KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance / A 26-story condo/hotel proposed by Kyo-ya Hotels and Resorts for the lot between the old Moana Hotel and Kuhio Beach Park will be the target of a grassroots protest organized by KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance. The public is invited.
A brigade of environmental groups is appealing a decision by the city’s Department of Permitting and Planning to exempt the $700 million project from various laws. The city’s decision, they claim, contradicts well-established shoreline height and setback laws designed to prevent overcrowding along Waikiki’s iconic beach. The coalition includes KAHEA, Hawaii’s Thousand Friends, Surfrider Foundation and the Ka Iwi Coalition.
The Weekly had a few questions about the rally for Marti Townsend, KAHEA’s program director, and Shelley Muneoka, KAHEA’s outreach coordinator.
Who should come to the rally, and why should they care?
Anyone who cares about the future of Waikiki beach, public beach access, shoreline erosion and ocean recreation should come to the rally. We find that people do care about this issue, because our shores are one of our most valuable natural and economic resources, especially the beach at Waikiki. People may not know that Waikiki has long had very strict laws including height and shoreline setback rules meant to protect the narrow, eroding beach, but the city recently issued a variance that exempts Kyo-ya’s proposed 26-story tower from these laws. Thus, the name of the rally: “Line in the Sand.” We shouldn’t be giving other Waikiki landowners and developers the opportunity to point to Kyo-ya and demand their own variances to build bigger, higher and closer to water’s edge.
In your experience, is this an easy issue that people quickly grasp?
On a fundamental level, it’s very simple: construction proposals should abide by our zoning laws.
Who needs public pressure on this issue?
Mayor Carlisle, the City Council, and the city’s Department of Permitting and Planning all need to know that the people of Oahu care about our shorelines and our beach-access rights, and that we will defend them, even when city officials won’t.
What do you say to people who say “Hey, it’s a $700 million project and lots of construction jobs”?
We mustn’t fall for short-term gains in exchange for long-term losses. Degrading further the iconic beauty of Waikiki can only have a negative impact on tourism. Visitors do not cross the oceans of the world to sit on a beach that feels like a metropolis.
What is planned for the beach rally?
We will assemble at the banyan tree in front of the Honolulu Zoo at 9:30am. We will be wearing blue shirts, t-shirts, etc. Once assembled, we’ll march with signs to the site of the proposed construction and assemble for a single speech. Then we’ll disperse to wave signs along Kalakaua Avenue, pass out informational fliers and collect petition signatures. Then it’s time for a swim and sandcastle making. Bring your kids! We’re asking that people wear blue shirts of any shade or hue. Bring custom signs, but we will also have signs to pass around. Some of the slogans we’ve come up with include: “Kyo-ya claims they own THIS beach!” and “No more towers on the beach!” and “Build Sandcastles, Not Castles in the Sand.”