Community Groups Oppose Kahala Hotel and Resort Permit to Use State-owned Beachfront Property

Sep 4, 2018

(L-R) Linda Wong, James Nicolay and Dave Raney are standing where a sand pathway once was and which the Kahala Hotel and Resort filled-in with grass
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

An ongoing dispute over the use of state-owned beachfront land in Kahala is heading to the Board of Land and Natural Resources next week.  HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.   



The Seaside Grill
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

The Kahala Hotel and Resort is seeking to renew its revocable permit to use state beachfront property for recreation and maintenance.  But, the state-owned land is between the high-water mark and the hotel structures.  Dave Raney is senior advisor for the Sierra Club Marine Team.


“When this lagoon was created up here, the land that was dredged out was put mauka of the shoreline and that became a state parcel of land.  But that’s been one of the best kept secrets in Hawai’i.  Nobody knew that.”


Raney says, last year, local Hotel managers agreed to place public access signs and retain a sand pathway.  Instead, the hotel’s corporate owner, Resorttrust Hawai’i LLC based in Japan, nixed the sand pathway and installed grass.  Jim Nicolay is a landscape architect and lives around the corner from the Hotel.  He says the hotel is using the state-owned beachfront for commercial activities and is attempting to gain exclusive rights for its use.


James Nicolay stands next to the Hotel property marker and points to all of the illegal structures on public land
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

“Here is what, to me, is the most egregious violation.  Underneath those tents is the Seaside Grill, a restaurant that the hotel advertises.  It is virtually all built on public land.  As far as I’m aware, you can’t add a permanent structure within what is called the Special Management Area without a permit.”


Linda Wong, a member of the Diamond Head/ Kapahulu Saint Louis Heights Neighborhood Board #8, says there are 40 permanent structures on state-land and the hotel is profiting from it.


Linda Wong is a member of the Diamond Head/Kapahulu/Saint Louis Heights Neighborhood Board.
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

“The resort is paying DLNR $1233 a month.  And they start the weddings at $7000 an hour.  The cabanas start at $60 an hour.  It’s very pricey here.  So, their 40 items are gonna take up 5000 square feet of public beach land.  It’s really ridiculous.”


But, the Hotel’s general manager, Gerald Glennon, told HPR’s The Conversation last month that the issue is the interpretation of the permitted uses.


“The group that is basically taking a position against our current use, they, and the hotel, want to clarify, with help of DLNR and BLNR, what recreation mean.  And, that’s what our conversations and what our hearings will address.”


But, Kahala resident, Nicolay, says the hotel is circumventing state law with a permit and also deceiving the public.


“The hotel is happy to make people think that it’s their land.   And, it makes it intimidating for people to come down.”


The Board of Land and Natural Resources will conduct a hearing on the revocable permit, September 14th.  Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.