April 2022 Email Update
The March median price for single-family homes was a record $1,150,000 (21.1% higher than March 2021) and for condos was a record $515,500 (14.3% higher than March 2021). The lack of available single-family home inventory continues to constrain sales with the numbers dropping 11.5% compared to March 2021. The number of condo sales rose 7.3%. Buyers continue to struggle finding a home with only 1.0 months of single-family home inventory and 1.5 months of condo inventory available. The nationwide shortage of available homes is likely contributing to the lack of inventory here on the islands. Tim and Tracey have spoken to potential clients and property management clients about selling and conducting a 1031 Exchange to defer capital gains taxes only to find out about the lack of available properties in the desired area to invest their funds.
Governor David Ige let the latest emergency proclamation addressing the COVID-19 pandemic to expire on March 25th. The state’s Safe Travels program and the state’s requirement to wear a face mask in indoor public spaces have ended for the time being. The state is unlikely to revive the Safe Travels program in the event of another surge because federal funds to the states to address the pandemic have ended. The governor did not rule out a future mask requirement should a new outbreak threaten Hawaii’s vulnerable hospital system.
Hawaii continues to suffer from net migration losses and its population continues to shrink. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that Hawaii’s population dropped 0.7% from the July 2021 figure to 1,441,573. Oahu alone lost 13,686 residents as people continue to leave the island in search of better opportunities.
Hawaii lawmakers received little information from the state Department of Health DOH during a 1 ½ hour brief on April 4th why the new Kaneohe mental health facility has yet to open its doors to patients over a year after contractors completed construction. A state senator expressed bewilderment saying, “I don’t know why it has taken so long.” The deputy director stated, “we need to take responsibility for that over DOH.” If recent history is a guide, incompetence and corruption will go unpunished and those that failed to execute their jobs will receive their pensions.
Mayor Rick Blangiardi pointedly addressed two significant issues in his state of the city speech on March 15th. The first announcement described the city’s new plan to shorten the disastrous rail project and end it near Circuit Court at the corner of South Street and Halekauwila Street in Kakaako, eliminating two stations. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) must still approve the plan for the city to qualify for the remainder of the federal funding. In another notable development, the mayor acknowledged the Department of Planning and Permitting’s (DPP) abysmal performance over the past few decades. He highlighted the city’s new electronic permitting system for residential and commercial projects and push to hire more staff as part of the administration’s plan to eliminate the delays. Unfortunately, he did not mention any initiatives to streamline the process or eliminate any unnecessary red tape contributing to the delays.
Stopping the rail project 1.25 miles short of the original goal could end a costly Kakaako land dispute. Negotiations to obtain two acres of land through eminent domain could cost taxpayers up to $200 million. HART has already paid over $23 million in legal fees on the dispute with Howard Hughes Corp., the developer of Ward Village. City council members are questioning the practicality of ending the project near Halekauwila Street since there are currently no convenient bus routes from the last proposed station. A lack of convenient mass transit options near the last Honolulu stop will result in even fewer riders and result in taxpayers picking up the tab for even greater subsidies. Take a look at this note from KHON2:
The Honolulu City Council voted to give condominiums more time to comply with a 2018 law requiring automatic fire sprinkler installation or passing a fire safety evaluation. The measure changes the deadline to complete the fire safety inspection to August 31, 2022, versus May 3, 2022, and gives the associations until 2030 to receive a passing score, versus the 2025 deadline. The Honolulu Fire Department (HFD) reported only twelve of the 178 buildings deciding to take the fire safety evaluation have passed. One member of the council proposed to loosen the criteria since so many buildings are failing the evaluations.
The City and County of Honolulu is back to square one in finding a new landfill location after the Landfill Advisory Committee rejected all six potential sites. The state Land Use Commission ordered the closure of the current Waimanalo Gulch landfill, located between Kapolei and Waianae, by March 2, 2028, and the city must select a new location by the end of 2022. The criteria passed by the state legislature last September and the Board of Water Supply’s policy may be too strict to find any suitable location on Oahu.
River of Life Mission, a Christian nonprofit, closed its Chinatown kitchen on March 31st. The organization served free meals for 35 years and community members viewed the site as a magnet for the homeless population in one of Oahu’s oldest neighborhoods. The mission will distribute meals from four vans bringing food to the homeless population versus having the homeless come to Chinatown. The goal is to team up with outreach centers and work towards getting the homeless off the streets and receiving the necessary treatment and help to find shelter. The organization plans on serving the same number of people per day in four separate locations. Here's a quick report from KITV4:
Katherine Kealoha, the disgraced Honolulu assistant prosecutor, will turn witness against her brother, Dr. Rudolph Puana. The Department of Justice accuses Puana of health care fraud and conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and fentanyl. Kealoha, currently serving a 13-year sentence for corruption, is one of forty-eight witnesses for the prosecution. The same team that successfully prosecuted the Kealohas is bringing the case against Puana and conducting other corruption allegations involving Hawaii’s political members and their business supporters.
Hawaiian Airlines was the top performing airline in on-time performance for the 18th consecutive year. Ninety percent of Hawaiian’s flights were on-time in 2021, 9% higher than the United State’s industry average. Hawaiian expanded its routes in 2021 adding flights between Honolulu and Austin, Honolulu and Orlando, and Maui to Phoenix while restoring international flights from Honolulu to Sydney, Tahiti, and American Samoa.
Two Mokulele pilots received recognition for rescuing two people whose single-engine plane crashed in the jungle near Maui’s Hana Airport. The duo found the downed plane that was leaking fuel, turned off the planes electrical breakers to prevent igniting the fuel, and helped direct the fire and rescue team to the site to extract the pilot pinned inside the cockpit. Meet the pilots on this video by KHON2:
The University of Hawaii (UH) Rainbow Wahine earned an automatic bid to the NCAA women’s basketball tournament by following up its regular season Big West Championship with winning the Big West Conference tournament. The Wahine overcame a 26-21 deficit to the University of California Irvine Anteaters and delivered in the second half to run away with a 59-48 victory. UH received the 15th seed in the Wichita Region against 2nd seeded Baylor University. Baylor thumped the Rainbow Wahine 89-49 on March 29th, ending a successful season. The UH men’s basketball team finished 3rd in the Big West Conference regular season and lost in the semifinals of the Big West Conference tournament. 2022 turned out to be a great year for UH basketball overall.
Former teammates and coaches of UH quarterback, Colt Brennan, spread his ashes off the coast of Waikiki Beach in a final farewell. The 2007 Heisman Trophy finalist died of a drug overdose last year.
A 987-page environmental assessment of the Kaiwa Ridge Trail, more commonly known as the Lanikai Pillbox Trail, documents the environmental damage, neighborhood impact, and danger associated with the unrestrained growth of another natural treasure. The Lanikai neighborhood suffers from visitors jockeying for parking, noise, and trespassing. Stott Property Management, LLC managed a Bluestone townhouse located next to the trail and disclosed to potential tenants the noise generated by hikers heading up the trail early in the morning to capture the spectacular sunrises at the pillboxes. Observers counted 116 people entering the trail between 5:00 am and 5:45 am one day in June 2018. The owner finally decided to sell because the noise resulted in lower than acceptable rents and reduced enjoyment during visits. Erosion from the unmanaged trail results in muddy rivers of water running to the ocean and further damaging distressed coral in Lanikai Bay. The erosion has made the steep parts of the trail treacherous. There were no more than four rescues per year between 2000 and 2012. The fire department conducted twenty-six rescues in 2017 and Tim and Tracey witnessed two helicopter rescues during the recent Christmas holiday from their Kailua home. The report recommends a variety of trail repairs and suggests limiting the number of hikers daily. Neighbors are asking the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to do something. Enjoy these beautiful views taken by Joel West Barish:
The Honolulu Zoo’s struggles made front-page news again April 3rd. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser quoted Tim and Tracey’s friend who visited the Honolulu Zoo on April 1st, “it looks like they’re struggling. It looks like they’re trying to do a lot with only a few people.” The friend’s mother was much blunter when she helped celebrate Tim’s 55th birthday the following day stating, the zoo was not a great zoo.
In a bit of hopeful news, Hawaii’s most common corals show more resiliency to warming waters and rising ocean acidity from rising carbon dioxide levels. A 22-month study observed three types of Hawaii coral in four tanks. The researchers maintained one tank at current ocean temperature and acidity, one tank with warming conditions, one tank with rising acidity levels, and one tank combining warming and acidification. 46% percent of the most vulnerable coral species survived the most difficult conditions and 71% of Hawaii’s most populous coral species survived. The two Porites species were able to maintain normal growth rates and metabolism throughout the study offering hope since these coral species are the most common types of coral found worldwide and are key to reef building.
Two friends that studied Zoology and Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaii founded Hui Ku Maoli Ola, a Kaneohe native plant nursery, decades ago. The nursery initially contracted with Home Depot to provide endemic Hawaiian plants to customers and now provides native plant landscaping services and the pair spreads their passion through a non-profit. Their goal is to reverse the decline in native plant species where Hawaii is home to 44% of the nations endangered species and restore plant populations that provide food and shelter for many of Hawaii’s native birds. You can learn more by visiting their website.
Hawaii’s sad record of introducing plants and animals that become problems reared its ugly head again in the form of Maui’s axis deer population. The state of Hawaii introduced five axis deer to Maui in 1959 followed by four the next year in a bid to create new hunting opportunities. Governor David Ige issued an emergency proclamation on March 23rd to address the growing nuisance. A committee in 2002 issued a report urging the state to aggressively contain Maui’s exploding deer population that doubled every four years and predicted safety, economic, and environmental consequences. The state kicked the can down the road and Maui has dedicated $1.5 million this year and another $1 million next year to stop hungry deer from invading farms, back yards, and urban areas in search for food.
A bill to establish a pilot program to eradicate feral chickens across the state has received passionate opposition from a group, Save Hawaii Chickens. The group is arguing that feral chickens could be an important food source and the eggs are “cage free.” Do you know how to cook a feral Hawaii chicken? Boil the chicken in a pot with a rock and the chicken is ready when the rock softens. Some people complain that the feral chickens are messy and noisy while feral chicken advocates emphasize that chickens eat centipedes and other pesty insects. Tim witnessed one law-abiding chicken use the crosswalk to “cross the road.” The chicken had no comment when Tim asked why the chicken did it. Environmentalists have valid concerns about the unforeseen consequences of using a proposed bird contraceptive, OvoControl feed, daily. The feed can contaminate soil, vertebrates, and water sources.
The Awesome Foundation Oahu recently gave out its 100th $1,000 grant and Hawaii News Now featured the group is a series of clips. Tracey founded the Oahu group after hearing about The Awesome Foundation while listening to a segment featured on Hawaii Public Radio back in 2012 with her son, Mark. The original members founded the first group in Boston in 2009 and it has spawned groups worldwide to give $1,000 grants to individuals and organizations that have an awesome idea. There is no red tape since the members do not write off their contributions. They meet monthly and choose who the next $1,000 recipient is based on the proposals that they receive. You can learn more by visiting their website using the link below: