Will the Majority Rule?
by Boyd Ready, 30-year Haleiwa resident
The recent excitement over Haleiwa Beach Park has generated more heat than light. A small but enthusiastic crowd has suddenly appeared busying itself with some overgrown roadside parcels that everyone, including the newly excited crowd, had passed by for years without comment. What happened?
Haleiwa lost its historic theatre in a notorious 1983 incident when the magnificent stone and mortar art deco building was destroyed despite the community’s efforts to save it. It was a stunning wake up call that resulted in the establishment of the Haleiwa Historic Design District. The Design District rules make it difficult to initiate any new development. In fact, it has stifled revitalization of Haleiwa for years.
For over 20 years the community has openly discussed and finalized ‘Sustainable Community Plans.’ The last two plans have specifically, and after thorough and open discussion, allowed for a country inn for Haleiwa, and one for Waialua. Not a single country inn has been built in the town districts designated. But in the withering rush of visitors, pent up demand has been filled by black-market opportunism. About 450 multi-room country inns, including one with 41 beds the City cannot seem to shut down, have established themselves in residences outside the commercial districts, disregarding the open community planning process by quietly soliciting over the internet.
Many neighborhoods are now home-made resorts. In the absence of legal development appropriately reviewed, the unpermitted vacation rentals rely on (often failed) cesspools or residence-sized septic tanks used far more than designed, many in sandy soils near the precious beaches. With insufficient parking and only the 2-lane highway, no private security, no union to protect hundreds of service workers and, in too many cases, taxes not appropriately collected, the intense crowding and commercial cash flows have created prices and living conditions working people cannot handle. There has been an exodus of displaced local residents. The nature of our community has changed dramatically due to unpermitted lodgings in rural residential neighborhoods, and not for the better.
Haleiwa Beach Park, in the meantime, a historic jewel designed by Harry Sims Bent in the 1930’s, has been sorely neglected, seawall falling down, bathrooms a mess, not enough personnel to water the field for sports, the hau-tree lanai dead, but suddenly bushes and some Jameson’s overflow parking across the highway has become the focus for a group that claims to be saving Haleiwa Beach Park. What happened?
These vacant lots were for years a commercial and residential area, with local family homes, and businesses such as ‘Jerry’s Sweet Shop’ and the ‘Sea View inn’ fronting the highway. In a flurry of government activity in the 1970’s, this land was taken by eminent domain for ‘public use,’ the City’s intent being to establish a ‘Regional Park’ with golf course, marina, sports fields, and other amenities. Almost fifty years later, local families and businesses lost their land but the City has still not put it to public use. The ‘bushes’ along the highway became a perennial homeless camp marked by un-enforced blue City-parks ‘no trespassing’ signs. Such an enforced taking of private property followed by decades of inaction is a classic case of eminent domain abuse.
The Parks Department, and the publicly developed Sustainable Community Plans, identified these parcels as unsuitable for the kind of City park development needed. We have 21 parks on the North Shore, the identified further need is for ‘community parks’ with courts/gym/ballfields: no room for that here. In the meantime three acres of land that actually are in the Haleiwa Beach Park TMK, near Puaena Point, well off the highway and on beautiful shoreline with mature coconut palms, remains unimproved and virtually forgotten!
The strangeness of the current controversy is that the actual Haleiwa Beach Park lies in shambles while the bushes across the street have been whacked down, called a park (despite trip hazards, stumps, holes, rocks, uneven ground) and everyone yells ‘save the park! The 450 actual ‘country inns’ meet no loud objections, while an openly proposed country inn, with special septic system designed to protect the wetlands, in the historic commercial district, with additional parking for the public, a canoe halau, and a park for public use at no cost to the public, is loudly opposed!
Recall the disaster of the ‘Superferry.’ The modern ferry ships, typical of every developed island group in the world, were stopped cold by a combination of partly informed demonstrators blocking the ships as they came into an existing harbor, a timid and uncoordinated government response, and avid litigants at the Hawaii Supreme Court catching the State in technicalities which ultimately stopped the ships in spite of overwhelming public support for the ships. The tail wagged the dog! A major boon for local farmers and local residents and all who live, work, travel and do business in our islands was crushed. Let’s not fall into the same trap again.
A professional survey taken through our Hawaii State Senator’s office in 2010 showed that 58% of the people questioned were in favor of a country inn at the site. We can respect the concerns of the recently activated and fervent park advocates but most of the hype is generic anti-development and not born of a demonstrated concern for decades-long neglect of the actual Haleiwa Beach Park.
The abutting landowners who bid for the unused city lands will either build park with more parking, a canoe halau and lawful overnight lodgings as part of a restored historic Haleiwa, or provide both a park and parking and a second access to the historic Loko’ea Pond restoration work. Either way, the community wins, and the majority rules. The City gets reduced cost and liability, and, if the existing and historic commercial use expands, the North Shore benefits from the economic development of lawful overnight accommodations. This will result in the creation of many desperately needed permanent jobs and the public gets to experience what historic royalty and celebrity visitors once did: a country inn of Victorian magnificence near the mouth of the Anahulu River on Waialua Bay.