HONOLULU (KHON2) — The City’s Department of Planning and Permitting is temporarily halting a home development project in Palolo Valley. Residents have shared concerns after a boulder smashed into a home and are afraid the excavating of the mountain for the home development may have led to the boulder falling. Inspectors said they have not found a connection between the two but have found other violations. 

It is a bird’s eye view of where experts believe the massive boulder that smashed into a Palolo Valley home was dislodged from. Prometheus Construction Vice President Cliff Tillotson said the rock came from way up in the mountain. 

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“This is where we think the rock came out without actually going up there,” Tillotson said. “And, looking right at the rocks, we’re kind of worried about this one over here. that also has that light color as possibly still being unstable, as well as this one right here.”

Meanwhile, a controversial home development project along the path where the rock fell was inspected by the DPP. Neighbors had called on the City to inspect the project, especially after the boulder incident. They want to make sure the development is not causing the large rocks to roll down. 

The developer, Binging Li, shared his construction plans with inspectors; and they found a violation. 

The City’s Chief Building Inspector Leslie Fluharty shared with Caroline Sasaki what they found. Sasaki was one of the homeowners who was almost hit by the boulder. 

“They are ordered to stop work immediately, ok, until the site conditions reflect exactly what’s on the approved plans,” Fluharty said, “The rock fall chain fence needs to go out to the perimeter roughly eight to ten feet on each side.”

A notice of violation was given to Li after inspectors noticed a rock fall chain fencing did not cover the entire length of the property, and two poles were missing on each side. This type of fencing is placed to protect properties from falling debris and rocks while construction takes place. 

A statement from the DPP said:

The Department of Planning and Permitting continues to investigate and has sent out additional inspectors to further evaluate whether the development is within the scope of the approved building plans.  Based on our initial review of the permits for the project, the DPP required an engineering slope hazard report by the developer due to the proposed excavation work, which the developer provided.  The report recommended several rock fall mitigation measures, including a 10-foot-high rock fall barrier fencing, and an anchored wire mesh system to stabilize the rock slope.  It was determined that the required rock fall barrier fencing did not meet specifications in the approved building permit.  The DPP will issue a stop-work order and notice of violation to the owner and contractor of 1816F Palolo Ave., which is directly above the Sasaki home.  However, the DPP cannot conclude that the rock fall barrier fencing failing to meet the specifications caused or allowed the boulder to damage the Sasaki’s home.

DPP Director Dawn Takeuchi Apuna visited the Palolo Avenue site today to get a better idea of the extent of the damage, and the measures taken by the developer to mitigate rock falls. In addition, Apuna met with Caroline Sasaki and answered questions that she had. Apuna also informed Mrs. Sasaki that she can begin emergency repairs to her house immediately.

Li said he will work to address the violation as soon as possible. 

Li said, “In a few days, it will be all done.”

But there is still the issue of the boulders above. The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency said there is a state law to deal with hazardous situations. Even if the land in question is privately owned, HI-EMA can step in and mitigate dangerous trees, soil hazards and unstable rocks.

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Meanwhile, Sasaki is finally getting that boulder out of her home. Tillotson and his crew offered to remove it from her property at no cost.