Monday, May 16, 2011


APEC improvements merely cosmetic, how about some real fixes for us?

by Larry Geller

So how will Nimitz Highway look for APEC delegates in November? I suspect it will look slightly better with the palm trees that the state is planning to install (and just why could that not have been done before?), but still will look like Nimitz Highway. APEC delegates will see Hawaii as it is, even with the cosmetic changes.

With 80 percent of tourists taking the Nim­itz Highway route to Waikiki, [Lt. Gov. Brian] Schatz said, "first impressions are everything. … It's very important to Kalihi, it's important to Hono­lulu, it's important to the state of Hawaii to have a Nim­itz Highway we can be proud of."

[Star-Advertiser, APEC conferees will see greener Nimitz Highway, 5/2/2011]

If we wanted to be proud of Nimitz Highway for some reason, why did it have to wait until now? Translated into English, we have no pride in Nimitz Highway whatsoever.

And will a bunch of trees do the trick? How many social services have been cut to pay for those trees?

Visitors may already have checked out they lay of the land in Honolulu. These days we have Internet resources like Google Earth. Here are some snaps I took off the screen this morning. I suspect that putting some lipstick on Nimitz Highway won’t make much difference.

The yellow line is part of Google’s street view, it’s the path you follow if you roll your mouse wheel to progress along Nimitz towards town.. Click for larger versions.

Note that any number of trees on a median will not hide the industrial nature of this road.

Nimitz 1

Nimitz 2

Nimitz 3


The $1.2 million proj­ect is currently out to bid and would begin in June. It is scheduled to be finished by Oct. 15, just before the start of the APEC conference, Meisenzahl said.

They can probably do this, especially by pouring more money into it if it falls behind schedule. Umm…, whose money is this? That’s our $1.2 million, being spent to create a distraction for a bunch of visitors.

Speaking of money, the undergrounding of utility lines has long been a demand of Honolulu residents, and is always challenged as being too expensive. But somehow, for APEC delegates, the cost is not an object:

A separate project will bury overhead utility lines along Nim­itz Highway from downtown to Waikiki.

If trees for the APEC delegates are $1.2 million in these hard budget times, I also wanted to know how much the undergrounding is costing. Of course, we wouldn’t want them to see overhead power lines, what would they think? So I called the state Department of Transportation to get details of that contract. I learned that the construction has been underway for a couple of weeks. Ok, then, how much was it?

On my initial phone calls I was told that I probably can’t have that information. I believe I should be able to get it. I couldn’t find it on the DOT website so I thought calling would be the best thing. We’ll have to see how this plays out.  I’ll let you know the amount when I get it.

There’s probably even more lipstick being applied at taxpayer expense. All of it is corporate welfare since the idea is to encourage APEC delegates to see the advantages of doing business in Hawaii. While Hawaii is a great place to hold meetings, with or without trees on Nimitz Highway and underground electrical wires, no amount of lipstick is likely to convince APEC delegates that Hawaii is something it’s not. It is, and will remain, a good place for conferences and meetings. The undergrounding of power lines is a benefit to the hospitality industry.

But why not go with it. Let’s get some long overdue improvements out of our city and state while they are in a spending mood. Let’s get things that will benefit us and maybe increase tourism too.

Since the “AP” in APEC is Asia and Pacific, the delegates might want to venture into Chinatown for some dim sum, for example, or for a night at the Hawaii Theater. One city administration after another has been shitting on Chinatown and frankly has made it an ugly place to visit. Maybe they should have a look at how it will appear to visitors. In other words, how about some “pride” for Chinatown in addition to pride in Nimitz Highway?

Let’s get some fixes put in there, shall we? And I don’t mean new trees.

Delegates or their staff may go to Indigo Restaurant on Nuuanu Avenue, for example, perhaps after a night at the theater. It’s one of our star attractions for Hawaii and Asian cuisine and for nightlife.  While they wait outside for their limos, here’s what they will see, shot the other day from my camera phone: This derelict-appearing building is exactly across the street from Indigo.

Lai Fong building

The picture doesn’t do it justice. The building, aside from that ugly collapsed walkway and wooden barrier, is covered with graffiti. It looks a lot worse to the eye than in this wide-angle shot (click for larger and uglier).

What can be done about this private property? I don’t know, but paying attention to this might make sense, more than moving a bunch of palm trees to Nimitz. Maybe the delegates won’t want to do business in a slum.

My favorite ugly Chinatown subject is still Honolulu Stonehenge. This is a Google Earth picture, they can see it right now.  On the right side is a bridge I’ll get to in a moment.

Honolulu's Stonehenge

These ugly columns are a blight brought to the neighborhood and to one of Honolulu’s prime tourist attractions by former mayor Mufi Hannemann. The idea was to eliminate drug deals carried out under the trellises. So the trellises are gone, leaving ugly columns topped with big, rusting brackets, but the deals and who knows what else go on nearby around picnic tables under umbrellas.

Here is one of my own pictures, taken last year:

While Mufi may bave been responsible, it’s now Mayor Carlisle’s ugliness. I have been asked by tourists exactly what the columns mean. People can’t help but notice ugliness when it’s painted so brightly.

One more pic before we move on:

Ok, to that bridge in the earlier photo.  If delegates walk out of the Chinese Cultural Center, they’ll see a bridge that has been neglected to the point where the bridge rails are crumbling and falling into the stream. Here is one of the columns holding up the railing. The bridge suffers from what’s called “spalling,” that is, pieces of concrete breaking and falling off. There are extensive cracks due to poor or no maintenance, allowing water to enter and rust the rebar inside, which swells and cracks the concrete. Protective coatings could have saved the bridge, but alas, “high-tech” Hawaii doesn’t have that technology.  And it will be obvious.

Let’s say the delegates or their families or staff  have enjoyed their dim sum and would like to do some sightseeing. Their guidebook will point them to nearby Foster Botanical Garden, with some very unusual trees. There’s also a Chinese temple to visit.

But still no crosswalk.

Foster Gardens

Chinatown is below this picture. Foster Garden is the green area at the upper right, and you can see the Chinese temple in the middle. The entrance to Foster Garden is just left of the temple. The road at the middle bottom is River Walk, coming up from Chinatown.  People regularly cross from there to get to Foster Garden, but the state has never bothered to protect them with a crosswalk.

Can they paint one in time for APEC? Maybe they understand that APEC delegates will have diplomatic immunity and won’t pay jaywalking tickets anyway.

I’m merely suggesting that we get some improvement out of this APEC conference for ourselves. Ordinarily, to get a traffic light or crosswalk put in, a certain (but undefined) number of pedestrian lives, usually elderly, have to be sacrificed to the gods of the DOT. Will the APEC conference get us a crosswalk without the human sacrifice?

Maybe APEC is what it takes to get our city and state to do some maintenance around here.

Ok, no call back yet on that undergrounding contract cost. I’ll post this and get back to that later.

And we should talk one day about the homeless sweeps that will likely take place, with no benefit to those without homes or to those who could lose them before the conference in November.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.


I have been seeing more signs that Official People are thinking about promoting Hawaii as a place where Sun Yat-sen lived and raised funds for his revolution. Since the Sun Yat-sen statue is near those eye-sores, you might be able to get them added to the "To Do" list prior to APEC.

Honolulu is a Third World slum. Even the beach parks are. Walk into a beach park restroom if you don't believe me. Honolulu didn't get trashed by the tourists. It got trashed by the locals.

Many thanks for pointing out the foolishness of elected officials making wrong choices. The Lt. Gov. joins the list of the foolish.I am wondering what trees will survive all that vehicle pollution on Nimitz?

Well, we have to start somewhere, and planting a tree is a good thing. I was thinking Larry, If you and I grabbed a shovel maybe we could plant the trees and split the $1.2 million.

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