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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, June 27, 2001

State's purchase of Ka Iwi will preserve shoreline

 •  Timeline in shoreline dispute
 •  Editorial: Ka Iwi shoreline must be done right

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser East Honolulu Bureau

A 20-year struggle to block development and preserve the rugged, unspoiled stretch of coastline between Makapu'u and Sandy Beach for the people of Hawai'i has ended with what preservationists called a "significant achievement for the community."

Landowner Kamehameha Schools has agreed to sell the property to the city for $12.8 million, far below the $80 million that the trust has said it was worth.

Emily Kugisaki of Kalama Valley brought her dog for a walk along the Ka Iwi shoreline near Sandy Beach as her brother John looks for fish. The state has reached an agreement to buy the East O'ahu coastline property from Kamehameha Schools, ensuring its preservation as open space.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

Yesterday, knowing they would no longer have to fight plans for hotels, condominiums or golf courses on the only accessible stretch of open coast line on O'ahu, preservationists were relieved.

"This is the single largest piece to protect the integrity of that coastline," said Phil Estermann, co-founder of the Ka Iwi Action Coalition and the Save Queen's Beach effort, key organizations in the fight to preserve the land as open space.

The last piece is a 30-acre parcel owned by Kamehameha Schools, and the city is negotiating for that.

"Considering there were plans for hotels, condominiums and golf courses, this is a significant achievement for the community," said Estermann.

Time and again since the late 1970s, these 316 acres of dry brush, rock-strewn coastline have been a battleground between developers who saw opportunity and residents who saw a need to preserve it.

The battle raged until 1998 when Gov. Ben Cayetano announced plans to preserve the open space by purchasing the property for $11 million.

The parties — Kamehameha Schools and Kaiser Aluminum — reached agreement May 2, averting a court battle over state condemnation of the land that was scheduled to begin July 18 and fulfilling Cayetano's vision of adding Ka Iwi to what he called a "string of pearls" state park system.

Money to cinch the deal came from the Department of Land and Natural Resources, said state deputy attorney general Lane Ishida.

According to the settlement, Kamehameha Schools receives $8.12 million plus 70 percent of the interest accrued from the $11.6 million deposit while Kaiser gets $3.48 million and 30 percent of the interest.

 •  Public meeting

The Department of Planning and Permitting will hold a public hearing on the state's plans for Ka Iwi at 7 p.m. July 18 at Koko Head Elementary School. Anyone interested in reviewing the plan can call 527-5754.

"We do think it's a good deal for the state, because it settles everything," state Attorney General Earl Anzai said yesterday.

With the purchase price of $12.8 million secured, the state can focus its attention on plans to make the area safer for visitors.

"This means that no one has to keep holding their breath about it as we've been doing for 20 years," said Shirley Lum, a member of the Ka Iwi Action Coalition. "It's so much more beautiful with nothing on it."

But controversy is not over for this area.

The state wants to build $4 million worth of parking lots for about 80 cars and five buses, an entrance off Kalaniana'ole Highway between the lookout point and the trailhead to the lighthouse, and bury the utility lines along the highway.

Preservationists want the land to be left natural, without parking lots.

The Hawai'i Kai Neighborhood Board and the Waimanalo Neighborhood Board both voted recently not to support the state's plan for the area, saying it's too ambitious.

Still, preservationists cheered the purchase of Ka Iwi and look forward to working with the state on keeping the area something that everyone can look at and enjoy in the future, Lum said.

"We're fortunate that we have succeed in having it brought into the public domain," Estermann said. "The public now can continue to work with government to protect the area."

• • •

Timeline in shoreline dispute

Key events dealing with the Ka Iwi shoreline:

• January 1996 — Gov. Ben Cayetano, in his State of the State address, called for a "string of pearls" state park system, to include Ka Iwi on O'ahu.

• October 1996 — The City Council voted unanimously to ask the Planning Commission and the city's top planning officer to put the proposed Ka Iwi Shoreline Park on planning maps for East O'ahu.

• Jan. 8, 1997 — Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris said he would put money in the city budget to help support the state's plan to preserve some of the Ka Iwi coastline by buying it.

• Jan. 29, 1997 — The City Council declared its unanimous opposition to a proposed settlement of various lawsuits against the city by the Bishop Estate (Kamehameha Schools) and other landowners in exchange for certain development rights.

• May 1, 1997 — The Legislature approved $14 million to acquire property along the Ka Iwi shoreline.

• Aug. 22, 1997 — The state land board approved moving forward with the state's acquisition of Queen's Beach.

• Aug. 28, 1997 — The O'ahu Metropolitan Planning Organization's policy committee voted to use $4.6 million in federal highway money to help purchase the Ka Iwi shoreline property.

• Oct. 9, 1997 — Developer Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corp. filed a final environmental impact statement for a planned golf course at Queen's Beach.

• Jan. 30, 1998 — The state offered $11 million to buy Queen's Beach and adjoining land from Bishop Estate. The estate said the land was not for sale.

• Feb. 9, 1998 — The state undertook condemnation proceedings to acquire Queen's Beach.

• May 2, 2001 — The state and Kamehameha Schools agreed on the sale, halting condemnation proceedings.

Advertiser staff writer Rod Ohira contributed to this report.