As construction activity ramps up, city plans more Palolo hillside repairs

Updated: Apr. 18, 2020 at 5:34 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu’s stay-at-home order places a priority on construction activity. And some residents near a collapsing hillside in Palolo could reap the benefits.

City contractors are in the middle of a $6 million effort to reinforce the ground under Kuahea Street, where nearby homes have been destroyed by the shifting earth.

Hawaii News Now has learned that the city is now working on a second project that will shore up another section of the hillside, where the damage has spread.

It’s likely to be added to the list of shovel-ready projects that the city wants to fast-track during the pandemic-induced economic downturn.

“We’re trying to save Waiomao Road. It’s under design so we don’t exactly know the entire scope and any impacts to any private properties," said Mark Yonamine, Director of the City Department of Design and Construction.

Residents said it’s about time.

“In the last six weeks, we’ve seen ten homes crumbling, underneath their foundations, their garages," said Kehau Otsuka, who’s own home is being split by two large underground cracks.

Kehau Otsuka said she started seeing cracks in the foundation and other structural problems two...
Kehau Otsuka said she started seeing cracks in the foundation and other structural problems two years ago. In the past six weeks, she said the problems have gotten worse.(None)

Since Hawaii News Now began reporting on the sliding hillside in 2017, dozens of residents have evacuated due to damage to their homes.

The city, meanwhile, has purchased five parcels to settle lawsuits or make way for construction.

City Councilmember Ann Kobayashi believes the city should condemn more damaged properties.

“We’ve been putting money in the budget every year, we’ve been requesting Design and Construction to do something and they kept saying it wasn’t the city’s fault," she said.

"It is the city’s fault because all of that earth has been moving.”

Josh Barnes, who has lived on Kuahea Street for more than two decades, said he hopes the city will condemn his home otherwise he’ll be forced to sue.

He and his family moved out last summer due to large cracks in the walls. Since then, his home has sunk four feet underground.

“One big concern for us is when a gap opened up in an exterior wall, and we started getting rats coming in," he said.

“It would be great if we could recover financially ... otherwise I expect to be working into my nineties.”

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