Panel OKs Kahala hotel expansion
By Scott Ishikawa
Advertiser Staff Writer
The City Council's Zoning Committee approved a resolution that would allow new construction and expanded facilities at the Kahala Mandarin Oriental Hawai'i Hotel, but would not require the hotel to add public parking spaces in the process.
The committee recommended that the city grant a special management area user permit to allow the hotel to expand by 14,000 square feet.
Plans include expanding the spa and fitness center; adding five beach suites; constructing an elevated outdoor tennis court for daytime use; and expanding the existing swimming pool.
The committee turned down a request by the Sierra Club Hawai'i chapter requiring the hotel to provide 25 free public parking spaces for non-hotel guests who wish to access the shoreline for swimming and fishing.
The hotel charges $2 for self-parking and $4 for valet parking for a four-hour period, with validation. A purchase of hotel food or services is required for validation.
Hotel parking not validated is $3 per half-hour.
"Access to the beaches in the vicinity remains inadequate," Sierra Club Hawai'i director Jeff Mikulina testified. "The public can park at Wai'alae Beach Park and then walk a significant distance to the beaches in front of the Kahala Hilton and the golf course.
"Although the area is perfect for families with babies and small children, it is an unreasonable distance to carry small children, beach toys, beach chair and food."
Mikulina and Reese Liggett of the Sierra Club also insisted that hotel equipment such as beach chairs and umbrellas not block the shoreline fronting the hotel.
"One hundred fifty lounge chairs, umbrellas and other equipment near the shoreline gives the impression it's a private beach," Liggett said.
Geri Ung of the city Department of Planning and Permitting said city officials didn't see a need to require the hotel to provide free public parking because the project is only "a limited upgrade" of five additional hotel units.
Kahala Mandarin general manager Jan Goessing said beach chairs and umbrellas are only taken near the shore when requested by guests.
Councilmembers said they believed the two issues should be discussed at a community task force meeting rather than being decided upon at the council level.
Goessing said the hotel would like to begin expansion of the spa/fitness center area in September, with the rest of the construction spread out over a five-year period.