Neighborhood board disputes Diamond Head homeowner’s plan to install private beach-access tram
The owner of a mansion at 3603 Diamond Head Road wants to install a motorized “inclinator” along a 15-foot-wide strip of undisturbed land within the boundaries of the residential property.
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It’s a climb that surfers make all the time.
But one homeowner on the craggy cliff between Diamond Head Road and the uncrowded beach
below is causing a community stir with a plan to install a private passenger lift for easier access.
A relatively new owner of the clifftop mansion at 3603 Diamond Head Road wants to install the motorized Hill Hiker “inclinator” along a 15-foot-wide strip of undisturbed land that’s within the boundaries of the private residential property. The inclinator, big enough to carry four people, would extend from the side of the home down about 80 feet
toward the shore.
Some area residents are concerned that Diamond Head, a state monument and Hawaii’s most recognized landmark, shouldn’t have a mechanized lift visible from public vantages, and they fear a precedent will be set for others to install similar contraptions in sensitive places.
Under the city’s land-use ordinance, Diamond Head is a special district in which the views and natural appearance of the crater’s slopes are subject to special protections.
The Waialae-Kahala Neighborhood Board in March voted unanimously on a resolution opposing the hillside lift plan.
“Diamond Head is an iconic, world-renowned physical monument that must be preserved,” said Richard Turbin, chairman of the neighborhood board. “Build a nice path.”
The city Department of Planning and Permitting issued a building permit May 29 for the inclinator as an allowed “accessory use” of the home. DPP, however, rejected an application by the homeowner to alter the lowest portion of the property that lies within a 40-foot shoreline setback area.
The homeowner, who applied to build a fence, gate and paver stones below a landing platform for the planned Hill Hiker, is appealing the permit denial.
Meanwhile, the owner of a neighboring house located below the
Diamond Head Road mansion has questioned DPP’s permit approval by seeking a declaratory ruling on whether an inclinator is an accessory use to the residence and whether it can be located within the 15-foot strip of land that’s regarded as a side yard.
The neighbor, Peter Dudgeon, is a Waialae-Kahala Neighborhood Board member and requested the resolution but abstained from voting on it.
At the March board meeting, Dudgeon and another resident, Herb Kline, described the proposed hillside lift as something that would be highly visible from the beach and from offshore. They also said the lift system potentially could destabilize the cliffside.
Part of their presentation was recounted in the board’s meeting minutes: “We believe that the installation of this device will deface the beautiful cliffs of Diamond Head and be an unwelcome mechanical intrusion into our pristine shoreline habitat. It is a bad precedent that needs to be stopped now.”
Dudgeon was not available for additional comment beyond saying he is up against a neighbor with lots of cash. Kline could not be reached for additional comment.
The legal entity proposing the lift is Jayhawker12 Properties LLC, a Reno, Nev.-based company whose manager is Kenneth Kao.
Jayhawker12 bought the 4,863-square-foot home in late 2017 for $11.5 million, according to property records. The home with an infinity pool was built in 2001, and a sale listing in 2017 noted that a “private beach access could be created just outside your door.”
Jayhawker12 is making interior renovations to the home at an estimated cost of $600,000, as indicated on a building permit. The company also applied for a building permit early last year to install stairs for shoreline access at an estimated cost of $100,000 but later canceled that permit application. The estimated cost of the inclinator project is $180,000, according to the approved permit.
Honolulu-based architecture and construction firm Longhouse Design+Build, which is carrying out the renovation and lift project, declined to comment on the plan.
Connor Marston, a frequent Diamond Head surfer who traverses unimproved cliff trails between the road and the beach, said he understands how a lift up the cliff can strain the balance between private property rights and impacts on a natural public resource.
“I think Diamond Head’s special,” he said. “There’s an energy out here.”
Several frequent Diamond Head surfers said they didn’t have a problem with the proposed lift as long as it doesn’t affect public beach use.
“It doesn’t bother me,” said Daniela Roark on a recent day at the lookout closest to the home under renovation. “If it’s his property and it doesn’t affect people’s right to use the beach … I don’t really care.”
Audrey Tang, another frequent Diamond Head surfer, said she’d like to see what the lift system looks like and whether it will be hidden by vegetation. “If it seems like an eyesore or has a negative environmental impact, then I would definitely say no.”