July 2021 Email Update
Governor David Ige issued his 21st emergency proclamation on 6/7/2021 extending the eviction moratorium through 8/6/2021. The governor announced that he intends to end the eviction moratorium when this emergency proclamation expires since most struggling tenants should have had the opportunity to apply for financial relief and the tourism industry has started to recover.
The governor signed into law a bill that will make evictions more time consuming for landlords that have been forced to keep tenants who have fallen behind on rent. The law has been set to expire one year after the governor suspends his eviction moratorium. The law significantly expands the information required in the landlord’s demand letter to the tenant, requires that the landlord enter mediation if the tenant schedules mediation, and sets a timeline when a landlord can file an eviction based on how many months of rent the tenant owes. The purpose of the law is to prevent the circuit court system from being overwhelmed with eviction suits the moment the governor’s eviction moratorium ends. In other words, landlords must contend with another burden created by state government without any compensation for their sacrifice. It should not surprise anyone when there is a greater shortage of residential rental property available in 2022 since landlords that have had to house nonpaying tenants plan on selling as soon as they can force their tenants to move. Here is a link with more specifics regarding the new law.
Most owners of condos in 377 older Oahu high rises face expensive projects to make their buildings compliant with a fire safety requirement passed in 2018 in reaction to the Marco Polo fire in July 2017 that killed four people. The law requires condominiums without automatic sprinkler systems to Pass a Life Safety Evaluation that reviews 17 areas of the building’s construction and systems. The Life Safety Assessments are due to the Honolulu Fire Department no later than Spring 2024 and 102 of the buildings have completed the assessments. Only six of those buildings have passed and the other 96 face expensive projects to upgrade the building’s fire protection systems or install automatic sprinkler systems. Condominium owners in these buildings likely face assessments totaling thousands of dollars.
The governor relaxed social distancing requirements further on July 8th as the state estimated 60% of island residents will be fully vaccinated. Fully vaccinated U.S. travelers flying domestically will be able to avoid Hawaii’s quarantine restrictions provided they upload their vaccination records to the state’s Safe Travels website and arrive with a hard copy of their vaccination records. Indoor social events can consist of 25 people and outdoor social events can consist of 75 people. Restaurants may increase seating capacity to 75% of their maximum capacity if they do not seat groups of more than 25 people indoors and 75 people outdoors. Ige plans on dropping all restrictions once 70% of Hawaii residents are fully vaccinated.
Visitor counts continue to improve. Daily passenger numbers in June were about 80% of the daily visitor counts in June 2019. An unpleasant result of the pandemic related vacation industry shutdown has manifested itself into a critical rental car shortage in Hawaii. The nation’s largest rental car companies sold most of their rental car fleets last year to survive the pandemic and are currently unable to buy enough cars to meet surging demand due to supply chain disruptions in the auto industry. The shortage is most pronounced on Maui and Kauai where advertised daily rates were as high as $599 per day. Visitors are encouraged to reserve rental cars before making the remainder of their travel arrangements. Visitors are also getting frustrated with the state’s restrictions on restaurant capacity, attractions, indoor mask requirements, and the hospitality industry’s staffing struggles. A recent survey showed the number of visitors who would recommend a Hawaii vacation to their friends and family in the next six months dropped from 86% in January 2021 to 64% in June 2021.
The United States Interior Department announced it will transfer 80 acres of federal land next to existing Ewa Beach neighborhoods to the Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL). The announcement came one month after the Honolulu Star Advertiser wrote about the federal government’s repeated failure to transfer excess federal land to DHHL per the 1995 Hawaiian Home Lands Recovery Act to repay the Native Hawaiian community for 1,500 acres that were improperly seized in earlier decades. DHHL expects develop about 400 homes on the parcel which will make a very small dent in the 11,000 Native Hawaiian households on the waiting list. To learn more about this topic please click the link below.
The current city council members appear to take an interest addressing the long decline of city parks throughout Oahu. While not revolutionary, a new measure calls for publishing a schedule for park maintenance and setting standards for public facilities at those parks, like restrooms, sports courts, and ball fields. Department of Parks and Recreation Director Laura Thielen tried to dodge and weave a question about a maintenance schedule by stating “I’m not clear what you mean by maintenance schedule.” She mentioned that there are mowing crews that mow the parks in two districts weekly and two other districts once every two weeks. Tim and Tracey remember attending their young children’s’ soccer games in Mililani where the grass was up to their knees and a kicked ball quickly stopped. Apparently watching the grass grow at city parks is often discussed at neighborhood board meetings. Thielen told the city council that the department hoped to have a maintenance manual by the end of this year but staffing and training employees will make reaching goals difficult. It seems that outsourcing routine maintenance to local contractors has not even been considered.
The Merrie Monarch competition, Hawaii’s premiere Hula event, took place from Thursday, June 24th, through Saturday, June 26th with no live audience this year. The competition and festival were cancelled last year due to the pandemic related restrictions. KFVE broadcasted the event from July 1st through July 3rd when the results were announced. Fifteen halau (hula schools) from the Big Island, Kauai, Maui, and Oahu completed along with seven Miss Aloha Hula soloists. The competitors perform hula kahiko, dancing to historical chants, and hula auana, dancing to more contemporary Hawaiian songs. You can see some of the performances and the winner via the links below.
Oahu high school softball star, Jocelyn Alo, led the NCAA National Champion Oklahoma Sooners to victory over Florida State on June 10th. The Campbell High School graduate finished the season with a NCAA record 34 home runs and had four homers during the NCAA college world series. Alo was named the 2021 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year.
Waikiki’s latest beach celebrity, Loli’i, a six-week Hawaiian Monk Seal pup was weaned by her mother, Kaiwi, on June 8th and swam away. The public was reminded to stay 150 feet away from the seal pup because if seal pups receive attention from humans, they will learn to seek out human attention and can be a danger when they grow. Seals that have interacted with humans as pups have been known to bite divers’ fins or wrap their flippers around people and drop like a stone. Loli’i was moved to a remote location unfrequented by humans once National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration officials were certain that Kaiwi would not return. Hawaii monk seal pups are typically weaned at five to seven weeks of age.
Sea Life Park released a pair of two-year old honu, Holokai (Seafarer) and Aheahe (Gentle Breeze), to the wild on National Sea Turtle Day, June 16, 2021. Tiny honu hatchlings have about a 1 in 1,000 chance of surviving 20 years to maturity while two-year old honu have about a 1 in four chance. Sea Life Park usually releases about 800 to 900 hatchlings per year and raises a couple of dozen from the group to be added to aquariums in the state to educate the public about the species and how to protect them. You can watch the video of this beautiful event via the link below.
Popular Manoa Falls Trail reopened two years after the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) closed the trail in 2019. The state installed a rockfall hazard mitigation fence next to the falls, widened the trail to allow two-way traffic, resurfaced the trail bed, and created new steps to improve safety on a trail that receives about 170 inches of rainfall per year. You can click the link below to see some pictures.
Wildly popular sportscaster, Robert Kekaula, passed away on June 19th at the age of 56. Kekaula was KITV’s managing editor and he was the play-by-play announcer for the University of Hawaii Warrior’s football telecasts. He will be sorely missed by Hawaii sports fans.
The University of Hawaii (UH) hired its third Division I baseball coach, Rich Hill, in school history. Hill established a consistently winning program at the University of San Diego, accumulating a 1,079-win, 738-loss record over 23 years at the program. He had seven West Coast Conference titles and led the Tereros to eight NCAA regionals. UH dismissed head coach Mike Trepasso due to his lack of conference and post-season success.
Life on the Big Island never seems to get dull due to the ever-existing threat of a volcanic eruption. A recent paper predicts that an eruption on Mauna Loa will occur sooner than later due to increased ground swelling and surface earthquakes. The U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcanic Observatory (HVO) has suggested that residents pack a “go” bag containing essential items and important personal documents like birth certificates. Mauna Loa eruptions have historically created rapid lava flows that reached populated areas in a few hours. HVO is closely monitoring the mountain’s activity since that last eruption occurred in 1984 and some data, like satellite information, was first collected in 2002. Scientists do expect they will observe an increase in signs of an impending eruption before the next event. You can click the link below to learn more about Mauna Loa.
Kailua’s Pali Lanes closed its doors after 60 years in business. Alexander & Baldwin (A&B) stated that it would consider keeping the building and would rent it out to another bowling or entertainment venue but has not been successful in finding a new company. A&B has no current plans for the building and will conduct an inspection in July before making any decisions.