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

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:

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!