waikiki and where we bring our children and grandchildren."
Not even the 12,000 signatures against the project compelled the council to rethink what this will do to the ewa end of Waikiki. Not even the testimony of Hall of Fame surfer George Downing, which drew applause, helped sway the council.
It was only when Noa Napoleon raised the issue of commercialization of the parking area, the rumor of a luau on the beach, that the bulldozer of progress slowed. The beach boys had all heard the talk; after all, it was local people who would be providing the entertainment for the luau.
Council member Ann Kobayashi asked if it was true. Schall denied the rumor, but obviously some discussion had previously taken place. Council member Duke Bainum said he already had assurances from Schall that the hotel will not take away or use the existing shoreline parking for a luau.
Of course, the Hilton is the same corporation that got the variance to build the lagoon in 1956 with the promise to maintain it. It has not been cleaned in 15 years.
Is Hilton to be believed this time? It's all a matter of trust.
Cindy Luis' column appears periodically.
E-mail Cindy at firstname.lastname@example.org