Residents relocated from the Lalea housing complex after a rockslide nearly a year ago are expected to return Nov. 15. Here, Jenise Kahoonei ties large cable netting to mountainside supports.

Residents to return
to complex made

Nearly a year since a Thanksgiving Day rockslide prompted Lenora Low to evacuate her Hawaii Kai townhouse, she is looking forward to being home in time for the holiday.

Low and her Pomeranian-Chihuahua, Sam, are among 26 families that relocated from the Lalea townhouse complex after the rockslide. They are expected to move back into their homes Nov. 15.

"I'm glad to be going home," said Low. "Nothing's the same as your own home."

Boulders crashed down the hillside next to Low's townhouse Nov. 28, crushing two vehicles owned by Sione and Tracy Galvez, and rocks pelted the Galvezes' townhouse as they were having Thanksgiving dinner.

Residents of Buildings 7130 and 7168 initially moved to hotels, but most residents have relocated to homes in Hawaii Kai, including other units in Lalea. A few are living in Waikiki and Makiki.

Work on two reinforced steel mesh fences, one about a fourth of the way from the top and another at the bottom of the hillside, will conclude by the end of this month. Ground crews have also been stitching together layers of steel mesh draped across five acres of hillside.

A bottom layer of cable netting covers rock outcroppings that pose potential hazards, and two layers of steel netting were placed on top. An existing drainage ditch between the homes and the hillside was widened and deepened.

The condominiums were built in 1996, after a geological survey was done. Rocks deemed dangerous were tied with cable.

Landowner Kamehameha Schools and developer Castle & Cooke Hawaii have paid between $3 million and $5 million for mitigation and relocation costs, said Kekoa Paulsen, spokesman for Kamehameha Schools.

Paulsen said costs will be shared, but the division has not been determined.

Ed Johnson and his wife and son were home that Thanksgiving evening.

"We heard it rolling down and crash," he said. "It sounded like an explosion."

Johnson said that after the incident, they were worried, "not knowing what else might come down."

He praised the landowner and developer's handling of the situation.

"Of course, it's not nice being out of your own place, but if you've got to be, it was handled in the best way possible," he said.

Low checked into the Hilton Hawaiian Village at midnight after a Dec. 6 meeting with Kamehameha Schools, which owns the hill where the boulders are perched, and Castle & Cooke, which developed the condominiums below. At the meeting, residents were urged to relocate while the hillside was secured.

Low stayed in the hotel for a month.

"A lot of people had to leave their pets behind," she said.

Low took Sam to her mother's house, she said.

"In the beginning they didn't know what was going to happen," Low said. "Then they said we had to look for housing for at least a year."

"It was difficult to find a place that took a pet," she said, but eventually she found a Kalama Valley home minutes away and collects mail at her old home.

Low received $1,650 a month to find replacement housing for her one-bedroom unit.

"They really went out of their way to take care of us," Low said. "They've been really generous with the money and time. They just wanted to make sure everyone was safe."

It could have been worse, she said. "I'm really glad no one got hurt. That's the bottom line."


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