Friday, October 1, 2010

Musings: Waste of a Beach

I was talking to Caren Diamond yesterday about the direct link between the proliferation of vacation rentals and the loss of the public beach. I saw evidence of it the other day at Anini; she’s been watching it happen for the last decade up at Wainiha, near the Y camp.

Still, it hit home in an ugly way when she took her parents to the beach by the Y camp yesterday, only to find that there was no beach, just an escarpment. And the air was filled with the stink of human shit.

“Why would you take us to a beach like this?” asked her father. “Why would anyone want to go to a beach like this?”

It made Caren cry; heck, it would make anyone cry who remembers how gorgeous that beach used to be. Now the sand is all locked up beneath the lawns and naupaka hedges of the vacation rentals there, occupying land that Caren and others had long documented as being washed by the waves and so rightfully part of the public shoreline.

But nobody wants to say no to the richy-rich property owners — did you know Hawaii has the highest number of millionaires per capita? — so they let them build close to the water and operate their houses as high-end vacation rentals. Then they let them install naupaka hedges to protect their homes from the water they wanted to build so close to. Meanwhile, the normal flow of the sand is blocked and disrupted, so the beach starts getting steeper and narrower until voila, no mo beach.

Except for those staying in the vacation rentals. They’ve got nice expansive lawns on what used to be our beach. And the plants, that have been cultivated on the sand, they’ve got beach. It’s just the public that has no beach.

“I thought you won,” said her mom, referring to the landmark decision Diamond vs State Board of Land and Natural Resources, in which the Hawaii Supreme Court clarified that the public beach extends to the highest seasonal wash of the waves.

“I won in the courts,” Caren replied. “But I lost on the land.”

So now one of the most stunning beaches on Kauai is all built up with big houses that sleep 8 or 10 or 12 vacationers each. Nearly all the properties are owned by investment consortiums, and people who do not live here. The beach, which sees some big northwest swell action, is eroding away and the fortress of naupaka keeps growing, extending further makai.

Like too many other places on Kauai, that stretch of coastline has become a private resort.

And we’ve lost our beach.

That's why I cringe when I read Ron Agor, Kauai’s representative to the BLNR, making incredibly stupid remarks like this:

“I have been an advocate for vacation rentals,” he said. “For the life of me, I can’t see how vacation rentals are detrimental to the community and the environment.”

Maybe you’d like to join Caren and me for a beach walk, Ron. We can give you an edumacation. Because a mind, like a beach, is a terrible thing to waste.


Anonymous said...

Whether it is a vacation rental or not is irrelevant to whether owners are illegally encroaching onto the public beach. I know you have a thing about vacation rentals, but it seems unrelated here.

Anonymous said...

On the contrary, it seems directly related, to me. Being shielded from the local public (i.e., "privacy") is a major selling point of these vacation rentals. Local owners who live on their properties tend to want to maintain good relationships with their neighbors. Vacation rental profiteers who aren't even from here want locals kept at a safe, sanitized distance, on the other side of gates, walls, or thick, encroaching naupaka hedges when not wearing aloha wear uniforms while serving them mai-tais poolside.

Anonymous said...

I doubt Joan would say the the "richy riches" who are beachside residents "tend to want to maintain good relationships with their neighbors."

Anonymous said...

If they are so rich, why rent out the house when not on-island? If I were that rich I wouldn't want batches of total strangers sleeping in (one of) my houses, regardless of how often I actually get to stay there myself.

Anonymous said...

The "millionaires" in Hawaii refers to residents of the state, not residents of other states who own property in the islands (e.g., Anini houses are mostly owned by folks from the Mainland who do not figure into the Hawaii census).

I was walking there the other day too and hey, there's still beach in front of Brescia's place though! Go for it!

Anonymous said...

"tides and wind wait for no man..."

Your a star gazer.
Consult the tide calender and coordinate your beach time with the moon.

Keoni said...

Caren Diamond is unique in that she is not motivated by money or power. She serves a higher calling that most people cannot relate to, and are therefore skeptical of or fear. She simply works tirelessly for the community and for a way of life that is quickly being lost. I give her a lot of respect.

Anonymous said...

Or she's simply driven by psychological needs no less selfish than other motivations.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that one's level of "selfishness," if you will, is determined by what one identifies with as one's "self." If my "self" is just this separate mind/body, I'm motivated to work towards its survival and well-being (and screw everything else). Many, perhaps most, people include, to lesser degrees, perhaps, their property (no scratch my car, eh?), family, friends, community, nation, etc.

Don't know Caren personally, but perhaps she simply has a larger sense of "self" than many of us tightasses and thus manifests as being more altruistic.

Anonymous said...

Caren Diamond has contributed vast advantages to the public through her tireless legislation changes. She has a brain,
Now letʻs put the spotlight on someone who does NOT have a brain but being a pushy little pilipino he has to make his self known.
We should not give him the space on a page of recognition.
There is another name for people like him...
Anyway, thank goodness his fellow pilipinos did not even vote for him.

Anonymous said...

"Georgia Man Fined for Growing Too Many Veggies": Wish we had this problem on Kaua`i instead of too many TVRs...

Anonymous said...

Joan you are right on as usual! keep up the good work!