There’s a lot of garbage on social media these days, but one of the best things I’ve seen lately is the Access Denied! Surf? Fish? Dive group on Facebook. Here, Westside residents and activists like Kai Nishiki and Randy Draper post photos, videos and information about their fights to stop big resorts from encroaching on public beaches with concession stands, endless lines of beach chairs and umbrellas and restrictions on public beach access parking. Their posts are informative and infuriating, sure, but also inspiring.
Contrast their actions with how the Maui County Council is handling the issue of public beach access parking in Ka`anapali–or rather, with how they’re mishandling it. Nearly two years ago, I wrote this story about how the Maui County Planning Department–prodded by Lahaina resident Randy Draper’s constant, tireless urging–was finally moving to ensure that the big Kaanapali resorts actually provided the public beach access parking they were legally required to provide.
County officials sent the resorts a bunch of letters. Things seemed to be happening. Draper, who’s been agitating for public parking in Ka`anapali for 50 years (!) was happy.
Then Maui County Council Chair Mike White decided to get into the act.
On Jan. 9, the council’s Parks, Recreation, Energy, and Legal Affairs (PRL) Committee held an utterly insulting and useless meeting on a new bill White proposed on the issue. I say insulting because the bill would allow resorts (like the Ka`anapali Beach Hotel (KBH), where White works as general manager, which is mandated by the county to provide 10 public access beach parking spots) to prohibit public beach access parking between 9pm and 6am. And I say useless because Councilmember Don Guzman, the chair of the PRL Committee, deferred any committee discussion on the bill because White never showed up to the meeting (the bill may come up during the next PRL Committee meeting, but that agenda hasn’t been posted yet).
But the committee did hear public testimony on the bill, and I can sum it all up with just one word: Outraged.
“This is an anti-community bill,” former Councilmember Wayne Nishiki (and Kai’s father) testified. “Throw this bill away. It makes no sense to me why this was even conceived.”
Kai Nishiki was just as angry. “Where’s Mike White?” she asked at the start of her testimony. “This is his bill, right? Some shameful.” Later, she called his bill “a clear conflict of interest.”
Councilmember Yuki Lei Sugimura seemed insulted by Kai Nishiki’s testimony, and even challenged her on her conflict of interest allegations. After asking her if she’d provided a Tax Map Key proving that the White’s bill affected the KBH, Sugimura told Kai Nishiki she was merely “assuming” that the bill dealt with that resort.
“No, I’m not,” Kai Nishiki countered, before explaining how it’s public knowledge that the Planning Department requires the resorts, including the KBH, to provide public beach access parking.
“I’ll ask the questions,” Sugimura replied, before ending her questioning.
Later, Councilmember Kelly King asked Kai Nishiki if the public beach access parking spots are adequately labeled.
“It’s kind of a problem,” she responded. “Why do I, a single mom, have to go enforce public parking? That’s not my job.”
Public beach access parking in Ka`anapali is a problem, as the photo above (taken at the Hyatt Residence Club) shows. Two years ago I discovered that at least one resort already posts time restrictions on their beach access parking. Michele McLean, a county planning official, explained why in a Jan. 8 email to the council’s PRL Committee.
“We appreciate that the bill would establish time requirements if no requirements have already been established by a permit or land use approval,” McLean wrote. “Many conditions of permits or approvals have established public beach parking requirements; some have specified times that the public beach access parking as to be open, while others are silent on hours. Without such time requirements stated, we have taken the position that the parking must be open 24 hours per day, seven days per week.”
Maintaining clear public beach access has always been a problem, but all White seems to want to do is change the law to favor the resorts–including the one that employs him.
“There’s plenty of parking,” Draper testified on Jan. 9, “but it’s all being used by the hotels.”
Click here for all the county’s correspondence and written testimony on White’s beach parking bill.