Saturday, March 14, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions About Beach Access

To clarify some ongoing misconceptions about public beach access, here is the link to FAQs that was originally posted when we first formed Beach Access Hawaii in 2007. At that time, there was a separate link on the side of the BAH website page for this info. But when the site was discontinued and posts were imported to this blog, it got buried in the archives. Click here for background info, which hasn't changed in eight years of ongoing disputes over beach rights of way thanks to inaction by the counties and State Legislature.

http://beachaccesshawaii.blogspot.com/2007/09/frequently-asked-questions.html

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Kailua Beach Gate Redux

Eight years ago, I co-founded Beach Access Hawaii when residents on L'Orange Place put up a gate to keep others from using the beach path at the end of their privately owned road. I soon learned that at least 17 Kailua beach-side lanes were gated or had put up "No Beach Access" signs. Upon further investigation, I found that the State law pertaining to beach rights of way wasn't actually an enforceable law. The attorney representing the City and County of Honolulu contended it was only a guideline because it said there "should" be public access every quarter mile in urban areas or every half mile in rural sections. "Should," not "shall."

Despite standing room only crowds testifying for the need to preserve beach access at Kailua Neighborhood Board meetings, and having thousands of people sign petitions supporting our cause, ultimately the State Legislature and City Council chose to do nothing. We also organized a state-wide Groundhog Day rally in 2008 that brought together over 20 organizations on every island -- there was even a Surfrider protest in Florida that same day, which was inspired by our efforts. For all our lobbying, calls to State and county officials, media attention, sign waving, proposed bills that got multiple hearings and lip service from elected reps, in the end, the status quo prevailed. Forcing property owners to allow public access on privately-owned land would amount to "takings" or require condemnation proceedings by the State, which would be costly and probably fail in court.

I bring this up because once again in Kailua there's talk about another gate going up on Ka'apuni Drive. The difference this time around is that the rumors spread faster thanks to Facebook. Back when my neighbors and I began Beach Access Hawaii in 2007, our chief form of communication was going door to door and handing out flyers. We then built an email list, which became our main tool to spread the word about what we were trying to accomplish through our meetings with State and county government people.

But social media is a different animal. Anyone can post anything, and often no one bothers to check the facts or research an issue. Much of it takes on an ugly tone, resorting to slinging the "F" bomb or "sh*t" every other word on the "My Kailua" Facebook page, which is presumably meant for a wide range of ages. Unfortunately, it's the rude commenters that give fuel to the arguments put forth by the Gate Keepers, who point their fingers at miscreants for trashing their streets and beach paths or disturbing them at all hours of the night when the rude idiots are out partying, defacing property with graffiti and so on. There is no defense for rudeness, online or elsewhere.

As some noted in the thread comments, there are good neighbors too who have taken the time to help clean up the Ka'apuni Drive access. Killing them with kindness is a far better strategy than threatening to make their lives miserable if they put up a gate. The one positive outcome we had from the L'Orange Gate controversy was that State Rep. Cynthia Thielen convinced residents on her beach-side lane to unlock their gate. But many of the other oceanfront properties in Kailua aren't even occupied by local owners. Some have been bought by investors that rent them out as vacation homes or B&Bs with their own private beach access.

So what can be done? Here's my suggestion: if homeowners on "private" roads want to deny beach access to the public, then treat those roads as private and require them to pay for all public services they currently enjoy at the taxpayers' expense. Let them pay for trash pick-up at their homes, or else they can cart it out to the public road adjoining their private lanes. Ditto for mail delivery. And make them pay for any public utility work that must be done beneath or bordering their private roads. They can't have it both ways -- their roads shouldn't be used for public services when it suits them, but kept off limits to the public when it doesn't.

I have also suggest to State reps and City Council members that they could offer positive inducements for allowing public access, such as tax breaks on their "private" roads and easements. Sometimes a carrot is better than a stick. For what it's worth, here's the post from the My Kailua Facebook page that elicited a strong reaction:
KA'APUNI TO BECOME GATED
Area Resident Local Reports In...
The "residents" of Kaapuni Drive have voted to put gates up and restrict beach access. This after only a few months ago they denied claims that this was happening nor would it ever. After local news was about to release the story, the Kaapuni association president called the news denying any validity to the accusations and dismissing it as baseless rumors. Now that one of the long time residents that has always opposed putting up gates has passed and her property is for sale, the "residents" (several of which live on the mainland and vote by proxy at the board meetings) now have the votes to pass the motion. Meanwhile the neighboring community that takes care of the beach accesses through community cleanups and beautification projects will be the ones most affected by this restriction. The next nearest public accesses are over a HALF MILE APART. We need to let the Kaapuni board and residents know that this is a horrible idea and will not decrease crime, vandalism, and littering. Those punks will just jump the gate or come down from another access. It is the families that grew up using these accesses and actually take care of the beach and accesses that they will be punishing. Beach access needs to be protected and opened, not limited! If anyone has contacts with the residents or board members, please share. Or contacts at local news outlets. Help spread the word before another beach access is restricted. Anyone happen to know the minimum distance between public beach accesses? Or an ordinance/law/etc regarding public trash and mail access on private roads?
Looking back, there was another positive result from the Beach Access Hawaii campaign... a lasting one. We got to know a lot of our neighbors by going door to door, and meeting in person to make our signs for the rallies and protests. That's one thing you can't do online. Putting names to faces, sharing stories of growing up in Kailua or elsewhere, spending real time together for a concerted purpose will always mean more than sitting in front of a computer, typing out pithy Tweets or snarky Facebook retorts. But at least grumbling online is a start. The question is, will any of them follow through and attempt to do something about it?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sheraton's Shoddy Shoreline Sham

Beach access advocate Mark Dougherty sent these photos of the walkway in front of the Sheraton Waikiki, which clearly shows how vegetation from the resort property makes it even more narrow than it already is. He says the Sheraton is basically ignoring their responsibility to maintain the walkway because they'd rather dissuade the general public from passing in front of their property than improve access. He's probably right.




Mark writes:
" Improved shoreline access across Hawaii received a boost in 2010 when Act 160 (HRS 115-5) was passed. Unfortunately the prescription for 6-feet wide 'beach transit corridors' is not applicable in some places. This coast fronting the Sheraton Waikiki -- one of the more prominent shorelines in Hawaii -- must make due with a 4-foot walkway. The walkway, an easement that dates back years before Sheraton was built in 1971, was considered for expansion during the Sheraton renovation, completed around 2011. But no action was taken. Hawaii's coastal planners apparently regard this access way as sufficient for all pedestrian traffic between main Waikiki Beach and Ft. DeRussy. With the constraining naupaka hedge and railing, the public has only 3 ½ feet to pass."
I asked him what he would like to see happen in regards to the situation. Here's his response:
 " Re your question, I would like to see walkway widened or naupaka removed. But I doubt the hotel will do that now. The time to do that was during the renovation, at coastal planners' prompting. (Several months ago I communicated with Bob Kelly, Sheraton GM. He said the walkway is just fine.) At this point, it would probably take a land acquisition. That would be a big deal. And the related issue is Gray's Beach restoration is still pending. There is a lot going on here....
   I am interested in a public airing of this issue. Attention is warranted by both media and community organizations. Here are my 3 key topics:
   1) The Sheraton walkway situation helps erode respect for the 6-feet-wide standard of HRS 115-5. If coastal planners deem a 3 ½ feet width is good enough for the busy Waikiki shore, that sends a poor message.
   2) There is highly credible information that not only that some hotels seek to limit pedestrian traffic along the Waikiki shore, but that top coastal planners are tacitly agreeing to go along with this scheme. This is bad policy and should be investigated. Of course planners will deny this, but a close look at at the Sheraton situation is warranted.
   3) A new law is needed to require upgrading of substandard easements fronting resort properties when those properties engage in major coastal renovations. HRS 115-5's 6-feet standard should be the new code, at least. Sheraton built a new pool within 10 feet of the water's edge. Apparently there is no policy basis to conduct such an easement review during major coastal modifications.
   What happened at the Sheraton is important; it provides the basis to debate new legislation that would prevent this situation from happening again.
"
Although Mark has tried contacting government officials and people in organizations such as Surfrider and KAHEA, so far no one seems to want to make waves over the issue. If you'd like to help Mark in this cause, please contact him via email at markdd8@gmail.com.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Unintended Consequences: Homeless Find Loophole

Anyone who lives on Oahu knows we have a major problem with homelessness. You see it in Waikiki, Downtown, Chinatown, Kakaako -- but the homeless have also been pitching tents in beach parks all over the island. Since it's gotten to the point where tourists and residents alike are being impacted, the City of Honolulu has been trying to find ways to force them into shelters and get them off the sidewalks and out of the parks.

However, the homeless found a loophole in recent laws passed by the City: because of the split jurisdiction along the shoreline, they are now sleeping on the beach below the high water mark which comes under State rule! Of course, the State Dept. of Land and Natural Resources doesn't have the manpower or resources to deal with that issue too, so the City is trying to get State permission to take responsibility for the beach at Fort DeRussy in Waikiki. Here's the link to that article in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser:

http://www.staradvertiser.com/newspremium/20140920_Homeless_shift_to_state_beach.html

But that's just one beach. Moreover, it's not the only problem we're experiencing that is related to split jurisdiction. Recently the local news media has also been reporting about the growing number of commercial ocean sports activities routinely being conducted on Honolulu beaches -- everything from the usual surfing and paddle boarding lessons to yoga classes. So if someone from the City wants to hassle them about things like permits, all they need to do is move down below the high water mark because the State DLNR won't send anyone to stop them.

Time and again, I've stated in this blog that we need a joint State-Counties Coastal Commission to set rules for all shoreline activities and have the authority to impose fines or take action against violators. Yet the Honolulu City Council and State Legislature continue to stick their heads in the sand and twiddle their thumbs.

BTW, a follower of this blog -- Mark Dougherty -- sent me the photos below showing how the Sheraton Waikiki has been derelict in maintaining vegetation along a walkway fronting the resort. I told Mark that there was a State Law passed, which is supposed to make property owners responsible for keeping plants from encroaching on any beach area below the high water mark because it would impede lateral beach access. The thing is you have to get DLNR to enforce the rule, and to date, I'm not sure they've been putting much effort into it.

Mark says he'll look into it himself, but has already heard from people who say the Sheraton really isn't that interested in improving the walkway's accessibility because they don't want to encourage more foot traffic by non-guests through that area. Wouldn't surprise me in the least if that was true.

Stay tuned, more to follow when I have time to post an update!


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Latest Studies: More Bad News...

It's been a long time since my last post. So what's new? Nothing as far as action by the Hawaii State Legislature or Honolulu City Council in regards to protecting public beach access, or protecting what's left of our shorelines.

Yet each week/month/year that goes by, we continue to see more evidence of climate change that is causing sea levels to rise and leading to accelerated beach erosion. On today's Civil Beat website, there was this piece (click here for link to their page):

Inch by Sandy Inch, Hawaii’s Loss of Beaches Worries Tourism Industry

Recent reports cite concerns that elevated ocean levels, drought and hotter Hawaiian nights will hurt tourism and ultimately the state's economy.

·By Breana Milldrum
The look of paradise is changing: Rising seas mowing over reefs that were once able to slow and break the swells are starting to swallow Hawaii’s iconic white beaches. The state has approximately 750 miles of coastline, according to a climate change report released recently by the University of Hawaii Sea Grant Center for Sustainable Coastal Tourism. But 13 miles of beaches have disappeared within the past century.

That has scientists — and the Hawaii Tourism Authority — worried. In a two-part report published in 2013 and 2014, researchers outlined impacts related to sea level rise, drought, and elevated temperatures in Hawaii.

“The first report was more of an academic, theoretical approach on how to deal with the problem,” co-author and NOAA Sea Grant Coastal Programs coordinator Dolan Eversole said. The second, released just a few weeks ago, attempts to illustrate how the effects of climate change will look on the ground, Eversole said.

Waikiki is particularly vulnerable. A 2008 economic impact report surmised that $2 billion in total visitor expenditures annually would be lost if its beaches were to disappear... And Waikiki isn’t the only beach that’s going to get smaller: Others expected to experience significant erosion within a century include: Mau’umae and Hapuna on the Big Island; Makena State Park and Ho’okipa on Maui; Hulopo’e on Lanai; Pu’ko’o and Halawa on Molokai; Waimanalo,  Ala Moana on Oahu; and Ke’e beach and Poipu Beach Park on Kauai... According to the report, approximately 90 experts in the field of sea level rise found that it will occur to the tune of 1-3 feet around Hawaii within 85 years.

Tourism isn’t the only industry that will be affected by climate change. The Sea Grant reports say that increases in the ocean’s temperature could affect the feeding habits and migration patterns of big-eye tuna, with catches expected to decrease by as much as 27 percent by 2100.

Dr. Chip Fletcher of the University of Hawaii at Manoa estimates that ocean levels will rise by a little less than an inch a year in Hawaii. While that may seem minor at first, over time the impacts on Hawaii’s environment and, by extension, the tourism industry, could be great.

Higher ocean levels could create more storm surges which could threaten water lines, roads and a majority of the state’s hotels, which are situated along the coast. Linda Cox, a co-author of the report, said that damages from rising sea levels would be the most economically harmful. “My idea is that the coastline infrastructure will be the biggest challenge due to the expense associated with moving or altering it,” said Cox, researcher with College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at UH.
The effects of rising ocean levels can already be seen on Oahu, said Cox.

“We already have major issues in coastal areas — look at Hanalei  and the North Shore of Oahu. When major storm events occur, these communities struggle to keep roads open, necessities in stock and people aware of the action to take,” Cox said...

The article concludes with "What's Being Done," which I can summarize for you in two words: MORE STUDIES. In other words, no action will be taken until there's a major catastrophe. Sigh.


 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Some Good News Finally

As reported by Joan Conrow on the HuffPost Hawaii site, the Hawaii Supreme Court "has ruled the state must consider historical evidence when determining the shoreline... The opinion also reiterates the high court's 2006 ruling that vegetation may not be planted to manipulate the shoreline, which becomes the starting line for a building setback."

In effect, the court is saying oceanfront home owners can't try to grab more beach land by planting stuff like naupaka on the edge of their property, which can grow out quickly and extend the de facto boundaries by quite a bit -- like these Kailua Beach properties...


Yep, it's like a sea of green in front of those homes! The court also said historical evidence of the "highest wash" must be considered in determining where the shoreline is. That's significant because the State was using a "single-year snapshot" method, which could be taken at a time when waves were low... and that would allow people to build closer to the ocean, even if history has shown those idiots were putting their property and themselves at risk.

You can read Joan's entire article by clicking here.

Meanwhile, the State Legislature has kicked off their 2014 session with the usual well-meaning announcements that they are going to do something about addressing global climate change and rising sea levels... yeah, right. Call me cynical, but it seems the most vocal advocates -- like Rep. Chris Lee -- don't grasp the reality of Hawaii's split jurisdiction handling of the shoreline. No matter what the State does in the way of studies or task forces, they have no power over shoreline setbacks or zoning restrictions because that is up to each individual county council as it stands right now.

Until they face the fact we need a joint State-Counties coastal commission that has authority to make rules and enforce them, all we will get are nice sound bites and photo opps while the naupaka keeps growing, beaches keep eroding and sea levels keep rising.

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Year, Same Old Politics

It's been awhile since I last posted, due to other professional responsibilities and lack of any real news on the beach access front to share. If you live in Hawaii, you've seen the TV and newspaper reports about houses on the North Shore that are in danger of being swept away by high surf as a result of beach erosion. What's been missing in those dramatic video shots and articles is any detailed discussion of accountability.

As I have been writing in this blog and elsewhere for over three years, Oahu's shoreline setback rules are dangerously shortsighted. The proof is what we're seeing on TV, happening before our very eyes. Yet it should come as no surprise to anyone living here since it's been going on in Kahala, Lanakai and around the island for decades. People build too close to the sea, which interferes with sand dunes and natural erosion/replenishment cycles. That leads to homeowners building seawalls or planting vegetation that hardens the shoreline break and hastens erosion further, until there is no beach left.

The only local news outlet to question existing shoreline setback policies is the Honolulu Civil Beat. Ian Lind wrote a piece about it, and today they ran a story about the county REJECTING federal funding for shoreline management purposes because they feel like there is too much paperwork and accountability that goes along with the money. And you wonder why nothing gets done to protect what beaches we have left? It's absolutely astounding that the Honolulu City Council accepts this rationale and sits on its hands with their heads stuck in the sand... except that sand is being washed out to sea, leaving their inaction exposed for the entire State to see.

Meanwhile, the other islands have said the fed reporting requirements aren't that onerous and are taking advantage of Oahu's idiotic rejection of funds -- if Honolulu doesn't use that money, they get more to work with. Here's the link to the Civil Beat piece.

Excerpts from today's article:
Every year, the City and County of Honolulu lets slide an opportunity to get more than a quarter of a million dollars in federal funding to promote sustainable coastal development. The funds, which the other three counties in Hawaii receive, is mostly used to hire staff to implement the Coastal Zone Management Act, which is federal legislation that was passed in 1972 to balance the needs of environmental conservation with coastal development. 

Honolulu county was receiving about $280,000 a year from the program until 2007, when Honolulu’s Department of Planning and Permitting concluded that increased federal oversight and stricter reporting requirements were too onerous. “The funding comes with a lot of strings attached to it,” said George Atta, director for the county planning department. “It was creating a lot of headaches for us from an administrative standpoint.” 

Michele McLean, deputy director for the Maui County Planning Department, said, “It’s become such a routine thing for us in terms of the reporting. It really isn’t burdensome." Maui County receives $344,600 in funding from the program which it uses to fund four full-time positions. McLean, who called Oahu’s rejection of the funding “eyebrow raising,” said that Maui’s staff members deal with issues related to sea-level rise, coastal development and erosion. 

Atta insisted that the loss of funding does not impede the department’s ability to comply with federal and state regulations relating to coastal development. He said that other staff in the department’s land use permitting division have taken on the work required by the Coastal Zone Management Act.
Still, the lost funding would have equaled about one quarter of the $1.2 million annual budget of the land use permitting division for 2014. And though the county planning department hasn't sought such federal funding in recent years, it is requesting an increase in development fees, partly to cover coastal management activities on Oahu. 

Robert Harris, executive director for the Hawaii Sierra Club, said that the county’s rejection of the funds is indicative of the county’s general reluctance to address coastal development and erosion problems.

Whereas Maui and Kauai have been "relatively progressive" in trying to find the right balance and in planning for future erosion, "Oahu has been about the most adamant in believing those controls are unnecessary,” said Harris.

Statewide, 9 percent of Hawaii's beaches have been lost, mostly due to improperly located coastal development, according to a recent report from the University of Hawaii's School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology.

On Oahu, between 30 and 40 percent of beaches have disappeared, mostly as a byproduct of efforts to protect private property from encroaching erosion, said Dolan Eversole, a coastal hazards specialist at the University of Hawaii. The main cause: erecting seawalls to save houses.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Disconnecting the Dots

There were two articles in today's Honolulu Star-Advertiser (Oct. 21) dealing with unrelated beach and ocean problems that should be connected: regulation of commercial use of  our oceans, and control over what can or cannot be done with our shorelines. But if you read those two stories back-to-back, you'll start to get a headache trying to track all the federal, state and county agencies that have overlapping responsibilities. For instance, who is responsible for addressing beach erosion? Under Hawaii's convoluted system, there is split jurisdiction that is literally based on a shifting high water mark -- and both the State and counties often cite the murky lines of demarcation as excuses to not do anything about the very real threat of rising sea levels and ongoing shoreline management issues.

Ever since I got involved with the public beach access movement a few years ago, I have experienced firsthand the futility of attempting to get State or county action on protecting beach rights of way and doing something about shoreline "creep" by property owners on Oahu, who are rebuilding oceanfront structures closer to the sea (I can't call them "homes" because they look more like mini-hotels). I suggest those"homeowners" (often out-of-state investors) take a good look at what's happening on the North Shore before they decide to spit in Mother Nature's face and erect mansions as close as legally possible to the sea.

Anyhow, in today's beach erosion article about "regulatory woes" the reporter got some good quotes from Dolan Eversole, who works for Sea Grant and has done a lot of studies about erosion and shoreline management options. His suggestion is there should be a single coastal commission. It would have authority over the shoreline and coastal waters, and eliminate split jurisdiction. Makes sense, right? Except the article then goes on to quote various people from the existing agencies/departments that are currently not doing a very good job of addressing longstanding problems, and of course, those people say a coastal commission would be a bad idea because it could add another layer of bureaucracy. Um,  I think they missed the point. THEY are the added layers that need to be streamlined.

Okay, I'm not sure if the reporter phrased the question in the wrong way, or these government employees are simply too dense to understand the concept -- a coastal commission isn't meant to be an "added" layer of anything. It would be done to eliminate or consolidate a myriad of departments, agencies and ad hoc "advisory" groups that have been meeting for years and years, in order to simplify the regulatory process. It would create a single office that looks at the big picture from molasses spills to beach access and whether commercial kayak operations can be allowed on beaches in Hawaii. But if you broach the subject with a government lifer, all they will see is a threat to their individual jobs and benefits. Rarely will you ever hear a government worker admit their job or department does stuff that is redundant or could be eliminated to save taxpayer money, while making things more efficient.

And this is why we wind up with people who distrust government or say they want to dismantle Big Government... until their homes are threatened by beach erosion, commercial development or global climate change, and all of a sudden those same people are squawking that government isn't doing enough. The real problem though, is how government does things. They manage from crisis to crisis, instead of coming up with a long-range plan, then sticking to it.

BTW, in 2009 I asked Rep. Chris Lee to introduce a proposal for a joint State and counties task force to consider creating a Hawaii Coastal Commission. At that time, testifying against the proposal before State representatives was Sam Lemmo (DLNR) and Chip Fletcher, a UH researcher who is quoted as now saying an "overall agency" to take charge of coastal land use should be "studied." Apparently they thought the DLNR was doing just fine on its own. When will all these different factions start connecting the dots, and see that the ocean and beaches need to be treated as Hawaii's most valuable resource -- not as some lines on a map or organizational flow chart to be divvied up among the DLNR, CZM, MACZAC, DPP, EPA, even DOT (yeah, the molasses spill was the Dept. of Transportation's jurisdiction, believe it or not), along with each island's county councils and zoning/planning/parks departments. It's a shame because there are many well-meaning people trying to do their jobs... except they're like a bunch of people on a canoe, each paddling in different directions.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Idiots Building CLOSER to the Ocean

As I predicted a couple of years ago, wealthy buyers of oceanfront property on Kailua Beach were going to use Oahu's lax shoreline setback rules as an opportunity to rebuild closer and closer to the sea in order to "leap-frog" other houses that were being rebuilt by people who don't even live in these ugly box-like mini-hotels. All this while there is growing evidence of climate change and melting glaciers, which is contributing to rising sea levels across the planet.

Don't believe me? I recommend you watch CHASING ICE, a harrowing documentary about a National Geographic photographer who embarked on a difficult mission to photograph what's happening with melting glaciers around the world. Anyone who thought Al Gore was possibly exaggerating the threat in AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH a few years ago should be forced to see this movie. Now. It turns out, no one foresaw that global warming is happening faster than anyone could predict. CHASING ICE is available on Netflix through instant streaming. See it.

Meanwhile, in Kailua Beach the news media has been preoccupied with major beach erosion that has been going on at the south end towards Lanikai. Yes, that's alarming. The causes aren't clear though, and could be part of a natural cycle. However, what has already been documented is the fact that allowing houses or artificial barriers such as sea walls -- or even vegetation -- to encroach on the shoreline, hastens erosion. We've seen it in Kahala Beach and Lanikai. Now property owners are doing the same thing on the north end of Kailua Beach, but the news media ignores it. Why?

Simple reason, really: there's no parking near the only public beach access at that end, so reporters and cameramen would have to hike a fair distance to do a story on it. And since the lack of access results in far fewer beach-goers at that end, there's less attention paid to the ongoing desecration of what used to be a stable shoreline because the older homes were built far back enough to allow the natural sand dunes to adjust to natural changes and conditions.

Here's some photos to show you what's been happening. The first is from a couple of years ago:



See the newer house on the right? It leapfrogged a newly-rebuilt house to the right of it that is pictured below, and cut off the views of the older house on the left with the "For Sale" sign.



Flash forward to the present. Remember that older house with the "For Sale" sign? Well, looks like someone bought it and decided turn-about is fair play! And you can probably guess what will happen next: that house to the left of the older one under construction now, will probably be sold to someone who will rebuild right next to the other two... closer to the ocean.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Honolulu Weekly Article: Deja Vu



The Honolulu Weekly has another dispiriting update on shoreline setbacks and public beach access, related to oceanfront property owners who are using vegetation as a sneaky land grab method... which in effect, is being sanctioned by the State DLNR. As I've written before, because of split jurisdiction between the counties and State, there is no uniformity on building setbacks and zoning requirements to protect what's left of Hawaii's beaches.

On one hand, I applaud the persistence of Caren Diamond, a Kauai activist for beach access. And hats off to Joan Conrow for her continued reporting on this issue. On the other hand, it sickens me that we have to keep reliving these same battles year after year, decade after decade, while the State's largest -- and only -- daily newspaper and Honolulu TV news media give the subject cursory coverage. They've never really done an in depth series on possible solutions or even options that could address the growing concerns about preserving our shorelines and controlling commercial activities on our beaches, and in our ocean waters. Sigh.

For what it's worth, here is the link and some excerpts from the Honolulu Weekly piece. Read it and weep...

High Tide - A pending Supreme Court case pits public access against wealthy landowners and the State

By Joan Conrow

Environment / Caren Diamond thought the Hawaii Supreme Court had settled the issue when it ruled in her favor–the public beach extends to the highest seasonal wash of the waves.

The landmark case Diamond v. State of Hawaii was supposed to put a stop to the State’s use of planted vegetation to determine the shoreline, which becomes the starting line for a building setback. The practice tends to favor the landowner, especially when the plants have been cultivated.

But when the State continued to set shorelines that weren’t based on the highest wash of the waves, “We went back to the Supreme Court,” said Diamond, who lives on the North Shore of Kauai, not far from the coastline she has fought for decades to protect. The high court held oral arguments on April 4 and has not issued a decision.

Diamond is again challenging how the State Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) sets the shoreline. This time she’s contesting its “single-year snapshot” approach, in which the state surveyor is guided solely by what’s visible the day of the site visit, even if historical photographs indicate differently.

“If there’s no history, then there’s no future,” Diamond said. “By manipulating the vegetation, landowners gain control, use and ownership of what rightfully are public trust resources.”

Stealing beauty

The case was brought by Kauai attorney Harold Bronstein on behalf of Diamond and Beau Blair, who have long argued that landowners are manipulating the shoreline by intentionally cultivating and irrigating naupaka and other vegetation, which impede the highest wash and hide the debris line. In this particular case, the State’s own survey had initially set the shoreline 20 feet farther mauka...
To read the rest of the article, click here.