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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Lalea won't be home for holidays

By Suzanne Roig and Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writers

HAWAI'I KAI — It is highly unlikely that residents of at least 18 Lalea condominium units who have left their homes because of a threat of rockslides will be home by Christmas, Kamehameha Schools said yesterday.

"We told them to fully expect not being in their home for the holidays," said Neil Hannahs, director of the land assets division for Kamehameha Schools.

Engineers and soil experts are evaluating the conditions and the threats from the crumbling mountainside above the Lalea condominiums in Hawai'i Kai and other residential properties, said Kekoa Paulsen, Kamehameha Schools spokesman.

Kamehameha Schools owns the land above the condominiums and several of the hillsides around Hawai'i Kai, Paulsen said. The Lalea condominium project was built by in 1998 by Castle & Cooke Hawai'i, which is sharing the cost of moving the residents.

Residents of the two condominium buildings were urged to leave their homes immediately on Friday after structural engineers determined that loose boulders, some weighing as much as 100 tons, could come crashing down the hillside behind the structures.

Philip Nerney, attorney for the condominium owners association, said residents so far have been pleased with the response of the landowner and the developer. "Everything we're hearing from Kamehameha Schools and Castle & Cooke is appropriate, responsible and much-appreciated."

But Nerney said the situation is uncomfortable. "Obviously, people are having their holidays and their homes and their lives disrupted," he said.

Over the long term, residents are concerned about what will happen, Nerney said. "They want to know whether this will have a happy ending and we don't know the answer to that right now," he said.

Castle & Cooke is looking into rental units or places with kitchenettes that are more residential rather than a hotel room, according to company communications consultant Doug Carlson. For now, Hannahs said that residents who are living in the hotel are being paid a $50 a day per person allowance for living expenses; those who are staying with family and friends receive $75 per person allowance.

Hannahs said all of the residents have been offered assistance with living expenses but no one has been forced to leave. "It's their personal property. They need to make their own decision," he said.

Kamehameha Schools last week offered to put up all 26 affected families at the HIlton Hawaiian Village Hotel. Only 16 families have taken the estate up on its offer and three or four other families have gone to stay with family and friends, Carlson said. Others are out of town or remain at the condos.

The evacuation began after two 4-foot boulders crashed down the hillside on Thanksgiving, smashing into two vehicles and a window, despite thick heavy braided cables anchored into the ridge. The boulders smashed into two cars owned by Sione and Tracy Galvez after an especially hard rain.

Geologists and engineers say three elements make the situation dangers above the two condominiums: The steepness of the slope; the fissures within the boulders; and the lack of a foundation beneath the boulders.