North Shore lifeguards volunteer at Haleiwa Beach Park Mauka
Image: Blake McElheny.

The Save Haleiwa Beach Park Coalition and park users Cora Sanchez and Steve Baldonado have filed suit against the City and County of Honolulu in State Circuit Court in order to stop the City from closing Haleiwa Beach Park Mauka and selling the land to private hotel developer Andy Anderson. The challenge is also timely in light of city plans for other parks.

According to a copy of the lawsuit, state and city law both require that the city obtain a Special Management Area (SMA) permit whenever it plans an action that will reduce the public’s ability to use and access the shoreline. In addition, the lawsuit cites ordinances [HRS 46-1.5 (16)(B) and ROH 37-1.4(b)], which assert that, “no county property ‘bordering the ocean’ shall be sold or otherwise disposed of.”

“The City believes that neither a special management use permit nor an environmental assessment is required for the proposed disposition of City property located in the vicinity of Haleiwa Beach Park,” Mayor Peter Carlisle replied in a June 13 email to Cora Sanchez’s query.

Haleiwa Beach Park Mauka is just the first of several beach parklands that the City is eyeing in their Annual Land and Structure Inventories prepared by the Department of Budget and Fiscal Services. As of May 18, 2012, the list of “remnant” and “surplus” properties include public parking areas at “Leftovers” and “Uppers,” two surf spots between Chun’s Reef and Waimea Bay, as well as beach park land in Makaha and the Windward side.

Precedent does not inspire confidence, to say the least. Privatized shoreline areas where developers have failed and refused to provide promised public access, parks, and adequate parking (as with Andy Anderson’s Sunset Colony subdivision at Velzyland) continue to aggravate traffic along Kamehameha Hwy between Haleiwa and Kahuku, as people slow down looking for parking and ocean access.

“The strategy with this lawsuit is to keep the city from going forward,” Sanchez explains. “The way a lot of these lawsuits work is that if you can hold off the developers for a long time, things change, and hopefully they move on to other projects.” Sanchez is an official Adopt-A-Park volunteer at Haleiwa Beach Park Mauka and has been active for 20 years in protecting North Shore’s public lands. She remembers how the community saw victory against development in the Pupukea-Paumalu region where Japanese developer Obayashi planned to build 500 homes and a golf course on 1,100 acres above Pipeline.

“We held Obayashi off for so long that finally, the bubble burst in Japan, the owners had a downturn in income and it was no longer viable for them to go ahead with the project,” Sanchez recalls, adding that the success they had then with the Bickerton Lee Dang & Sullivan law firm is what made them choose to work with them again for this lawsuit.

Due to the City’s controversial disregard for laws protecting park land used for beach access and ocean recreation, this case will be precedent setting, according to Nathan Roehrig, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs. Next step: “We will bring a motion for an injunction, unless the City agrees to one, to halt the closure and sale of the land until we get a final ruling from the courts.”

Updates on this case can be found at: [savehaleiwabeachpark.org]