City halts hill work after boulder falls


POSTED: Friday, January 09, 2009

The city has ordered a developer to stop work on his 45-acre mountainside housing project after a boulder crashed into a down-slope Nuuanu house.


;[Preview] Boulder Halts Nuuanu Development Work

The city has ordered a developer to temporarily stop working on a Nuuanu subdivision after a large boulder fell from the site and struck a house.

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“;Yesterday's boulder incident was not a natural occurrence or due to the instability of the hillside,”; said David Tanoue, acting director of the city Department of Planning and Permitting. “;It was caused by the contractor while rocks and soil were being removed.”;

Patrick Shin, president of developer Laumaka LLC, which was once the state's largest locally owned federal contractor, declined comment.

The developer's attorney, David Rosen, said, “;Of course, the developer was aware of it.”;

But he would not say why Shin, after the boulder fell Wednesday, allowed heavy-machinery operators to continue working, including clearing trees.

The city will have a geotechnical engineer review the construction area and put in place any safeguards that might be required, Tanoue said.

“;When we know what those results are, we may have a comment,”; Rosen said.

A geotechnical survey was required as part of the permit approval process and indicated the area was suitable for development, the city said.

Homeowner Bud Johnstone said yesterday he and his wife, Cindy, “;didn't sleep well last night”; after their house on Kahawalu Drive was struck by a 24-by-28-inch boulder Wednesday afternoon.

The rock hit the corner of a shed, cracking the wall of the master bedroom where the couple usually sleeps. They slept in another room Wednesday night.

“;It's good as a temporary measure, and we would like to see that a thorough review gets done,”; Johnstone said.

The Johnstones and other area residents have opposed the development due to concerns of rockfalls and increased flooding, and the Nuuanu Valley Association sued the city because of a lack of information regarding soils and other reports the developer was required to submit to the city.

In 2002 a boulder crashed into another Nuuanu home, killing Dara Onishi, who was sleeping in her bed.

The Department of Planning and Permitting “;generally doesn't get involved in the means and methods of the construction,”; Tanoue said. But any hazardous conditions must be mitigated, and since it is a construction site, it must be safe before they continue, he said.

He said the city wants to ensure the contractor has safety measures in place for earthwork, and the city inspects the work on a regular basis during construction.

Shin was sentenced in 2006 to 12 days in federal prison and three years' probation and fined $100,000 for altering a price quote for a Navy repair project, increasing it by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Rosen said, “;Yesterday we made numerous attempts to communicate with property owners, and they were too busy doing media interviews,”; adding that he never received a call back.

But Johnstone said he never received a phone call or visit from Shin or Rosen, just a worker who asked whether he could remove the rock. The boulder was still there yesterday.