After years of complaints, a Kaimuki home that was buried under a pile of garbage is finally being cleaned up. Crews hauled away three truckloads of rubbish from the house on 2nd Avenue on Tuesday.
"It's a good change. Now we can see the house that's underneath all the mess," said neighbor Jerome Mauricio.
"We really have to clear the outside first before we can really find out exactly how bad it is on the inside," said Art Challacombe, deputy director of the Department of Planning and Permitting.
People have been dumping garbage on the property since no one lives in the house anymore. Neighbors have said that the owner, Laura Matsuzaki, is mentally ill. She has racked up nearly $200,000 in property violations.
"Because of the problems we're having, not having the owner cooperate with us, we had to take this type of action," Challacombe said.
Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi helped to pass a bill that allows the city to clear out cluttered private properties. The city secured a court order and is now paying Pacific Junk Removal nearly $9,500 to get rid of the trash.
"It became such a health and safety issue for the neighbors. It's just not fair. They've been enduring this for over 10 years," Kobayashi said.
Neighbors are now worried about rats and roaches from the property invading nearby homes.
"We got like traps for rats and stuff at our house and we're just trying to be as prepared as we can for whatever is to come," said Mauricio.
Workers will set up rodent traps and spray for roaches. They plan to wear protective suits when they start cleaning up the inside of the home on Wednesday. They already hauled away about a quarter of the garbage.
Once the cleanup is finished in a few days, the house will be boarded up, but Matsuzaki is still the legal owner.
"She'll have to keep it clean and because she pays property tax, we can't foreclose on her," said Kobayashi. "(But) we may have to if she doesn't come back and conditions start to get back to the way they are now.