Critics See Obama Hypocrisy in Hawaii Beach House

Friend Marty Nesbitt developing oceanfront property thanks to loopholes in environmental laws
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 18, 2020 8:13 AM CDT
Critics See Obama Hypocrisy in Hawaii Beach House
The estate in Waimanalo, Hawaii, bought by a close friend of former President Obama, Marty Nesbitt.   (AP Photo/Eric Mansperger/LIST Sotheby's International Realty)

The Obamas famously like to vacation in Hawaii, and they usually do so with one of the former president's close friends, Marty Nesbitt, and his family. That tradition seems destined to continue for years, especially since Nesbitt paid $8.7 million for an oceanfront estate in Waimanalo back in 2015. ProPublica, though, adds a wrinkle to all this: The estate bought by Nesbitt is surrounded by a century-old concrete seawall, something that would not be allowed under modern laws because these structures disrupt the natural coastline and are seen a major cause of beach loss throughout Hawaii. Without that wall protecting the estate, however, the property might end up being worthless, and Nesbitt found a workaround. He received an easement allowing the seawall to stay in place for another 55 years. And now he's actually trying to expand it.

"Community members are now rallying against the proposed seawall expansion," writes Sophie Cocke. "Some are directing their criticism at Obama, who staked his legacy, in part, on fighting climate change and promoting environmental sustainability." While Nesbitt is officially the sole buyer, it's common knowledge locally that the property will be used by the Obamas; in fact, two officials interviewed referred to it as Obama's property. Obama reps directed all questions to Nesbitt, who would not answer questions about ownership. Nesbitt, meanwhile, is bulldozing much of the existing property and putting up three homes, each just a smidge under 7,500 square feet to avoid local permitting restrictions. The full story looks not just at this controversy but the wider issue of how developers in Hawaii exploit loopholes to keep building. Read it here. (Read more Longform stories.)

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