Environmentalists rally against proposed beach hotel tower

Brenda Burner
Brenda Burner
David Kimo Frankel
David Kimo Frankel
Scott Naguwa
Scott Naguwa

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - As a zoning board prepares to hear their appeal, a group of environmentalists and others rallied at Waikiki Beach against Kyo-ya Hotels' plan to redevelop the Diamond Head Tower at the Moana Surfrider Resort.

The protesters who gathered Saturday said the planned building is too tall and too close to the beach.

"They're taking an eight-story building that was grandfathered into the existing zoning code," said Stuart Coleman of the Surfrider Foundation. "And they want to replace it with a 26-story tower that's even closer to the beach."

The Hawaii Environmental Alliance also said allowing such a building so close to the beach will open the door to similar development.

"You're allowing a building to be triple in height than what's there now, which sets a precedent all along Waikiki, that we're going to have taller and taller buildings closer to the sand, which is not what we should be doing," said attorney David Kimo Frankel with the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation.

They also said the development will jeopardize the beach itself.

"With tsunamis and hurricane events and sea level rise, it doesn't make any sense to build closer to the beach," Coleman said. "And they're going to have to build seawalls along the beach to protect the property, and that only causes more beach erosion."

"If you imagine this building coming out further or the wall coming our further, this beach is going to get smaller and smaller," said Waikiki resident Brenda Burner.

"If they put up big buildings and block access and there's no sands, what's gonna be left for our kids?" asked Scott Naguwa of Surfrider Spirit Sessions, which teaches kids how to surf at the beach.

In a statement in response to the protest, Kyo-ya president Greg Dickhens said, "The planned redevelopment of the Moana Surfrider's Diamond Head Tower will improve public ocean views, expand beach access and create jobs."

"Kyo-ya is not proposing to build a seawall or hardened shoreline," Dickhens said. "The proposed development will occur mauka of the existing sea wall and will not in any way cause beach erosion."

Opponents plan to keep the pressure on, gathering signatures and support

The city's Department of Planning and Permitting has already given the project partial approval, which is being appealed by the Hawaii Environmental Alliance. The appeal is scheduled to have a hearing next month.

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.