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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, July 30, 2001

Dream of trapeze in Makiki falls flat

By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer

Most dreams have only one problem: Reality.

Pete Hernandez, who built a trapeze outside his Makiki home, says he is brokenhearted that he must take it down.

Advertiser library photo • June 23, 2001

Ask Pete Hernandez, whose romantic vision of owning a circus trapeze inspired him to build one beside his Makiki home. When the city saw it, shoe-horned between the house and a cinderblock wall, Hernandez was told to remove the trapeze or face fines of up to $50 a day.

"I'm just brokenhearted," he said the other day.

Hernandez had high hopes for his creation. He still does.

He looks at it the way Don Quioxte views a quest. With its six, 40-foot-high aluminum poles, it's taller than the H-1 Freeway behind his home. From afar, it stands like a giant swing set.

Divorced and close to bankruptcy, Hernandez freely confesses that he could use a break to help him put his life back together. The 48-year-old, Latin percussionist and doo-wop singer felt the trapeze would bring him closer to his children and allow him to create a tourist attraction in Waikiki.

But a neighbor saw it and complained to the city's Department of Planning and Permitting. Hernandez hadn't even finished the trapeze when the city inspector arrived.

Because three of the trapeze poles were attached to a cinderblock wall on the property line, Hernandez had violated the 10-foot setback zoning regulation. It also didn't help that he never sought a permit. Hernandez was ordered to correct this by Aug. 6, an impossible feat.

At 14 feet wide and 75 feet long, the trapeze fits too snugly to move. He has no other property to put it on and doubts he could get a variance from the city so he could keep it where it stands.

Pete Hernandez said he hoped his trapeze would be an opportunity to start a new life.

Advertiser library photo • June 23, 2001

"I haven't a clue as to how we're going to bring this down," he said. "It's a nightmare. It will be harder to take down than to put it up."

When it was built two months ago, he needed eight neighbors to get the poles up and attach the cables that secured them. He doesn't have any money left to hire them again.

Jake Harp lives across the street from Hernandez. He helped build the trapeze.

"It was really heavy," he said.

Harp couldn't believe anyone would complain.

"That's pretty mean," he said. "I haven't heard anything negative about it. I know people wanted to tape the first person on it so they could send it to 'Real TV' in case someone fell."

Edward Pettaway lives next door to Hernandez on the second floor of an apartment building that overlooks the trapeze. At first, he wasn't sure what his neighbor was building, although he was sure it violated city building rules. But the trapeze isn't offensive, he said.

"When they put it up, they weren't noisy," Pettaway said. "It didn't bother me. It's not bothering anybody."

To get a variance from the city, Hernandez would have to prove he was being denied reasonable use of his land, said Lorrie Chee, deputy director of the city's Department of Planning and Permitting. A public hearing is required.

She said she shook her head when she first saw a newspaper photograph of the trapeze.

"We ordinarily do not go out to hunt down violations," she said. "I thought, 'Oh no.' I figured someone would complain and we would have to go out there."

Hernandez really believed this was a dream that would change his life, no matter how impossible it seemed. He bought the trapeze even though he had little money and built it even though he didn't know how.

"Everybody thought it was so cool," he said. "Everybody was wanting to try it. I told them there was no danger, they'd be attached to safety lines. You couldn't fall if you wanted to."

But his dream has taken a fall.