BACKGROUND:

The Kakaina subdivision in Waimanalo is a residential homestead project that was initially designed as a 44 home subdivision to be constructed on lands that were transferred from the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) in February 2007.

When DLNR was the property owner, the land was utilized by adjacent land owners primarily as passive extensions of their properties. However, at least one resident retained a revocable permit (RP), a short term land disposition, from DLNR which allowed him to utilize the DLNR land for horses. When the land was transferred from DLNR to DHHL, all existing land use agreements with nearby residents were cancelled and everyone was asked to vacate the property. Needless to say, some hard feelings were directed toward the DHHL, which is understandable.

Attached is a letter the department received from one homeowner.

As our department’s mission is to place 50% blood quantum native Hawaiians on lands we control, the DHHL initially designed the residential development to be compliant with City and County building codes and guidelines for transportation connectivity – the “complete streets initiative” –  along with area drainage improvements that would help to address pre-existing flooding conditions for our neighbors.

The DHHL project was discussed before the Waimanalo Neighborhood Board on numerous occasions throughout 2012 – in July Commissioner Tassill reported that the ground breaking occurred on the Kakaina project, in November the Board discussed surveyors being on site, and on February 11, 2013, the Board and the community discussed the ingress and egress planned for the Kakaina subdivision.

At this meeting, residents adjacent to the project voiced their concerns regarding possible increased traffic and parking impacts along Mekia and Poalima Streets, as these residents had been accustomed to living along a cul-de-sac with very little traffic. In compliance with the City’s connectivity standards, DHHL designed this subdivision with a primary access from Hihimanu Street, a secondary access from Kakaina Street, and a third access point, from Poalima Street. At this point, the design was complete and DHHL was ready to begin construction of the subdivision.

However, following the February NB meeting, on-going discussions with the community and elected officials led to DHHL’s consultation with the City to consider allowing the DHHL to close the third entry point from Poalima Street to allay the fears and concerns of our neighbors. At a follow up meeting in April called by the City with DHHL and the neighboring residents, the City agreed to allow DHHL to close the access point to the subdivision from Poalima Street. At this meeting, it was also explained to our neighbors that this would lead to the elimination of off-site drainage improvements that would help address some of the pre-existing flooding conditions, as well as delay construction of the project until the City approved the redesign of the project. Based on our neighbors’ input, DHHL agreed to redesign the project to accommodate the community’s requests. The subsequent subdivision redesign and the resubmission of plans for permit approval by the City created an unanticipated delay in the resumption of construction during which high winds and torrential rains buffeted the partially completed construction site.

Had the department not agreed to be a good neighbor and redesign the project, the project would most likely be completed by now. However, in deference to our neighboring residents, DHHL’s attempt to accommodate their wishes ultimately created other unforeseen impacts.

Throughout the process the department and its contractors have made a concerted effort to engage the community through on-site monthly meetings along with six bi-weekly newsletters that are mailed to each of our surrounding neighbors. Contractors have provided their cellular phone and email contact information so that they can be reached by neighboring residents at all times.

In addition to this public outreach, the names of neighbors who had project related construction claims have been forwarded to the contractor’s insurance company for claims processing.

The department believes that it has done its due diligence and continues to try to be a good neighbor and complete the project as expeditiously as possible pending the final approvals from the City.

Please note that the Kakaina subdivision is the second undivided interest community being built recently by DHHL in Waimanalo. The first was the nearby Kumuhau subdivision completed in July 2011.

From Rob Perez:

I just returned from a meeting with some residents who live adjacent to or near the Kakaina subdivision project. They tell me that DHHL has done a poor job of addressing their problems related to the ongoing construction. For roughly the past year, they said, they have been dealing with excessive noise, dust, vibrations caused by the heavy equipment, flooding, mold, rodents and other issues. They also said DHHL has not kept them adequately informed about developments with the project.

Some of these same issues were mentioned in Sen. Laura Thielen’s Nov. 18 letter to Darrell Young. I have many of the same questions that she raised, so if you can provide me with a copy of the agency’s written response to the senator, that likely can answer some of my questions.

Given that these concerns aren’t new, gathering responses shouldn’t require researching new, unfamiliar matters. My deadline is Friday, so if you could get responses to me by noon Friday, I would appreciate it. That way I’ll be able to include DHHL’s perspective in the story.

Here are the questions:

• What is the scope of the Kakaina project, including how many homes will be built and the total cost of the project? When did the construction start and when is it expected to be completed?

  • 45 house lots
  • Notice to Proceed: December 3, 2012
  • Original estimated completion date: September 4, 2013
  • Current estimated completion date due to delays in redesign and permit approvals: November 10, 2014

• Did DHHL require the contractor to make changes based on the concerns raised by homeowners along Poalima and Mekia streets?

The construction team (DHHL, contractor, and construction manager) has been addressing issues as they are brought to our attention; and as much as possible, attempting to anticipate and mitigate potential problems. Some complaints, such as noise and dust, are to be expected with any construction project. The contractor has taken steps to minimize the effects, but cannot eliminate them entirely.

• What has DHHL done to address the Poalima/Mekia street flooding problems that residents say have been caused by the Kakaina work?

After the first reported incident on October 27, the contractor reinforced the earthen berm, added a second berm within the site, installed two silt fences and cleaned up the adjacent lots.

Another storm occurred the weekend of November 9-10. While the amount of silt runoff was minimal, the amount of rain was more than the detention pond and berms could handle and there was flooding into Poalima Street.

The contractor has since completed the concrete drainage ditch along the boundary at Poalima Street. This should prevent runoff from future storms from flowing into the Poalima/Mekia streets intersection.

• Why was it necessary to raise the elevation of the Kakaina site by several feet along the border with some of the existing homes? Will that be changed based on the homeowner concerns?

The lots within the Kakaina Subdivision are designed to drain storm water away from the neighboring lots and into the internal roadways. Therefore the rear of the lots are higher. (See attached)

• What has DHHL done to address the damages that homeowners say were caused by the Kakaina work? The damages include cracked walls, windows and other surfaces, structural settling, flooding and mold, according to the homeowners.

The contractor’s insurance agent has been contacting affected residents to file claims.

• Sections of the dust barrier surrounding the construction site collapsed during the recent President’s Day weekend. Homeowners say that was the second time sections of the barrier have collapsed. What has been done to prevent that from happening again?

First of all, as stated above, the Notice to Proceed was given December 2012, with anticipated completion by September 2013. Had we been able to follow our initial timeline, the dust screens would have been taken down some time during the summer of 2013. It was never anticipated that they would have been up this long awaiting our resumption of construction.

Nevertheless, it appears the combination of age, wet soil conditions surrounding the posts and high wind have loosened the posts and have caused the posts and/or dust screens to fall over. Paradigm has responded by removing any fallen posts and dust screens as they occur. Paradigm has inspected the current condition of the dust fence and removed any posts or dust screens which may appear a potential problem should high winds and rains be encountered again.

Paradigm will inspect the current condition of all fence posts to assess the level of repair required. Loose posts will be removed, the hole re-drilled and the posts reset with Controlled Low Strength Material (CLSM). CLSM is self-compacting cementitious fill. Repair of the dust screens will occur when more favorable weather conditions prevail and the site dries out for work to continue.

• Is the agency satisfied with the work Paradigm Construction has done on the project, including its oversight of the construction activities?

Yes.

• Given the close proximity of the Kakaina site to an existing neighborhood and given DHHL’s experience in developing subdivisions, including in-fill ones, why wasn’t the agency better able to anticipate and minimize some of the problems that have cropped up with this project?

Most DHHL projects are in undeveloped areas with few existing residents as those are the type of lands that have been conveyed to the department.

With respect to the Kakaina development, in accommodating our neighboring residents’ concerns, the department encountered other challenges in redesigning the project, obtaining requisite permitting approvals from the county and constructing new drainage improvements. During that same period, inclement weather exacerbated the challenges.

As we stated above, the Kakaina subdivision is the second undivided interest community being built recently by DHHL in Waimanalo. The first was the nearby Kumuhau subdivision completed in July 2011. We experienced none of these problems there.

It should also be noted that your perception of “close proximity” could be the result of some of the existing houses being non-compliant with the City’s five-foot setback requirements as their backyards were vacant lands until 2007.

• Do you disagree with the homeowners’ contention that DHHL has not adequately addressed their concerns and has not adequately kept them informed of developments with the project?

Yes. Since complaints were aired at the Waimanalo Neighborhood Board meeting on November 4, 2013, the construction team has initiated monthly “talk-story” sessions and a twice-monthly newsletter. The “talk-story” sessions are held on the project site to meet with neighboring residents. The newsletters provide a progress summary of the project, upcoming construction activities and answer any concerns or comments posed by the surrounding neighbors.

Even if they elect not to attend these public outreach meetings or ignore our mailed information to them, we will continue to reach out and be available to our neighbors to hear and address their concerns as we go about our mission in building quality affordable homes for our 50% blood quantum native Hawaiian beneficiaries.

Please provide any other information that will help put these issues into the proper context.

For your convenience, we have provided the six newsletters, an original site plan showing the three access points and the revised site plan eliminating the access point to Poalima Street as we discussed in our response to you.