Wednesday, February 17, 1999

Administrator quits;
leasehold program
in limbo

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


Sally Cravalho, administrator for the city leasehold conversion program, has resigned effective March 4, leaving the program in limbo.

Cravalho, in a letter dated yesterday, said lack of staff support for the program has caused her stress and was a key reason for her decision. "I simply give up, as it has taken its toll," she wrote.

Under the city's mandatory conversion program, qualifying lessees can petition to have condemnation begin when a landowner either refuses to sell the fee interest under their units or no purchase price can be negotiated.

Lessees in the Kuapa Isle townhouse project in Hawaii Kai were the first to undergo the process two years ago.

Cravalho runs the program with the help of one clerk. Two other positions have been funded but not filled.

A year ago, the administration proposed deleting Cravalho's personal services contract position and putting her responsibilities with others until City Council Budget Chairman John Henry Felix, a major advocate for condominium leasehold reform, fought to restore it.

The administration, which had eliminated the Department of Housing and Community Development, where the program had been placed, later characterized the deletion as a mistake and put her in the Department of Community Services.

Cravalho's letter stated other reasons including "lack of departmental support" and "the very high potential of increased liability to the city directly related to the lack of adequate staff."

Cravalho did not return calls yesterday.

City spokeswoman Carol Costa said Cravalho met with Managing Director Ben Lee.

As a result, Costa said, "we will be moving forward immediately with the hiring of the two approved but unfilled positions through the personal services contract route." Costa said the city also intends to address other concerns Cravalho raised.

Felix said, however, he has gone to Budget Director Malcolm Tom several times to lobby for more positions "and he assured me that they would give the necessary resources to carry out her mission."

Felix said he wasn't surprised that Cravalho had quit since the job was "very complicated and very emotionally draining" given the opposition to the process.

Michael Pang, principal broker for Monarch Properties, said lessees of about 16 condominiums have met the minimum qualifications and are now going through the conversion process. His company represents about 12 of them. "If she goes, I don't know where we're going to be," Pang said.

Phyllis Zerbe of the Small Landowners Association of Hawaii, which has opposed mandatory conversion, said she also isn't surprised by Cravalho's departure.

"I would imagine she was inundated," Zerbe said. "To qualify lessees takes a lot of work."

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