Waikīkī Beach was eroding.
As early as 1901, both the government surveyor and Lili‘uokalani had residences at Waikīkī Beach with walls across their seaward frontages that were in the ocean, blocking public passage along the beach.
Another Waikīkī residence and the Moana Hotel also had portions of their structures similarly situated in the water. By the late-1920s, walls were common along Waikīkī Beach.
A 1927 report by the Engineering Association of Hawai‘i pinpointed seawalls as the primary cause of erosion in Waikīkī. The report concluded that beach nourishment and groins could be used to rebuild the beach.
During the same time period, plans were underway to turn Waikīkī district wetlands into an urban community. The Ala Wai Canal was dredged from 1922 to 1928.
In 1927, the Territorial Legislature authorized Act 273 allowing the Board of Harbor Commissioners to rebuild the eroded beach at Waikīkī. By 1930, the Board of Harbor Commissioners reported on construction progress, which included 11 groins along a portion of the shoreline.
On October 19, 1928, property owners at Waikīkī signed the Waikīkī Beach Reclamation Agreement between the Territory of Hawai‘i and Property Owners – an agreement with the Territory of Hawai‘i to not build any obstructions on what would become Waikīkī Beach.
The agreement was to “forever thereafter keep the beach free and clear of obstructions and open for the use of the public as a bathing beach and for passing over and along the same on foot.”
The Beach Agreement illustrated the need to control and limit seaward development on Waikīkī Beach. The agreement establishes limitations on construction along the beach in response to the proliferation of seawalls and groins in Waikīkī.
The 1928 agreement consists of a) the October 19, 1928 main agreement between the Territory and Waikīkī landowners, b) the October 19, 1928 main agreement between the Territory and the Estate of Bernice Pauahi Bishop and c) The July 5, 1929 Supplemental Agreement between the Territory and Waikīkī landowners.
The agreement provides that the Territory was to use “best efforts” to construct beach area 180-feet seaward for the purpose of beach erosion control together with “maintenance, preservation and restoration thereof as may be necessary from time to time.”
The expanded beach would “be deemed to be natural accretion attached to the abutting property, and title there to shall immediately vest in the owner or owners of the property abutting thereon in proportion to their sea-frontage, subject only to the easement in favor of the public as above stated.”
The private landowners agreed they “will not erect or place on any part of such beach so to be constructed as aforesaid within seventy-five (75) feet of mean highwater mark of such beach as it may exist from time to time …”
“… any building, fence, wall or other structure or obstruction of any kind unless such mean highwater mark shall be more than seventy-five (75) feet from the present line of mean highwater mark.”
The agreement covers the Waikīkī beach area including the area from the Ala Wai Canal to the Elks Club at Diamond Head. The Waikīkī Beach Reclamation Agreement of 1928 gave property owners title to beach fronting their seawalls.
According to the 1928 Waikīkī Beach Reclamation Agreement, no commercial activities are permitted to take place on Waikīkī Beach. All commercial activities originate from private property and people traverse the beach to gain access to the water.
As part of the 1928 Beach Agreement, eleven groins composed of hollow tongue and concrete blocks were built along Waikīkī Beach with the intent of capturing sand. (SOEST)
A lot of the sand to build the beach was brought in to Waikīkī Beach, via ship and barge, from Manhattan Beach, California in the 1920s and 1930s.
As the Manhattan Beach community was developing, it found that excess sand in the beach dunes and it was getting in the way of development there. At the same time, folks in Hawai‘i were in need for sand to cover the rock and coral beach at Waikīkī.
In addition, the segment between the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and the Moana Surfrider (Surfrider-Royal Hawaiian Sector Beach Agreement) is the subject of a separate agreement between the Territory and the subject Waikīkī landowners entered into on May 28, 1965.
State law states that the right of access to Hawai‘i’s shorelines includes the right of transit along the shorelines. (HRS §115-4)
The right of transit along the shoreline exists below (seaward of) the private property line (generally referred to as the “upper reaches of the wash of waves, usually evidenced by the edge of vegetation or by the debris left by the wash of waves.”) (HRS §115-5)
Waikīkī Beach is unique because the State does not own all of the land in front of the Royal Hawaiian, Outrigger Waikīkī and Moana Surfrider hotels.
The 1965 agreement between the State and the hotel landowners gave the owners of the abutting hotels 75-feet of the beach in exchange for cooperation with the State’s proposal to extend Waikīkī Beach up to 120 feet from the existing shoreline.
The abutting private beach land is subject to a 75-foot public right of way for the public to pass along the Beach, sunbathe or do other beach activities. The easement in favor of the public restricts commercial activities in the right-of way.
According to the agreement, the State is responsible for maintaining and policing the easement. This easement would be extinguished upon the State building 75-feet of beach seaward of the existing beach, but since that has never happened, the easement remains in effect. (DLNR)