Lalea residents
endure cliffhanger

Of the condo dwellers considered
in danger, half go to a hotel

By Diana Leone

Of the 26 Hawaii Kai condominium units deemed "in harm's way" because they are downhill from unstable boulders, occupants of 13 units spent last night in the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

Of the other residents, most have been told of the recommendation that they leave their townhouses temporarily, until Kamehameha Schools, which owns the hill where the boulders are perched, and Castle & Cooke Hawaii, which developed the Lalea condominiums below, decide how to deal with the situation.

"We feel our advice to residents to relocate is prudent, based on the geologist's recommendation," Castle & Cooke Hawaii President Harry Saunders said in a letter to residents of Lalea buildings 7130 and 7168.

"Once we have ensured our residents' safety, we will work with Kamehameha Schools to eliminate the potential danger posed by the boulders and any other potential hazards that are identified," Saunders said in the letter.

Each of the boulders of concern weighs about 100 tons, said Doug Carlson, a communications consultant to Castle & Cooke.

"Experts have yet to determine how that could be done and should be done," Carlson said. "According to the geologists, that's a difficult task that cannot yet be nailed down."

"We're waiting for somebody to contact us" about how serious the threat is before deciding whether to move out temporarily, building 7168 resident Pat Wong said at 4:30 p.m. yesterday. He said his family couldn't attend an emergency Lalea residents' meeting Friday night because they were at the state prep football finals.

"I'm not nervous, but I do want to see what they have to say," Wong said. His teenage daughter, Lauren, using a computer in their garage, said she was a little worried.

Another couple in the building, who didn't want to give their names, said they weren't leaving their condo until they could be assured that houseguests they are expecting for the holidays could be accommodated at whatever temporary quarters are provided.

Others in the affected buildings are staying put until they figure out what to do with their pets.

That's the case for Sione and Tracy Galvez in building 7130, the couple whose cars were struck by two boulders Thanksgiving night. That incident prompted Kamehameha Schools and Castle & Cooke to hire the firm EarthTech to investigate the geological stability of the hillside.

"Without the dogs we'd have gone to the hotel," Sione Galvez said yesterday.

In suggesting that affected residents leave their homes for now, Saunders and Hamilton McCubbin, chief executive officer of Kamehameha Schools, called the situation "extremely serious."

Residents of other Lalea condo units said they believed assurances that their units are not in danger because they aren't as close to the hillside.

"Please don't sensationalize this situation," said one woman washing her car, who didn't want to give her name. "It's not sensational."

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