The city tries to reassure people in Waikiki who must endure lost parking, closed venues and traffic
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Oct 17, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 07:40 p.m. HST, Oct 20, 2011
As details about security for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting begin to trickle out, local residents are discovering that delays, disruptions and displacements will accompany President Barack Obama, 20 other heads of state and thousands of attendees when they descend on Oahu next month.
The Nov. 7-13 event will close roads and snarl traffic, consume parking spaces and close access to public places, especially in Waikiki, where world leaders and their delegations will fill rooms in about 11 hotels. And it will disrupt access at key meeting sites like the Hale Koa Hotel and the J.W. Marriott Ihilani Ko Olina Resort & Spa, which will be shielded by 10-foot-high barricades.
Many Hawaii tourism, government and business leaders say the long-term benefits of APEC far outweigh any aggravations.
"Obviously, there's going to be times when it's going to be inconvenient for people, but the benefits are enormous and a few days of inconvenience is something that I think we've learned to live with on more than one occasion and this is the right occasion to be ready for it," Mayor Peter Carlisle said.
Some residents who will be most affected see it differently.
"APEC has brought us extreme high security with no information and lots of inconvenience. APEC will bring millions into our state so people are trying to overlook everything, all in the name of money," said Les Among, a Waikiki Neighborhood Board member.
One frequent complaint is that the lack of information has made it hard for those who live, work and gather in Waikiki to make plans.
APEC security has already forced the World Invitational Hula Festival to make a last-minute venue change to the Blaisdell Concert Hall from the Waikiki Shell, where it has a 20-year history of shows over the Veterans Day holiday.
"I was told that (APEC) wasn't going to use the Shell, so no problem. But now they are using all of the parking, so it's impossible," said Paulie Jennings, the hula festival's 81-year-old executive producer, who is scrambling to save her Nov. 10-12 event after learning about the change on Sept. 30.
"We thought APEC was going to be a good way to sell tickets," Jennings said. "We didn't know the State Department was going to take over Hawaii. If they didn't think that we all lived in grass houses, they would have let us know much sooner."
The U.S. Secret Service and the State Department might release official security plans for APEC as early as this week, including information on road closures and other inconveniences.
"We greatly want to reduce our footprint for the APEC summit, but with that being said, security is paramount," Max Milien, a Secret Service spokesman, said last week.
The agency, which is overseeing the National Special Security Event portion of the summit on Nov. 12 and 13, worked with the Honolulu Police Department and the U.S. Coast Guard to minimize disruptions, Milien said.
"Once the (security plan) release is put out, I would encourage people to absorb it and read it in its entirety," he said. "Some of the closures dictated by the NSSE portion will not be as long as people think that they are. You can plan around your day and still have a good weekend in Waikiki and Honolulu."
But preliminary information is already circulating.
HPD Maj. Clayton Kau, temporarily assigned to the APEC planning special unit, told Waikiki Neighborhood Board members last week that barriers will be placed at each of the major meeting locations, including the Hawai‘i Convention Center, Hale Koa and Ihilani. Barriers will be far enough from the venues to ensure attendees' safety in the event of a bomb blast, Kau said.
The Secret Service will coordinate security at the Hale Koa and Ihilani, where the leaders' events will take place. Barriers and 10-foot-high chain-link fences, covered with tarps, will be erected at these venues, he said.
The State Department will control security at the convention center, which will not host top delegation leaders, Kau said, but Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner might attend meetings there.
Traffic on Atkinson and Kalakaua will be rerouted, and part of the Ala Wai Promenade will be closed, Kau said. The area behind the convention center also will be closed, he said. Only people with proper credentials will be allowed to get close, he added.
HPD plans to install 34 additional security cameras in public places, mostly in Waikiki. "The cameras will be subject to live monitoring," Kau said.
Roadways will be closed when Presidents Obama, Hu Jintao of China and Dmitry Medvedev of Russia are moving, he said.
"We'll only have to close the roadways for these three leaders," Kau said. "The other 18 economic leaders will be required to move with the flow of traffic. We are asking them to obey all traffic laws when they are moving in their motorcades."
Waikiki Neighborhood Board member John Moore said he thinks transportation plans are shortsighted. "Did they consider helicopters for the longer caravans?" Moore said. "It's quicker, easier and saves man-hours."
Some Waikiki residents and workers also are concerned about parking during APEC, said Jim Poole, another board member.
Poole, who parks at the Hale Koa, said the facility's manager told him that there will be no parking there from Nov. 10 to 13 because of APEC. "He said the entire Fort DeRussy area will be locked down," Poole added.
Kau told Poole to advise those near the Hale Koa to give themselves plenty of travel time. "If it takes you 30 minutes, I recommend that you give it an hour and a half," he said.
Board member Among said he has fielded numerous calls from dissatisfied residents. "APEC is just going to be a mess," he said, adding that concerns have surfaced about harbor use, traffic, lack of parking and access to Waikiki.
Louise Kim McCoy, Carlisle's spokeswoman, said the city recognizes that some residents might be temporarily inconvenienced and asks for patience and cooperation during an event that will ultimately bring great benefits.
APEC is expected to bring between 15,000 and 20,000 attendees, including delegates, their friends and family members, staff, media and other government and business leaders. The event could pump an estimated $120 million into Hawaii's economy and has been touted as a one-time chance for the state to be on the world stage.
"Our guests are going to be enamored by Honolulu's physical beauty, enjoy the climate and its people who, hopefully, will be ambassadors of good will to help produce a successful global event," McCoy said.
Once the various federal agencies finalize and disclose their APEC plans, the city will inform Waikiki businesses, residents and visitors, to minimize potential disruptions, she said.
McCoy noted that the city absorbed the cost of the more expensive Blaisdell venue for the World Invitational Hula Festival after being notified that public parking at Kapiolani Park in front of the Shell would be used by multiple agencies during APEC. The city also is providing the services of the Royal Hawaiian Band for the event's opening day, and the use of the concert hall lawn to sell Hawaiian merchandise, she said.
But organizers of the festival said they still need help with transportation and access. "The Shell was walking distance from the hotel where our participants stay," said John Hays, the festival's international coordinator. "At this late date it might be hard to find transportation to Blaisdell. And even if we find it, getting in and out of Waikiki could be pretty hard."
Carlisle acknowledged traffic and transportation concerns and stressed that the city will keep the public as well informed as possible.
"Really, the most important thing for us is to let people know there's going to be people arriving, there's going to be closures on occasion and there's going to be a big trip from Waikiki out to West Oahu," he said, referring to the most high-profile meeting and the finale of the APEC summit scheduled for Nov. 13, a Sunday, at Ko Olina. "We want people to know that that's going to happen so that they can plan accordingly. If you're afraid of ‘car-mageddon,' then don't get in your car."
Star-Advertiser reporter B.J. Reyes contributed to this report.