Sunday, January 28, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, January 28, 2001

Homestead improvement: A community grows in Kalawahine Valley

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer

There are 15 to 20 young children playing on the road at Haalelea Place, a cul-de-sac that has become the social hub of a new Hawaiian homestead development on the slopes of Kalawahine Valley behind Roosevelt High School.

The kids can go anytime into Tamar deFries’ garage for a soft drink, hang out in Norbert Mendes’ carpeted garage or shoot hoops in front of Mike Buch’s house.

Haalelea Place is also the site of a weekly potluck block party, open to residents of Kalawahine Streamside and its homestead neighbors from Kewalo and Papakolea.

"This is a throwback to the old Hawaii neighborhoods where you knew everybody and nobody had to lock their doors," said stockbroker Mark Hee, who moved into a Kapahu Street duplex unit uphill from Haalelea Place about a month ago.

"It’s the kind of environment I had when I was growing up in Keolu Hills 30 years ago."

The $26 million Kalawahine Streamside project was developed by Kamehameha Investment Corp., a for-profit subsidiary of Kamehameha Schools Trust, for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

This unique upper-middle-class neighborhood on Hawaiian homestead land has 54 multilevel duplex units and 33 three-story single-family homes.

Kalawahine Streamside

What: Hawaiian Home Lands residential community developed by Kamehameha Investment Corp.

Where: Eastern slopes of Kalawahine Valley behind Roosevelt High School.

Type: 54 duplex, 33 single-family units, all three-bedroom.

Cost: $174,900-$225,900.

Kalawahine means "the day (of) women."

It’s the name of the mountain ridge and valley behind Roosevelt High School that cover 293 acres, sloping toward Papakolea to the top of Tantalus and extending east to Manoa.

"The name of the Manoa rain is Tuahine (also Kuahine, the word used to address for one’s sister) and when she comes over to this side of valley, it rains and rains here," said Ainsley Halemanu, a Kewalo native and respected authority on his homestead’s history.

"The rains clean our streams. That’s what Kalawahine means."

Selections were made off the Hawaiian Home Lands waiting list, but the asking price of $174,900 to $196,100 for a duplex or $214,900 to $225,900 for a single-family unit made it unaffordable for most.

"These are the most expensive homes ever offered to applicants, and the reason is the topography," project manager Elton Wong said.

"The conditions were challenging from a design and construction standpoint. But for location, it’s a good deal. Schuler Homes sells a market product of the same size for around $385,000."

Open spaces between the mountainside single-family homes and 12 uphill duplex units on Kapahu Street give each a clear view.

"It’s like living in a mini San Francisco because of the hills," said Hee’s wife, Luana Alapa-Hee, a former Miss Hawaii.

Residents began moving in last summer, and those living at Haalelea Place were among the first arrivals.

The remarkably quick bonding of new neighbors on Haalelea Place molded the personality of the new community.

"Never in a thousand years could this happen again," said JoAnn (Kaululaau) Taa, a Haleiwa native who lived in Southern California for 30 years before moving to Maui for five years to wait for a homestead.

"My neighbor on the left is Mike Bush. His mother and I graduated together from Kamehameha. Tamar’s dad, Hiram, and I were classmates until our junior year, when he left Kamehameha to attend Punahou.

"It’s just a wonderful thing to come back home after so many years, move into a new house and find neighbors you’ve known all your life," added Taa, whose husband, Tula, is retired entertainer Al Harrington’s half brother and one of four Punahou graduates on his street.

Tamar deFries lives with her husband, Jed Saronitman, three children and parents in a three-bedroom duplex deeded to her father.

She’s amazed by the many connections that tie her family to neighbors like Burrelle "Butch" Ayau and Mendes.

Hiram deFries, Northwest region general manager for Equilon, formerly Shell Oil Co., graduated from Punahou with Ayau’s brother, Henry, and played baseball with Mendes, 29-year-old Tamar deFries said.

Healii Heine and Aulii Hirahara, daughters of kumu hula Leinaala Kalama Heine, also own homes on the same street, and Tamar deFries was surprised to learn recently that they are cousins.

"I have family in Papakolea and Anianiku (Street, in Kewalo homestead) that I’ve never met before until now," she said.

Ayau, 58, waited 37 years for his entitlement opportunity.

"I thought I’d never get it while I was alive," said Ayau, who is retired from GTE Hawaiian Tel. "Homesteads in Waianae and Nanakuli were too far.

"Eight years ago, I heard there might be something happening in the Punchbowl area so I waited."

Ayau and his wife, the former Aulani Ching, sold their Kamehameha Heights home to move to Kalawahine Streamside.

"To me, this is a one-of-a-kind project because of the town location and the quality of the homes," Ayau said.

The Ayaus have legally adopted their 3-year-old grandson, Nahono, and will pass the deed to their large corner lot to him.

Ayau and his 70-year-old neighbor Arthur Tai Yong Lee, a retiree and newlywed whose wife is the former Lois "Lehua" Cummings, cleaned up much of the brush and planted ground covering on the ewa side of the cul-de-sac, which overlooks a ravine where the Board of Water Supply is planning to build a 2-million-gallon tank.

"It’s great that everyone is taking pride in improving their yards," Lee said.

An upper-middle-class community is a welcome addition to the area, say Papakolea and Kewalo homestead leaders.

"I like it," said Puni Kekauoha, president of the Papak¯lea Community Association. "It’s always nice to see our people coming up to another level of living."

Kekauoha was impressed by the newcomers’ support in helping to organize representation from the three communities for the recent homestead rally-march to the State Capitol.

Ainsley Halemanu, 49, a lifelong Anianik¬ Street resident, will miss the forestry behind his home that was displaced by the development, but he is looking forward to a good relationship with Kalawahine.

"There’s no jealousy," Halemanu said. "We’re all one, and this is the way Hawaiians should live.

"We’re glad to see them because they are part of our new generation. It’s going to take time to blend everything, but the relationship has been very good so far."

Among the Kalawahine residents are four Honolulu firefighters, including captains Richard Soo and Ed Simeona, and many professional people.

"This neighborhood is setting a new standard," said Hee, the stockbroker and a senior vice president at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. "There are professional, educated, hard-working Hawaiians who care about their community and take pride in living among our people here.

"That’s the real spirit I see at Kalawahine," added Hee. "We’re proud to be neighbors and happy with our environment."

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