A 1973 aerial view shows the Waikiki Natatorium in better times.
Richard Borreca argues that 32 years of "dithering and delay on the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium has got to end" ("Natatorium is a problem that just won't go away," Star-Advertiser, On Politics, Oct. 4).
But we do not agree with those who say that demolition or a change of use is in the public interest or the less expensive financial alternative to restoration.
The city, while led by Mayor Jeremy Harris, spent $4.2 million restoring the facade, bathrooms, bleachers and volleyball court and built a new district lifeguard office. Mayor Harris's and the Honolulu City Council's total $11.5 million appropriation for the project also would have paid for a re-engineered pool that would provide ADA access to the ocean for the elderly, and disabled. Had the so-nearly-realized restoration been completed, we would be celebrating its return to public use and swimming there today.
But the succeeding mayoral administration, under Mufi Hannemann, swept into City Hall with a passion to undo important major projects undertaken by Harris, beginning with a stunning reversal of a fully designed and permitted Natatorium restoration.
It not only stopped the restoration, but went into high gear to demolish the entire structure. It pursued demolition with a spirit of irreverence that dishonored the memory of more than 10,000 warriors from Hawaii who are memorialized by the Natatorium. Auwe!
We are as tired of sloshing through debate as some are of having to listen to it, but Borreca's column cannot be left unchallenged. To spare your readers from having to navigate a manifesto on the subject, let it suffice for us to say here that the real consequences of demolition lie far beyond what most people realize. The Natatorium serves as a sand retention revetment; it created San Souci beach. Demolish the Natatorium and San Souci is history.
Alternative uses like creating additional new beach or volleyball courts are not permitted shoreline uses and would have to survive a lengthy and daunting county, state and federal permitting process, not to mention court challenges.
The Hawaii Supreme Court has already ruled, in 1973, against demolition for any other use of the shoreline expect for a Natatorium (defined as a swimming pool in Act 15 of the Territorial Legislature, 1921). The cost of demolition to effect the new uses proposed, even if successful, rivals or exceeds the cost of restoration. So much for the argument that it's cheaper to demolish.
Further, the structure sits in a declared marine sanctuary. Demolition-triggered reef damage is a significant threat. A new beach, according to an Army Corps of Engineers study, would require replacing the Natatorium with the equivalent of a three-wall small boat harbor replicating the footprint of the Natatorium walls and its sand retention function to protect San Souci as well as the proposed added 100 feet of new beach. Go figure.
The proposal to "preserve" the arch by moving it is not an engineering possibility. It would have to be rebuilt as a reproduction. So much for preservation.
Finally, hundreds of pages of scientific and expert studies, including a $1.2 million environmental impact statement, show the least expensive, least environmentally harmful option is full restoration.
The idea of demolishing the Natatorium ranks up there with the attempts to demolish Iolani Palace for a parking lot and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel for a new high-rise hotel. The Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium is the last of the great historic treasures of the Waikiki shoreline. How we respond to this challenge will mark the greatness or failure of who we are as a people.
Peter Apo is an Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee; Steven M. Baldridge is president of BASE Structural Engineering; Brian Keaulana is a waterman; retired Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon is former commander of the U.S. Army Pacific; William M. Smith Jr. is an Olympic gold medalist and former director of the city Water Safety Department; and William Y. Thompson, is president of the 442nd Veterans Club.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
How we deal with Natatorium will put our character to the test