- Far from being in beach mode, Obama appeared to be deep in conversation as he spoke with workers from local building firm Armstrong Builders, who are currently constructing his beachfront compound on the island of Oahu.
Dressed in beige pants and a grey polo shirt, Obama looked tense as he was pictured speaking with builders and architects.
The former president could be seen scowling as he chatted Saturday with at least four developers who were working on the project.
Obama, 60, had his arms crossed the entire time the group were discussing the next steps in building the massive compound, while at one point he appeared to be gesturing as he pointed out things that presumably needed to be addressed.
Construction has been mired in controversy because the project used a planning loophole to retain a sea wall that is almost certainly causing beach erosion.
Some of the architects and construction workers present appeared to be carrying plans of the intricate design, but it seems the building, nestled in the Native Hawaiian community of Waimanalo, still has some way to go before it reaches presidential standards.
The building of the enormous beachfront property where Obama plans to retire someday was purchased for $8.7 million by his close friend Marty Nesbitt in 2015.
The developers are currently building three homes on the site including two swimming pools and a security fence on the three-acre parcel of beachfront land.
But a century-old sea wall on the property is set to remain, despite state policies being introduced in recent years that were designed to preserve Hawaii’s natural coastlines.
Environmental experts say structures such as beach walls actually cause coastal damage and beach erosion.
Although the state of Hawaii has laws meant to preserve disappearing shorelines, beachfront property owners area able to bypass them.
A loophole allowed the sellers of the property to obtain an easement on the sea wall for a one-time payment of $61,400 before it was sold in 2015, according to ProPublica .
The easement is essentially a 55-year lease on the public land that sits under the sea wall, giving the private property owner the ability to keep it.
Such easements have come under criticism in Hawaii, although they are relatively common with 120 being awarded over the past 20 years.
Although the concrete structure protected the coastal estate from the sea in the past, it now contradicts modern laws that are specifically designed to preserve Hawaii’s natural coastlines.
Scientists and environmental say that while sea walls protect what is behind them, they do nothing to protect what lies in front and, in fact, are the main cause of beach loss throughout the state.
Sea walls such as the ones at Obama’s estate essentially interrupt the natural flow of the ocean and prevent beaches from migrating inland.
The developers of Obama’s property have been hoping to expand the sea wall, angering neighbors who note that the existing beach along the property has almost completely disappeared.
Nesbitt, a wealthy Chicago businessman who supported Obama’s 2004 Senate campaign and served as his 2008 presidential campaign chairman, currently serves as chairman of the Barack Obama Foundation. He is said to be one of Obama’s closest friends and confidantes.
Nesbitt has never commented on the issue of the sea wall, only to confirm that he and his wife bought the land and were ‘the developers’ of the estate.
In written responses to questions posed in 2020, Nesbitt said the steps he’s taken to redevelop the property and expand the sea wall are ‘consistent with and informed by the analysis of our consultants, and the laws, regulations and perspectives of the State of Hawaii.’
Any damage the structure caused to the Waimanalo beach, occurred decades ago ‘and is no longer relevant.’
In addition to its fame as the former site of the Magnum PI house, the Waimanalo compound sits next to a historic turtle pond that used to feed Hawaiian chiefs.
Nesbitt had earlier sparked controversy in 2018, when plans leaked showing his intent to demolish the home from Magnum PI.
The 8,900-square-foot mansion, built in 1933, was one of the most famous homes on the islands, but had fallen into disrepair.
It had not been listed on the registry for historic landmarks. The only nearby fixture with any sort of historical protection is the ancient turtle pond next to the property.
The property was formerly the site of one of Hawaii’s most famous homes, the mansion from Magnum PI (above) which was torn
down in 2018 to make way for construction