One More Obama Story

December 29th, 2010

It's kind of cool to be able to tell my Mainland friends that the President's family has been spending their Christmas vacations in Kailua, where my wife and I have lived for 20 years. I was also glad to see the Star-Advertiser did a story on the huge tax break the property owner is getting because of the house's "historical" status. The intent of the measure is good, but should owners of beachfront homes that are worth millions be paying far less in property taxes than average middle class folks? Furthermore, did you know the property is in an affluent neighborhood that has their own private beach access? Yep, but I haven't seen one mention of that in the local news coverage.

Listen, I happen to be an Obama supporter. And I think the President deserves some privacy on his family vacations. But Kailuana Place is a public street that our taxes pay for the upkeep on -- yet they won't let their neighbors or others use the beach access on that street you and I foot the bill for. They get away with it because the locked gate is on a private easement. I wrote a letter to the editor a few months ago about an accident I witnessed, in which paramedics were delayed in reaching the victim because they had to use the public beach access -- then realized they couldn't push the gurney through a half-mile of sand to where the injured surfer was lying on the beach. Which was near the gated "private" access pictured here...

Kailuana Place gate

In any event, the gate discourages surfers and others from parking on Kailuana Place. It's also easy for police to keep the public out by blocking off the Kalaheo Avenue intersection. On the day the Obamas were leaving Kailua in 2008, my wife and I were walking to the only public beach access at that end. As we got closer, we saw a bunch of motorcycle cops waiting at the intersection for the President's entourage to depart, so we decided to hang around for a glimpse of the Obamas. A small crowd gathered on Kalaheo Avenue and while I was jockeying for position to get a better view, an old man rode up on a bike and stopped next to me.

"What's going on?" he inquired. I kept looking across the street for the President's limo, and explained to him that the Obamas were leaving. The old fellow didn't seem very impressed. "Think they'll let me pass through?" I just shrugged and said, sure. As he started pedaling away from me, I glanced down and saw that strapped to the back of his rusty old bicycle was a propane tank!

A motorcycle cop across from us saw it too and started yelling at the man and waving his arms frantically. "HEY, STOP! GET OFF THE BIKE RIGHT NOW!" The poor guy was startled and confused by all the police suddenly swarming towards him, and practically fell off his bike. He explained that he was just going to get his propane tank refilled at the Aikahi shopping center down the street. Boy, I really felt bad about putting him through that. But you have to admit, it's sort of funny too.


If you missed my fictional Obama Christmas story for my two young nieces, Sasha and Ana, that was inspired by the same visit two years ago, here's the link to that piece. It's a bit long for a blog post, but you've probably got a three-day weekend, right?

Happy New Years from all of us at Career Changers TV... and I'd like to thank the people who help me put the show out each month: Ron Darby (camera, editing), Robert "Aukai" Reynolds (co-producer, camera and editing), Marc Edward (camera, editing), Mahlon Moore (CCTV website), and our host Theresa Tilley. See you next year!

5 Responses to “One More Obama Story”

  1. Kolea:


    You make it sound like there is no convenient public access to the beach near Kailuana Place. Help me understand your argument. The "Kam Cottage" right-of-way is what, 150 feet away from the entrance to Kailuana? Are you really suggesting that 150 feet is too far to walk to reach a right-of-way?

    Kailua Beach is slightly over 2 and a half miles long. I think there are about 5 or 6 public right-of-ways, including two beach parks with showers and toilet facilities. What other developed residential shoreline in the state has better public access?

  2. Rich Figel:

    Kolea -

    Have you been to that end of Kailua Beach? The gate is much further in. True, the public BROW is 150 feet away from the Kailuana Place ENTRY point. It is also the only public access for a mile stretch of beach. All the other streets, including Kailuana have locked gates or "No Trespassing" signs. I could introduce you to some parents who have nearly been hit by cars while pushing strollers from Kainui Drive down to the Kailuana BROW. I'd be happy to show you personally how dangerous it is. The problem is the lack of public access forces many residents to DRIVE to the two public beach parking lots. And yes, the south end does have better public access for the most part.

    The issue is really about whether we want Kailua to be a gated community for only the wealthy. If that's what you want, then you're in luck... because that's what it's becoming.

  3. Kolea:

    Rich, you write:

    "It is also the only public access for a mile stretch of beach."

    In fact, the next public right of way is on the Lanikai side of Kai One Place, .6 miles from the "Kam Cottage" RoW. Someone seeking access to the beach along Kalaheo Ave at that end of the beach would only have to walk .3 miles to reach one. While I can understand people might want to not have to walk that far, but I scarcely see that distance as violating the constitutional right to beach access.

    You wanna get nostalgic about old Kailua? Up until the 1970s, there was no legal public beach access in Kailua, except the park. That fact was obscured because all homes in the Kalama tract had an easement right to private RoWs attached to the deed to their property. In the 70s, the City condemned most of the Kalama Tract access points, except for Palione and Kaapuni. (The Kaapuni access remains privately owned, but made available for public access. Palione still honors the old Kalama Tract access rights. Since nobody knows which stranger might reside in the vast Kalama Tract, "regulars" pass freely, but complete strangers might get an occasional stink eye.)

    People who live along the beach don't like crowds of strangers passing by their homes. Who can blame them? People who live mauka want easy access to the beach, without having to walk too far. Who can blame them either?

    Rather than becoming "a gated community," I think Kailua has already become a "beach resort town" with all the "bed and breakfast" operations. Some of the rentals are on the beach. But others are mauka of the beach and the owners want easy access for their guests.

    I now live in East Honolulu. Beach access is much tougher here. And there is no d@mn beach worth going to for miles. Count your blessings. You grumble for having to walk .3 miles to get to a beach access? No offense, but "cry me a river."

  4. Rich Figel:

    It's not me that is having problems walking half a mile to a beach access. It's the parents with small kids who live right across from the beach but can't go down those "private" lanes because their "neighbors" aren't so neighborly. But yes, you're right that East Oahu has access problems too -- which is why I founded Beach Access Hawaii and have spent a lot of time lobbying for new laws that would help ALL residents throughout the islands enjoy public access. My "grumbling" is what helped spark a movement to protect and improve shoreline access for surfers, fishermen, kids, and everyone else who calls Hawaii home. What have YOU done to help the cause in East Oahu, besides post comments on blogs?

    If people don't like "crowds of strangers passing by their homes" then why are so many of those new beachfront home owners building CLOSER to the ocean with huge PICTURE WINDOWS that anyone can walk up to and look into? I'm not nostalgic about old Kailua. I'm one of the people who are trying to protect what remains of that beach before it goes the way of Lanikai Beach and Kahala Beach, where homeowners built as close to the sea as they could for the view.

    Kolea, come take a walk with me and I'll show you 17 beachside lanes that are now gated or have "NO TRESPASSING" and "PRIVATE ROAD" SIGNS. According to longtime Kailua residents I've spoken to, NONE of the beachside roads were gated when Castle developed those tracts and his intent was always to make those beach paths open to everyone. It wasn't until the gate went up at Dune Circle that started the ripple effect with gates springing up left and right. As each access was closed off, more traffic got shifted to the remaining open paths, which then caused those residents to want to put up gates.

    And so it goes.

  5. Rich Figel:

    Addendum: I also need to correct Kolea on his assertion that the next public access is only .3 miles from the Kailuana beach right of way. In fact, I walked it with Rep. Chris Lee who used his iPhone GPS to measure the distance. It was over half a mile. Ask Rep. Lee -- he's the only public official who was willing to accept my invitation to personally walk the talk and see what's going on with all the gated private -- and public -- streets.

    None of our current City Council members have shown any interest whatsoever in beach access problems in Kailua, the North Shore, Ko Olina or East Oahu. There are also shoreline access problems on the Big Island and parts of Kauai and Maui as well, btw.