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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Beach stairs to be removed

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser East Honolulu Writer

No one can remember who put in the stairs at the Diamond Head Ambassador, but the state has found that they were built without a permit and must be removed.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

The Diamond Head Ambassador has won its fight to have the stainless steel stairs used as a beach access removed from the makai side of the cooperative apartments on Kalakaua Avenue.

Diamond Head-area residents have used the stairs for as long as 30 years to access the beach. Although the co-op board wanted the stairs removed because of liability concerns, vandalism, too many people walking on the seawall, and noise, other area residents wanted the stairs to remain.

The issue of who owns the stairs came before state officials.

After reviewing records and statements from residents, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources determined that the stairs were built illegally, without a permit, by several of the apartment buildings in the area, and that responsibility for them now falls to the Diamond Head Ambassador, which owns the attached seawall. The DLNR said the stairs must be removed by April 15, after which the co-op faces fines as high as $2,000 per day.

Residents who wanted the stairs saved were unhappy with the ruling.

"We shouldn't be decreasing beach access," said Bob Gentry, Gold Coast Neighborhood Association president. "It's extremely disappointing."

Virgil Stinnett, who uses the stairs on the way to his daily swims, does not know how he'll get in the water once they are removed. He is sight-impaired, and the stairs provide a safe haven, as he knows the sound of the waves and doesn't have to worry about being bounced onto the reef while trying to get in and out of the water.

"There are a lot more folks who use the ladder than myself," Stinnett said. "It's the safest place to get out of the water at. The other places are onto the reef."

There may be hope for those who use the stairs.

Residents and members of the Gold Coast Neighborhood Association could apply for a permit and reinstall the ladder, said Harry Yada, acting land division administrator for the DLNR. The permit would be subject to department approval.

No one remembers who put in the stairs or when. But residents thought they were owned by the state because it once paid to have them reattached after making repairs to a seawall.

The state is required by law to provide access to the ocean, but it has two rights-of-way on either side of the stairs, Yada said.

"The state has an easement — one that isn't documented — along the top of the seawall," Yada said. "At the wall you're already in the ocean. The wall is on private property and leads into the public ocean. It's a very unique situation."

Reach Suzanne Roig at sroig@honoluluadvertiser.com or 395-8831.