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Oʻahu bans most commercial activity at windward beaches

Kay Salera

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi has signed a controversial bill banning most commercial activity at windward Oʻahu beaches.

Commercial activity except for film and television productions will be prohibited at city beaches from Waimānalo to Makapuʻu. That includes Hūnānāniho Beach Park, formerly known as Waimānalo — a popular spot for weddings.

In a video statement, Blangiardi said he listened to all sides and initially felt the ban was overly restrictive and unfair to an industry that suffered greatly during the pandemic.

“But in the case of  Hūnānāniho, when the city council banned commercial activity in Kailua through Bill 11 in 2012, the commercial activity largely moved to other locations, including Hūnānāniho," he said.

"Now, this shifting of commercial activity to unregulated versus regulated city parks is a concern of mine that will not be resolved by my signing Bill 38. Now, unfortunately, not signing Bill 34 last year created more of a problem and did not lead to an islandwide solution, which is what we are seeking," Blangiardi said.

The Honolulu City Council passed Bill 38 in a 7-2 vote in March.

Councilmember Esther Kiaʻāina introduced the measure. The community "wanted relief so that they could enjoy their beaches,” Kia‘aina said, citing complaints about overcrowding.

Kapua Medeiros of the Waimānalo Neighborhood Board said, "Even though we’re going to limit our own community members from being able to hire professional photographers and professional wedding officiants, we’re willing to do that because our shores are inundated with over-commercialism and over-tourism."

Oʻahu Wedding Association president Joseph Esser said in a written statement that the association is both disappointed and devastated by the mayor’s decision.

He said the bill not only impacts the wedding industry, but maternity shoots and family photos as well. Esser said a different management plan would have been better for his industry.

“Reduce the number of permits, reduce the usage so you can control it," said Esser. “I have to now take my clients to, like, maybe Magic Island to do a photoshoot. There are no beaches that are accessible anymore in my own community."

The Honolulu Film Office is the regulatory agency for professional film and television productions on Oʻahu. The office has said the industry's use of parks and beaches is "intermittent and highly regulated."

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