In the face of community opposition, Mayor Kirk Caldwell may relocate a lifeguard substation that was originally planned for Waikiki’s limited waterfront area to Kakaako.
The city presented its plans to construct a 1,800-square-foot Ocean Safety Substation with an adjacent parking and maintenance lot to the Diamond Head/Kapahulu/St. Louis Neighborhood Board Neighborhood Board on Thursday. The city says a substation is needed in case the circa- 1920s Waikiki Natatorium, which is currently used by Ocean Safety administrators and lifeguards covering Oahu’s south shore, becomes unsafe. However, officials said they would evaluate where the building should be located and if it should be used mostly for administrative purposes as originally presented or changed to include first responders.
“The new mayor is taking another look at this,” said Walea L. Constantinau, Kirk Caldwell’s board representative. “Different administration. New people in place. Different considerations. There is no immediate decision and no immediate change.”
Mark Rigg, the Director designate of the Department of Emergency Services, supports a proposal in the Kakaako Makai master plan to house Ocean Safety there, and the mayor is considering that proposal, said Press Secretary Jesse Broder Van Dyke.
“There is a boat ramp at that location which Ocean Safety could launch jet skis from,” Broder Van Dyke said. “However, the city does not own that land so some sort of agreement would need to be reached with the state and the landowner before that could go forward.”
The city’s latest stance represents a departure from the past two administrations. The city, which began the project during former Mayor Mufi Hannemann’s administration, already has spent more than $100,000 on its original plan to build a new substation on a 13,000-square-foot parcel ewa of the Waikiki Aquarium.
However, when the original plans were presented to the public they hit a wall of opposition. Kapiolani Park Preservation Society (KPPS, a non-profit that protects the park, took issue with the city’s claim that it owned the Waikiki parcel. Preservationist Society President Alethea Rebman said the city should have informed KPPS, the neighborhood boards, the State Historic Division or other interested parties before spending money on the project. City Council members also should have asked the courts for guidance, Rebman said.
If the city resurrects its original plan, Rebman said that KPPS would take legal steps to block them. However, she said that she was “pleased with the new administration’s willingness to look at the proper use of the park land.”
“We realize that they just came in and recognize that its quick action for them to do this,” she said.