THE NEIGHBOR ISLANDS

SUNDAY 4/28/13

GROWING PAINS
EXAMINING THE BIG ISLAND’S CHALLENGES OF TRANSFORMATION
Stories by Mary Vorsino | Photography by Jamm Aquino

UP CLOSE

THE BIG ISLAND

POPULATION
AGE OF RESIDENTS
Percentage of the population by age in the nine districts in 2010:
12.60%
AGE: UNDER 9 23,323

185,079
Total population in 2010
North Kohala South Kohala Hamakua North Kona North Hilo South Hilo South Kona Kau

12.76%
10-19 23,610

11.95%
20-29 22,123

11.57%
30-39 21,420

12.73%
40-49 23,554

16.57%
50-59 30,673

21.9%
60 & OVER 40,376

13.89%
AGE: UNDER 9

13.86%
10- 19

11.74%
20- 29

11.67%
30-39

12.85%
40-49

17.43%
50-59

23.21%
60 & OVER

PUNA

6,298

6,281

5,322

5,289

5,824

7,900

10,520

11.46% 12.86%

13.82%
20- 29

10.83% 11.74%
30-39 40-49

14.81%
50-59

24.47%
60 & OVER

SOUTH HILO NORTH HILO

AGE: UNDER 9

10- 19

5,834

6,551

7,038

5,514

5,985

7,541

12,464

14.26%
AGE: UNDER 9

10.78% 10.34% 11.42% 10.53%
10- 19 20- 29 30-39 40-49

18.18%
50-59

24.50%
371 500

291

220

211

233

215

12.79%
AGE: UNDER 9

13.27%
10- 19

10.73% 11.27% 13.66%
20- 29 30-39 40-49

15.32%
50-59

22.94%
1,494

HAMAKUA

833

865

699

734

890

998

11.83%

12.30%
10- 19

10.38% 10.72% 13.02%
20- 29 30-39 40-49

16.42%
50-59

25.29%
1,599

NORTH KOHALA SOUTH KOHALA
Puna

750

778

656

678

823

1,038

13.79%
AGE: UNDER 9

14.05%
10- 19

10.19% 13.25%
20- 29 30-39

13.75%
40-49

16.41%
50-59

18.54%
60 & OVER

2,431

2,477

1,796

2,338

2,424

2,893

3,268

12.12%

11.35% 11.89%
10- 19 20- 29

12.75%
30-39

13.51%
40-49

16.91%
50-59

21.47%
60 & OVER

NORTH KONA

AGE: UNDER 9

4,590

4,297

4,503

4,829

5,118

6,406

8,132

ETHNIC BREAKDOWN
Hawaiian/part-Hawaiian Caucasian Mixed (not Hawaiian) Japanese Filipino Other 30.1% 28.5% 20.7% 11.3% 8.0% 1.4% SOUTH KONA

11.57%
AGE: UNDER 9

11.12%
10- 19

10.72% 10.10% 12.32%
20- 29 30-39 40-49

19.15%
50-59

25.01%
1,914 2,500

1,157

1,112

1,072

1,010

1,232

13.49%

12.18%
10- 19

9.77%
20- 29

9.41% 12.585% 19.07%
30-39 40-49 50-59

23.75%
1,612 2,007

50,927

KAU

1,139

1,029

826

795

1,043

44,639

45,326

47,386

31,335

17,627

13,131

22,284

28,543

The population increased in the nine districts from 1990 to 2010: 9,140

37,875

BIG GROWTH

20,781

9,997

6,322

6,513

7,658

8,589

5,545

6,038

6,108

1990 2000

2010

1990 2000

2010

1990 2000

1,541

1,720

2010

2,041

1990 2000

2010

1990 2000

4,291

2010

1990 2000

2010

1990 2000

2010

1990 2000

2010

1990 2000

4,438

5,827

2010

PUNA
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

SOUTH HILO

NORTH HILO

HAMAKUA

NORTH KOHALA

SOUTH KOHALA

NORTH KONA

SOUTH KONA

KAU

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BIG ISLAND / GROWING PAINS

SUNDAY 4/28/13 >> HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

8,451

8,451

AGE: UNDER 9

60 & OVER

9,997

60 & OVER

37,875

17,627

6,322

AGE: UNDER 9

60 & OVER

6,513

60 & OVER

2,041

60 & OVER

50,927

45,326

GROWING PAINS

ABOUT THIS PROJECT

Growth promises to transform sprawling, diverse Hawaii island
There are myriad facets to Hawaii island — the raw power of Kilauea volcano, the trendy Kona Coast, sleepy Hilo, the roots of Hawaiian royalty, the ranching traditions of paniolo country. A land of verdant pastures, rugged aa, snow-capped peaks and sun-splashed beaches, the Big Island easily accommodates rustic living, world-class resorts, mom-and-pop shops, cutting-edge astronomy, marine science and geothermal energy. The county’s population is increasing faster than any other in the state, GROWING PAINS EXAMINING THE BIG ISLAND’S so its future hangs in the balance. Reporter Mary Vorsino and photographer CHALLENGES OF TRANSFORMATION Jamm Aquino recently spent time there to capture firsthand the stories of coping with more homes, more people and more need for the conveniences of modern living. Small towns and neighborhoods on Hawaii island are at a critical juncture — hoping to carve out an economically viable future while preserving a sense of community and local culture. This section examines the island in three parts: the hub of growth, the everyday struggle of expansion, and the future envisioned by island youth, who must decide whether to stay or leave.
THE NEIGHBOR ISLANDS SUNDAY 4/28/13

OUR BIG ISLAND TEAM

Mary Vorsino has been covering Hawaii news for more than a decade, writing everything from breaking news to long-form enterprise pieces. She joined the Star-Advertiser in 2010, and has a master’s degree in political science from the University of Hawaii. Follow her on Twitter @mvorsino. Jamm Aquino has been a staff photographer since March 2005, when he was hired by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin while finishing up his bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Hawaii. He has won numerous photojournalism awards. He maintains a photo blog on the Star-Advertiser website, “Aperture Cafe,” and can be followed on both Twitter and Instagram with his handle, @jammaquino.
CREDITS

Stories by Mary Vorsino | Photography by Jamm Aquino

Marsha McFadden City editor
PART 1 HEART OF CHANGE PART 2 A NEW ATTITUDE P A R T 3 THE NEXT GENERATION

PAGE

4

PAGE

18

PAGE

28

Dennis Francis
President and Publisher

George F. Lee
Photo Editor

Frank Bridgewater
Vice President / Editor

Bryant Fukutomi
Graphic Artist

Ed Lynch
Managing Editor / News

Celia K. Downes
Copy Editor

Marsha McFadden
City Editor

Michael Rovner
Managing Editor / Design

ON THE COVER

Malia Keli‘ikoa walks among the dryland taro that her boyfriend, Brian Lee Jr., planted outside their home in Hilo.

Over the last decade, Hawaii County’s population swelled by nearly 25 percent, the highest growth rate in the state. The epicenter of that growth has been the Puna district, where the new neighbors have brought the promise of new industry and development but have also spurred questions about inadequate infrastructure and overdevelopment.

See video and more photos at staradvertiser.com

Kau is the largest district on Hawaii island. It is also its least populated. But more people have been venturing into Kau to find land bargains in Ocean View, once known as a place rife with drugs and crime. Today about 6,000 people call Ocean View home — up from less than 1,000 in 1990 — and the influx of families and retirees has brought a sense of community to a place once known as the “wild, wild west.”

Hawaii island youth face big challenges, from a high unemployment rate to a lack of opportunities. To make ends meet, many migrate to Kona or Hilo or leave the island altogether. Educators and officials acknowledge there is considerable work to do to give youth more choices after graduation, but there is also hope in the future.

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BIG ISLAND / GROWING PAINS

SUNDAY 4/28/13 >> HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

PART 1 HEART OF CHANGE

PAHOA

POPULATION: MEDIAN AGE: UNEMPLOYED:

Pahoa striving to balance progress and preservation
The historic Puna town is at the forefront of community-planning initiatives across Hawaii island as the county’s population swells
PAHOA >> When a drugstore chain and two
fast-food eateries set up shop at the entrance of this old plantation town in 2011, “Keep Pahoa Pahoa” grew from a bumper sticker slogan used by a handful of town leaders to the mantra for a communitywide campaign. Residents worried the businesses were the first of more to come, a glimpse of what immense population growth in the Puna district would mean for the historic town, with its eclectic main street of Western-style storefronts painted in deep greens and brick reds. The new shopping area, with a Longs Drugs, a KFC (which has since closed its doors) and a Burger King, was criticized as being in-yourface, jarring and very much not Pahoa, said Rob Tucker, one of the founding members of the Friends of Puna’s Future. “People were upset,” he said. “It was that arrival of corporate logos and neon.” The struggle to “Keep Pahoa Pahoa” is emblematic of battles going on across Hawaii island, where the needs of growing communities — calling for increased services and conveniences — are coming up against mounting concerns over how to preserve the unique “Look at Kihei, Waikiki or anywhere in Ewa,” character and rural feel of historic places. he said. “People are concerned that they wouldn’t be the ones guiding growth. They want to be the drivers.” OVER THE LAST DECADE, Hawaii Among towns destined to be commercial County’s population swelled by nearly 25 perhubs for new growth areas, Pahoa stands cent, the highest growth rate in the state. The new neighbors have brought the prom- apart because of the urgency of the need for services. ise of new industry and development, somePahoa’s Puna district has had the biggest thing that many residents say they welcome, growth rates on an island where just about as long as it’s not at the expense of what they every community is seeing new faces. From have: a sense of place, of community and of 1990 to 2010 Puna’s population more than the past. doubled to 45,000. Dan Taylor, a resident of Volcano who has But most of Puna’s population growth is been involved in Puna community planning, said the greatest fear for many is that historic happening in massive, largely unimproved subdivisions that have no grocery stores, wacorridors will be demolished to make way for terlines or home mail delivery. Many still have strip malls and big-box stores.

945 55.5%

41.6

9.0%*

OWNER-OCCUPIED HOUSING: MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME:

$46,667*
MEDIAN VALUE OF HOUSING UNITS:

$233,700*
HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE OR HIGHER:

85.3%*
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau and American Community Survey’s five-year estimate *

The growth is inevitable. We have thousands of subdivision lots that are already approved. Growth’s coming.”
Mark Hinshaw Chairman of the Pahoa Regional Town Center steering committee and president of Mainstreet Pahoa

unpaved roads. So Pahoa has been identified as a key “proposed regional town center” for Puna, where many services will probably be placed, in part because it has existing (if aging) infrastructure. More than any other community on Hawaii island, county planners say, Pahoa is under immense pressure to plan for the future quickly — and to get it right. That’s perhaps especially true given Puna’s potential for future growth — the district has nearly 45 percent of the island’s subdivided lots. Of the 52,500 lots in Puna, about onequarter are occupied. “What are we going to do when people build on all of those lots?” said Bobby Jean Leithead-Todd, county planning director.

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BIG ISLAND / GROWING PAINS

“Where are the parks going to be? Where are the transit corridors?”

THE INITIATIVE to “save Pahoa” — seen as the likely regional town center for a considerable chunk of the Puna district — is by far the strongest and most organized of a number of community-planning efforts scattered around Hawaii island. Those involved in drafting community plans say they have an incredible — and rare — opportunity to think strategically about how commercial development can be incorporated into the character of their towns. And they’re determined to make their voices heard. “People don’t object to having retail estab-

Opposite, Jan’s Barber and Beauty Shop owner Janet Ikeda tends to Michael Dziatko of Paradise Park. “Pahoa is a special place,” says Ikeda, 77, who has been cutting hair for 63 years and plans to retire when she has cut hair for 75 years. Above, the historic town in Puna is lined with colorful storefronts — personality that residents want to preserve as it adapts to a rapidly growing population.

lishments, but they’re coming in sort of stripmall format. You see it all over the country, and that’s not what they want,” said Larry Brown, a Hawaii County planner who is helping residents draft a development plan for Pahoa. “They want to retain that rural village character.” But residents are also working against the clock. If they don’t act, they may have to simply accept whatever development comes their way. In Pahoa there is a wide-scale acceptance that change will come — even as there’s growing trepidation about what that change will look like. It’s that concern that’s driving more people to get involved. In recent months, public meet-

ings about the future of Pahoa have been crowded affairs, and people are clamoring to lend a hand.

THOSE WHO LIVE, work or shop in Pahoa, where storefronts with boardwalks hug the two-lane road through town and where people greet store owners by name, are already in discussions with commercial landlords, have come up with a proposed “design district” plan and are meeting to map out their preferred future of the town. Pahoa’s first major test case could come soon, with the construction of a planned $20 million shopping center in the heart of town
Continued on next page

SUNDAY 4/28/13 >> HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

5

PART 1 HEART OF CHANGE

Hanging out in front of the historic Akebono Theater. Opposite, drying clothes adorn a front porch. Pahoa is searching for the best way to grow while keeping its rustic charm.

that is set to feature a supermarket, a medical clinic, eateries and other retail properties. Community leaders say they are in talks with the shopping center’s developer, who is apparently receptive to design suggestions. Those fighting to “Keep Pahoa Pahoa” say they’re not against growth — or new business. “We are trying to preserve a town, keep the architectural charm,” said Mark Hinshaw, chairman of the Pahoa Regional Town Center steering committee and president of Mainstreet Pahoa. “At the same time, we’re dealing with exponential growth and (the need for)

health services, education, sewer, water, the whole gamut.”

ON A RECENT weekday afternoon in Pahoa, tourists strolled through shops or stopped by eateries. Residents were also out and about, eating lunch with family or friends, dropping off supplies or picking them up. At the far end of the main street sits Jan’s Barber and Beauty Shop, housed in a tidy, small building painted a pale pink. It’s the oldest business in Pahoa these days. Inside, proprietor — and store namesake —

Janet Ikeda, 77, ate a lunch of saimin and listened to the radio. She has been cutting hair for 63 years, first as an apprentice to her grandfather, whose shop used to sit right in front of hers. Ikeda was born and raised in Pahoa, and said she can’t imagine living and working anyplace else. “Pahoa is a special place,” she said. Her reaction to talk of growth and new businesses: “The more, the better.” Up the street, several leaders of the effort to preserve Pahoa’s early buildings and unique

6

BIG ISLAND / GROWING PAINS

LIVING IN PAHOA Median income

$53,591
HAWAII COUNTY MEDIAN INCOME

$26,667
PAHOA MEDIAN INCOME

Year housing units built

17.9%

24.4%

11.9%

16.3% 11.1% 1.6%

character gathered at Luquin’s, a Mexican cantina and restaurant. Over quesadillas, taco salads and tea, with rock music in the background, they made their case. They want a Pahoa that will accommodate all the needs of a growing population center but still retain the things that make it special: small, irregularly-shaped storefronts with false facades; no road setbacks; old-time canopies over boardwalks in front of businesses. The new shopping area at the edge of town doesn’t meet those design guidelines. Hinshaw, chairman of the town center steering committee, said there’s no tearing that development down. The hope, though, is that the community will have a say in the look of the next shopping area — and the one after that. “This clearly is about preserving the town,” not stopping growth, he said. “The growth is inevitable. We have thousands of subdivision lots that are already approved. Growth’s coming.” Pahoa itself is a tiny town, population roughly 950. For tourists it’s a popular stop on the way to Kalapana. Madie Greene, affectionately know as the unofficial “mayor of Pahoa,” said it’s tough

for some to understand the appeal of this place, of its old buildings that house a quirky mix of establishments — from a tattoo parlor to a book buyer, a natural-food store and a real estate agent. But in those businesses, Greene said, she sees her childhood and her friends; she sees Hawaii’s history, the remnants of Hawaiian sugar, of the lumber industry, of so many people from all over the world who converged on this tiny outpost at the turn of the last century and built it from the ground up. “My great-grandfather was the first sheriff in Puna,” Greene said. “I just want to carry on that legacy. I care so much about this town.”

THE COUNTY is assisting Pahoa in drafting its design and development plans, which will be presented to the County Council as early as this year. While the plans are strictly advisory, they do hold sway and are used to help inform development decisions on projects that go before the Council. Hawaii County started its communityplanning effort in 2008, with Kona. So far, four community plans have been developed, and others are in the works.

Todd, of the planning office, said Hawaii island communities are trying to strike a balance “between providing a plan that allows for sufficient growth to take care of housing and employment needs and at the same time preserving and providing enough infrastructure and amenities so that you have a quality of life.” Back at Luquin’s, the Mexican restaurant, Charles Maas, chairman of the Pahoa Regional Town Center’s design committee, said growth may offer a new breath of life to Pahoa — a new chance for the town to be a “shining example” of development done right. Or, he said, it could go another way. “Pahoa is going to have to do all the things that Hilo now does. If you want a quart of milk or a roll of toilet paper, it’s going to be Pahoa,” he said. “We have a lot of raw land that’s going to get developed. It’s a scary proposition.” Still, Maas is optimistic, in large part because of the groundswell of community support to keep Pahoa’s flair and unique character. “This,” he said, “is a process where our grandchildren are going to sit under the shade of the tree that we’re planting.” ■

7.6%

9.2%

1939 or earlier

4.0%
No telephone service

7.0%
Lack complete plumbing facilities

4.0%
Lack complete kitchen facilities
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

SUNDAY 4/28/13 >> HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

2005-later 0.0%

1940-1949

1950-1959

1960-1969

1970-1979

1980-1989

1990-1999

2000-2004

7

PART 1 HEART OF CHANGE
OWNER-OCCUPIED HOUSING:

72.9%
MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME:

$38,642*
MEDIAN VALUE OF HOUSING UNITS:

$254,400*
HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE OR HIGHER:

88.2%*
POPULATION: MEDIAN AGE: UNEMPLOYED:

34,266 38.1

6.6%*

KEAAUMOUNTAIN VIEW

PUNA PAHOAKALAPANA

POPULATION: MEDIAN AGE: UNEMPLOYED:

11,060 42.6
OWNER-OCCUPIED HOUSING:

6.3%*

70%
MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME:

$35,044*
MEDIAN VALUE OF HOUSING UNITS:

$199,400*
HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE OR HIGHER:

88.6%*
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau and American Community Survey’s five-year estimate *

BAD INFRASTRUCTURE LACKS EASY SOLUTION
Finding the funds to improve subpar services in rapidly growing Puna subdivisions is an ongoing battle
PUNA >> In recent years Hawaii families and
mainland retirees have flocked to this sprawling district to snap up property still within reach for those with low to moderate incomes. Today there are about 45,300 people living in the Puna district, more than double the total in 1990. But cheap land comes at a price. Subdivisions in Puna, whose population is forecast to exceed Hilo’s within the decade, have no water or sewer lines, no publicly funded road upkeep (and many unpaved roads) and no home mail delivery. Some don’t have access to electricity. A loaf of bread, a doctor’s visit or access to key county services oftentimes requires a 30-minute drive to Hilo. Internet service is poor (think dial-up) to nonexistent. And there are large cellphone dead spots. As Puna’s population continues to swell, there are mounting questions about how much more growth this area can handle without significant infrastructure improvements. Many residents are also critical of the pace of efforts to address their needs — and some say they’re not getting their fair share of government spending. June Conant, Hawaiian Paradise Park Owners Association president, said residents who live in private Puna subdivisions are getting “nothing for our county taxes.” “Zero,” she said. “And the people are just tired of it.” That’s a common refrain in Hawaiian Paradise Park — known by residents as HPP — and neighboring subdivisions. And it’s one that county and state officials hotly dispute.

1959
Year Hawaiian Paradise Park was established

137
Miles of roads in the subdivision

1 1,400
Approximate population of Hawaiian Paradise Park, more than Waimea and as much as Kailua-Kona
Source: Hawaiian Paradise Park Owners Assocation

THEY SAY the situation is far from simple because unlike most subdivisions, Puna lots were cut up and sold starting in the 1950s by developers who made no improvements — something that would not be allowed today. Putting infrastructure in subdivisions would be astronomically expensive and, officials worry, set a dangerous precedent of using public money to improve private property. (In the case of road-paving, it is illegal.) Instead, the county has focused on improving the quality of life for Puna residents with projects outside the subdivisions. Work is set to begin soon on a 56-acre regional park in the district, new fire and police stations in Pahoa

8

BIG ISLAND / GROWING PAINS

were recently completed and there are several planned improvements to the main stateowned thoroughfare to the Puna subdivisions. County Councilman Zendo Kern, whose district includes Puna mauka, Keaau and Glenwood, said infrastructure and services are getting better, but much more slowly than Puna residents would like. “We’re basically behind right now,” he said. “We need to catch up with the last 10 years (of growth). I’m optimistic that it will get done.” Needed improvements range from beefing up emergency response services to providing a growing community with basic conveniences, like access to parks, he said. But even as the county tries to catch up, more people are moving in. “Nobody can stop somebody from buying

Opposite, Hawaiian Paradise Park resident Larry Brown keeps a water catchment tank in his backyard. Services such as water or sewer lines and home mail delivery are lacking in Puna subdivisions. Above, Derek Shimizu of Orchid Land Estates has transported gravel to roads in his subdivision and tamped it down himself.

these lots and building homes,” Kern said. “Population growth is uncontrollable.”

don’t have infrastructure improvements. Some have instead suggested setting up an improvement district in the private subdivisions, essentially charging Puna residents a FROM 1958 TO 1973 large private developers (many of them politically connected) fee along with their property taxes that would go back into their communities. But that idea got permission from the county to subdivide has not been formally floated, and it would some 52,500 lots in Puna — and about onequarter of them now have houses on them, ac- likely be met with stiff opposition. Patti Pinto, chairwoman of the Puna comcording to the 2011 Puna community plan. munity development plan committee and a “Clearly, we are living with a decision from resident of the Fern Acres subdivision, said four decades ago, but the question becomes, there is no doubt the infrastructure issues in ‘How do we tackle it?’” said Hawaii County Puna are difficult. Mayor Billy Kenoi. However, she said, there is also wide acHe pointed out that while Puna residents say they aren’t getting enough for their tax dollars, knowledgement that something needs to be those who live in other districts say they don’t done — and soon. see why their taxes should go to parcels sold at much cheaper rates precisely because they Continued on next page

SUNDAY 4/28/13 >> HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

9

PART 1 HEART OF CHANGE

$27.6M
Approximate amount Hawaii County has spent to improve infrastructure in the Puna district, which is seeing rapid population growth. Residents say the improvements aren’t good enough. Here are some of the projects the county has funded in recent years:
$5.14 MILLION: New playgrounds and other improvements at Isaac Hale Beach Park, and major improvements to the county park in Hawaiian Beaches $488,000: Mountain View gym accessibility and parking improvements $85,000: Shipman Park, Mountain View backstop replacements $5.5 MILLION: Cost of a major new park complex in Pahoa; planning is now underway $23,000: Cost for coating the roof of the old Pahoa Fire Station, which was converted to a senior center mostly with donated labor $5.1 MILLION: New Pahoa police station $5.3 MILLION: New Pahoa fire station $3.9 MILLION: Major improvements to the Pahoa solid-waste transfer station $578,000: Keaau Recycling and Transfer Station repairs $1.52 MILLION: Pahoa Aquatic Center improvements
Source: Hawaii County

Some homes in the Hawaiian Paradise Park subdivision are little more than temporary shelters or humble single-family structures. Below, the Paradise Park Fire Station, which is staffed by volunteers. “Because of the way the subdivisions were created … the developers were not required to provide any infrastructure,” she said. “It’s 60 years later, and the county is beginning to realize that this is not a situation that can continue to be dealt with in the way it has been in the past.” an innovative solution to “help maintain substandard private subdivision roads that are used by the public.” The bill, however, did not make it out of committee. Amid the growing clamor to improve infrastructure in Puna, there is also a quiet pushback from some who believe improving the appeal of the subdivisions — by offering more conveniences — will only invite more growth. Those residents say they moved to Puna to live in a rural environment, off the grid and away from the city. Paving roads and putting in water lines, they say, will only draw more residents and businesses. In the Orchid Land Estates subdivision, that frustration is playing out with a battle over fee collections. About 1,440 lots in the subdivision are “built out,” and of those, about 60 percent of owners regularly pay association dues (which amount to $150 a year). The rest of the lot owners, said Derek Shimizu, an Orchid Land Estates homeowner and

THE PUNA SUBDIVISIONS do have private associations, which can collect fees to put toward infrastructure improvements, such as paving. But not everyone pays up. And even if people do, it’s not enough to cover the needs of a growing number of residents. In Hawaiian Paradise Park the association is constantly fielding complaints from residents who feel their road should be the next for paving. A handful have gone as far as to call the Health Department about the dust kicked up by vehicles speeding on the substandard roads. Conant, HPP’s association president, said no matter how much residents complain, there simply isn’t enough money to pave all the roads in the area.

The association’s annual fee is $262. As of today about 4,000 of the 8,935 lots in Paradise Park are occupied, and about two-thirds of the 137 miles of road in HPP are unpaved. A bill introduced this legislative session would have allowed Hawaii County to send some fuel tax dollars to road maintenance in the private subdivisions. Kenoi supported the measure, saying it was

10

BIG ISLAND / GROWING PAINS

Hawaii Belt Road

7 5 4 6
Highway 130

Kapoho Road

8 9 10

3 1 2

PUNA
Area of detail

GETTING BIGGER Population increase in Puna subdivisions:
1 Fern Forest Estates 931 480 2 Eden Roc Estates 942 451 3 Fern Acres 1,504 756 4 Hawaiian Acres 2,700 1,776 5 Orchid Land Estates 2,815 1,731 6 Ainaloa 2,965 1,910

2010 2000

A truck rumbles along unpaved road in Orchid Land Estates. Below, dozens of mailbox centers are scattered throughout the subdivision. “Everyone has a stake in this place,” says resident Derek Shimizu. association treasurer, just won’t. On a recent afternoon, Shimizu drove a pickup truck at a snail’s pace along rocky, unpaved roads in Orchid Land Estates. He said the roads regularly flood and become impassable, despite lots of work from the association to try to maintain them. If everyone paid in, he said, the subdivision could at least try to tackle the infrastructure challenges in a more long-term way. sociation, said an unimproved 1-acre lot in the subdivision can go for as little as $20,000 to upward of $90,000. The homes in HPP range from temporary structures (tents and shipping containers) to humble, single-story family affairs to large, well-appointed properties on the ocean valued at more than $500,000. “You have your locals and your snowbirds,” said HPP resident Leimomi Shearer, who was at her home on a recent afternoon making laulau with friends. As they worked, the friends laughed and joked about nothing in particular. But on talk of infrastructure needs in HPP, the mood grew a little more serious. Everyone agreed that Puna needs help. Shearer, 57, said her biggest concern is improving the roads for commuters, for safety and for emergency access. She lives on an unpaved road. She also lives in a cellphone dead spot. “We have all these problems because the infrastructure is not stepped up,” she said. “Just getting out of here is hard.” ■

7 Hawaiian Paradise Park 7,051 8 Hawaiian Beaches 4,280 3,709 9 Nanawale Estates 1,426 1,073 10 Leilani Estates 1,560 1,046
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

11,404

AS IT IS, association members spend lots of time trucking in gravel to level roads. Shimizu alone spent $24,000 on a small bulldozer he uses to cart gravel to roads around the subdivision, then tamp it down. “Everyone has a stake in this place,” said Shimizu, who moved to Orchid Land Estates from Honolulu three years ago. “As we grow and as more people move in, the thought process in this subdivision is going to have to change.” Future growth is on the minds of many people in Puna.

Residents are worried in particular about what substandard infrastructure will mean over the next 10 years, when the population in Puna is projected to exceed 75,000. While housing construction in the district slowed considerably during the economic downturn, there are already early signs it’s picking back up again. And house lots remain relatively cheap: Conant, of the HPP as-

SUNDAY 4/28/13 >> HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

11

PART 1 HEART OF CHANGE
OWNER-OCCUPIED HOUSING:

62.2%
MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME:

$73,036*
MEDIAN VALUE OF HOUSING UNITS:

$431,000*
HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE OR HIGHER:

96.2%*
POPULATION: MEDIAN AGE: UNEMPLOYED:

6,362

38.9

7.1%*

HILO WAIKOLOA

POPULATION: MEDIAN AGE: UNEMPLOYED:

43,263 40.5
OWNER-OCCUPIED HOUSING:

5.6%*

‘YOUR LIFE IS THE BUS’
Long early-morning commutes are a painful necessity for people who cannot afford homes closer to their jobs
HILO >> For nine years, Kenneth Kapeliela
has taken the 3:30 a.m. bus from his home in Hilo to his hotel job in Waikoloa, a two-hour drive away. At 52, Kapeliela is resigned to the grueling commute, a fact of life in a place where jobs are scarce — and often found a considerable drive from where the affordable housing is.
Waimea cently on a weekday morning, But that doesn’t mean the riders gathered under the insanity of the commute is Highway 19 Hilo Bayfront’s bus shelter, lost on him. Waikoloa Honomu burrowed in their coats. At 3:15 a.m. on a recent Some had blankets over weekday, Kapeliela looked Hilo their shoulders or folded around at the growing crowd over their arms. of hotel workers gathered at In the parking lot a few the Hilo Bayfront bus stop and Area of dozen more people waited in shook his head. detail their cars, sipping coffee or trying “We’re all mental,” he said. to catch a little sleep. Hawaii County has been operating the Around 3:20 a.m. a line began to form on the 3:30 a.m. from Hilo to Waikoloa since 1998. sidewalk. People stamped their feet to keep But in recent years, as the population in warm in the chilly morning air or placed beHawaii island’s Puna district has ballooned, longings in line to save their spot, then the 3:30 a.m. bus to Waikoloa’s resorts has headed back to the bus shelter or their cars. turned into the most heavily used run on the “Your life is the bus,” said Hilo resident route. Workers arrive up to 45 minutes early at the Marsela Terreira, 53, who has been catching the early-morning bus for six years. “You’ve Hilo Bayfront stop to ensure they secure a got to do what you’ve got to do.” spot on the bus. Recently the county purClaude Carvalho, 50, started taking the chased a double-decker bus to accommodate early Waikoloa bus in the 1990s. He lives in the route’s high ridership. Puna, so he commutes about 30 minutes to On average the 3:30 a.m. route attracts Hilo every morning, where he parks his car to about 72 passengers, up from about 45 five catch the bus. years ago. The Hilo-to-South Kona bus that Carvalho, a hotel purchasing agent, said the leaves at 3:50 a.m. is also packed these days. commute wears on him. “It’s just hard,” he Many bus riders park in Hilo, then jump on said. the bus. Helene Kaupe, 54, also of Puna, agreed but About a half-hour before the bus arrived reHonokaa

62.2%
MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME:

$53,058*
MEDIAN VALUE OF HOUSING UNITS:

$317,000*
HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE OR HIGHER:

90.8%*
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau and American Community Survey’s five-year estimate *

12

BIG ISLAND / GROWING PAINS

Opposite, commuters, many headed to hotel jobs, get to the Hilo Bayfront bus stop up to 45 minutes early to catch the 3:30 a.m. bus to Waikoloa. Some bundle up in blankets against the cold morning air. Below left, Roberts Hawaii worker Luke Wong loaded his bicycle for the trip.

said there are few alternatives. Salaries at the hotels, she said, are competitive. But living in South Kohala, where property prices are higher than Hilo or Puna, is out of the question. “People can’t make it on minimum-wage jobs in Hawaii,” she said. Kaupe drove to work in Waikoloa for nine years but couldn’t afford it any longer, with rising gas prices and wear and tear on her car. Kaupe has been taking the bus for two years. And she said in that period alone, ridership appears to have grown. Hilo resident Nimai Rivet, 36, a bookkeeper for a marketing company in Kona, was trying to find the bright side to her early commute. Her car broke down, so she was grateful for the 3:50 a.m. bus to Kona, which is also packed with workers. It was her first time taking the early-morning bus. Rivet has to make the commute to Kona one day a week and get there by 6:30 a.m. That one day of driving from Hilo, she said, costs her about $30. The one-way fare on the county bus is $1. As Rivet closed her umbrella and prepared to board the Kona bus, she said, “There’s a lot of people here.” ■

Above, riders get settled for the two-hour trek to Waikoloa. “It’s just hard,” says Claude Carvalho of Puna, who drives an additional 30 minutes to Hilo in order to catch the bus. At left, Hilo resident Kenneth Kapeliela and other commuters wait to board the 3:30 a.m. bus. Some folks leave their belongings in line so they can wait in the comfort of the bus shelter or their cars.

SUNDAY 4/28/13 >> HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

13

PART 1 HEART OF CHANGE

HILO

Highway is rife with hazards
Keaau-Pahoa Road is both unavoidable and a nightmare for drivers, who endure traffic and the threat of accidents
PUNA >> Among major byways in Hawaii County, you can’t get much worse than KeaauPahoa Road for hazards or congestion. Keaau-Pahoa, also known as Highway 130, is the main drag in and out of the fastest-growing portion of the Puna district. And over the last decade, population growth has overwhelmed the two-lane, undivided route, creating gridlock and pushing up accident rates at several intersections.
The highway has some of the most dangerous intersections in the state. Keaau-Pahoa Road is featured prominently on a list of intersections on state-owned thoroughfares with nine or more crashes from 2007 to 2009, the most recent data available. In fact, Keaau-Pahoa Road has the top five slots on that list, meaning its intersections have the five highest accident rates of any state thoroughfare on Hawaii island. State figures show there were a staggering 152 major accidents at the five worst intersections on Keaau-Pahoa Road during the threeyear period.

MAP AREA

THE HIGHWAY has no stoplights and limited merge lanes. The influx of traffic as people move into the district has also created bumper-to-bumper traffic: Access to Puna’s major subdivisions

Memorials line Keaau-Pahoa Road, also called Highway 130, which is one of the state’s most dangerous thoroughfares.

We have one way in and out of Puna. If we have a tidal wave, if we have a volcanic eruption, there’s no way out of here.”

D E A D LY R OA D WAYS Number of fatally injured car occupants in Hawaii County from N umber o ff atally i njured c ar o ccupants i nH awaii C ounty f rom 2007-2011: 2007-2011:

Phil Matlage Hawaiian Paradise Park resident

2007

2008

2009

27
14 BIG ISLAND / GROWING PAINS

15

15

Pa ra di se

HAWAII COUNTY Y
— including the largest, Hawaiian Paradise Park — is mostly on Keaau-Pahoa Road. On average, 35,700 cars travel daily on the roadway, according to a 2009 count conducted by the state Department of Transportation, also the most recent data available. In 1999, the total was 13,000. Hawaii County Councilman Zendo Kern, who grew up in Puna and whose district includes Puna mauka, Keaau and Glenwood, said the traffic and high rate of accidents on Keaau-Pahoa Road are among the biggest quality-of-life and public-safety issues for Puna residents. “It is huge,” he said. “When everyone is going home in the evening time, traffic backs up. A drive that would take 10 minutes takes 45.” And avoiding the byway is not a choice. To get to work or school, to go to the store, to go to Hilo or Pahoa or other neighboring towns, requires a trip on Keaau-Pahoa Road. “That’s our main access road. That’s all we’ve got,” said Puna resident Phil Matlage, who lives in the Hawaiian Paradise Park subdivision. “We have one way in and out of Puna. If we have a tidal wave, if we have a volcanic eruption, there’s no way out of here.” While efforts are under way to relieve the situation, a long-term solution will be costly. The state Department of Transportation wants to eventually convert Keaau-Pahoa Road into a four-lane highway with stoplights at intersections. But adding a lane in each direction along the 20-mile stretch would cost an estimated $130 million, and there are no immediate plans to include that in the department’s capital improvements plan. DOT spokeswoman Caroline Sluyter said the department has been working on smaller fixes aimed at improving safety on the roadway and increasing its capacity. Those include converting south- and northbound shoulder lanes into drivable ones, installing a roundabout at the intersection with Old Government Road, which had the highest accident rate, and widening the “buffer zones” between traffic and KAUAI COUNTY pedestrian walkways.

41 41

Dr iv e

Rate of fatal injuries a per 100,000 among c car tat occupants in the state Old Government Road nm 11: from 2007 to 2011:

27 27

13 0

a lo na Ai

31 3 1 34 3 4 d ar v e ul Bo

M ak uu

Dr iv e
Keaau-Pahoa Road
ai ak rd h a Ka lev u Bo
19
ACCIDENTS

ALSO, STARTING IN MAY, the state will reduce the speed limit along a portion of the highway — to 45 mph from 55 mph. Matlage said Keaau-Pahoa Road is known among residents as the “flower monument highway.” “At every single intersection, there are flower monuments to the dead,” he said. That even Hawaii islanders are wary of MAUI COUNTY Highway 130 is saying something — the county has the deadliest roads in the islands per capita. And as more people enter the district, the situation on Keaau-Pahoa Road is poised to only worsen. Thousands more residents are forecast to move into Puna over the next two decades. That’s worrisome to residents, who say they already leave very early to try to beat the traffic. Some drivers also get off the thoroughfare and drive on substandard parallel HONOLULU COUNTY roads through private subdivisions, creating backups in those communities. Hawaiian Paradise Park resident Frank Soares, 39, a truck driver, said leaving the house after 7 a.m. pretty much guarantees hitting gridlock. “They’ve got to do something about it,” he said. ■

The five worst intersection crash locations from 2007 to 2009 were along Highway 130: Keaau-Pahoa Road/ Old Government Road Keaau-Pahoa Road/ Ainaloa Boulevard Keaau-Pahoa Road/ Makuu Drive Keaau-Pahoa Road/ Paradise Drive Keaau-Pahoa Road/ Kahakai Boulevard Kuakini Highway/ Lako Street Keaau-Pahoa Road/ Orchidland Drive Queen Kaahumanu Highway/ Mauna Lani Drive 41 34 31 27 19 22 19 10

Volcano Road/ 12 N. Kulani Road & S. Kulani Road Kawaihae Road/ Queen Kaahumanu Highway 11

N

2 010

2 011

2 miles

19

18

Source: S ource: State State T Transportation ransportation a and nd H Health ealth departments departments

SUNDAY 4/28/13 >> HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

15

UP CLOSE

THE BIG ISLAND

AGRICULTURE

$195 MILLION
WHAT’S GROWN IN EACH DISTRICT
1: NORTH KOHALA Dairy Flowers and foliage Macadamia nuts Special crops Tropical fruits Truck crops 2: SOUTH KOHALA Flowers and foliage Special crops Truck crops
ACRES

Total farm value

AQUACULTURE
ACRES

841 92 1,100 6 89 16 7 5 457

6: HAMAKUA Aquaculture Dairy Flowers and foliage Macadamia nuts Special crops Taro Tropical fruits Truck crops 7: NORTH HILO Banana Flowers and foliage Macadamia nuts Special crops Tropical fruits Truck crops 8: SOUTH HILO Banana Coffee Dairy Flowers and foliage Macadamia nuts Special crops Tropical fruits Truck crops 9: PUNA Aquaculture Banana Coffee Flowers and foliage Macadamia nuts Papaya Special crops Tropical fruits Truck crops

2 2,342 27 778 61 51 395 249 3 30 20 22 335 410 234 11 180 616 3,146 95 1,245 1,907 3 200 27 775 3,783 2,709 4 762 298

Kapaau

1

$27.8 MILLION
Honokaa
The value of shellfish, finfish and algae produced by 35 operations in 2008

2

6 7
Waimea Hilo

3: NORTH KONA 159 Aquaculture 2,389 Coffee 90 Flowers and foliage 749 Macadamia nuts Macadamia nuts/coffee 608 43 Special crops 73 Tropical fruits 56 Truck crops 4: SOUTH KONA 1,759 Coffee 46 Flowers and foliage 5,598 Macadamia nuts Macadamia nuts/coffee 1,658 12 Special crops 26 Tropical fruits 23 Truck crops 5: KAU Coffee Flowers and foliage Macadamia nuts Special crops Tropical fruits Truck crops 582 17 5,032 43 243 182

8 3
Kailua-Kona

Kealakekua

9 4

Pahala

5
Naalehu

MAJOR AGRICULTURAL AREAS

EACH PERSON IS 100

MORE THAN

Sources: Hawaii County, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Baseline Study for Food Self-Sufficiency in Hawaii County

2,500

Employees working in agriculture in 2008

16

BIG ISLAND / GROWING PAINS

SUNDAY 4/28/13 >> HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

7,807

6,838

6,936

7,133

6,715

6,327

6,760

CRIM E

8,278

6,369

5,201
Total crime index in 2011
2 2002 002 2 2003 003 2 2004 004

5,929

5,919

6,219

5,935

6,211

5,494

5,743

5,255

5,769

514

471

433

450

441

221

295

2002 2 0 0 2 2003 2 0 0 3 2004 2 0 0 4 2005 2 0 0 5 2006 2006 2 2007 007 2 2008 008 2 2009 009 2 2010 010 2 2011 011

290

468

491

2 2002 002 2 2003 003 2 2004 004 2 2005 005 2 2006 006 2 2007 007 2 2008 008 2 2009 009 2 2010 0 1 0 2011 2011

4,710

2002 2 0 0 2 2003 2 0 0 3 2004 2 0 0 4 2005 2 0 0 5 2006 2 0 0 6 2007 2007 2 2008 0 0 8 2009 2009 2 2010 0 1 0 2011 201 11 1

VI O LE NT C R I M E I N D E X
2 2005 005 2 2006 006 2 2007 007 2 2008 008 2 2009 009 2 2010 010

PRO PE R T Y CR I M E I N DEX
2 2011 011

TOTAL C R I M E I N D E X
Number of drug-related arrests by the Hawaii Police Department in the 2011-2012 fiscal year Percentage of residents who said d they were a victim of any crime in 2010 Rate per 100,000 people of nonfa nonfatal assaults from 2007-2011, the highest rate for any of the counties

VIOLENT V I O LE N T CRIME C R I M E INDEX INDE X Murder Rape Robbery Assault 5 35 48 133 6 48 77 164 3 86 53 148 5 18 93 355 4 65 88 276 5 77 102 266 4 78 73 286 5 66 67 330 3 85 79 347 3 63 62 363

PROPERTY CRIME INDEX P ROPE R T Y C RIME I NDE X Burglary Larceny-theft Motor-vehicle theft Arson 1,539 1,437 1,162 1,837 1,426 4,663 4,924 4,335 5,211 4,293 513 49 477 48 432 43 759 32 608 50 1,381 3,996 542 79 1,208 1,415 3,796 3,855 490 67 473 28 1,141 946

3,627 3,360 487 21 404 39

492 33% 466
5.7%

HEALTH

Children age 17 and younger without health insurance Adults without health insurance (highest in the state)

84.2%
Adults in good or better health in 2008

9.5%
Adults who are obese (highest in the state)

24%
Adults who smoke (highest in the state)

278 188 24
Cardiovascular disease death rate per 100,000 people Cancer death rate per 100,000 people
Sources: S ources: S State tate Department Department o of fB Business, usiness, E Economic conomic Development Development and and T Tourism; ourism; s state tate a attorney ttorney g general’s eneral’s o office ffice

18.9%

Diabetes death rate per 100,000 people

SUNDAY 4/28/13 >> HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

5,201 17

PART 2 A NEW ATTITUDE

HAWAIIAN OCEAN VIEW ESTATES

POPULATION: MEDIAN AGE: UNEMPLOYED:

4,437 78.7%

44.3

6.8%*

OWNER-OCCUPIED HOUSING: MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME:

$43,910*
MEDIAN VALUE OF HOUSING UNITS:

Ocean View resident Gary Schauweker loads up on potable water from a spigot at the community well, a $6 million addition to the subdivision as it adapts to its growing population.

$208,000*
HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE OR HIGHER:

91.9%*
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau and American Community Survey’s five-year estimate *

TAMING THE ‘WEST’
Ocean View has more of a community feel thanks to a steady influx of residents, but the area still maintains its rough edges
We get all kinds, and it’s not for everyone. People who don’t fit in anywhere else fit in here.”
Christine Gallagher Real estate agent who has been a resident of Ocean View for 34 years

HAWAIIAN OCEAN VIEW ESTATES
>> This outpost on the slopes of Mauna Loa has long had a reputation as the “wild, wild west,” a haven for drugs, for anything goes, and for people who wanted little to do with the outside world. But the nation’s largest subdivision in terms of size — with 11,000 1-acre lots — has gone through a decided transformation over the last two decades. Today, about 6,000 people live in all of Ocean View, most in the subdivision dubbed “HOVE” (rhymes with cove). That’s up from less than 1,000 in 1990.

In the last decade especially, many islanders and mainlanders have migrated here because of the affordability of land — an acre can go for as little as $5,000 to $10,000, depending on where it is in the subdivision. And with the flood of new people, a new sense of community has come to HOVE. There is a neighborhood watch and a strong resident association. There are weekend craft fairs and farmers markets. The community center offers a preschool and square-dancing classes. With the subdivision’s growth has come new conveniences, too. Last year, the county opened a $6 million well in HOVE, where peo-

ple can pump potable water. One day a week, trash is accepted at a community transfer station. Christine Gallagher, a real estate agent who has lived in the subdivision for 34 years, said Ocean View still has its quirks. It’s just a lot friendlier these days. On a recent Saturday, Gallagher, a petite woman with short-cropped hair, was selling knives, sunglasses and brass knuckles at Ocean View’s farmers market, where lots of residents come to get a bargain or to offer one. She said HOVE — and, by extension, Ocean View — has “developed into a different com-

18

BIG ISLAND / GROWING PAINS

shipping containers, shacks or yurts. One woman even lives in a lava tube. But 20 years ago, no one imagined that HOVE would be having spaghetti-dinner fundraisers to help pay for kids’ programs or that residents would be gathering on weekends to buy produce and household goods from one another — and do some neighborly THEFT AND DRUGS are still problems, catching-up. “The thing that attracts everybody in the too, as is the preponderance of “alternative” beginning is it’s cheap,” said Dennis Smith, 70, — often unpermitted — structures. HOVE’s who runs the Ocean View farmers market. association estimates that at least half of homes built in the subdivision don’t have per- “But we have a good community, it’s like a family.” mits; a fair number of residents live in tents, munity.” “We get all kinds, and it’s not for everyone,” she said, adding that many people, especially mainlanders, move in only to leave within the year because of the rugged lifestyle — or the neighbors. “People who don’t fit in anywhere else fit in here.”

The parcels of land in Ocean View are appealing for their cheap prices, and they attract a wide variety of owners. Some people choose to leave their lots minimally occupied, with little more than vans or temporary structures.

At the market, Smith stood near a table with pamphlets about the Kau district, and about Ocean View. He acknowledged there are still some bad elements in the community, and there are still people who want to be left alone. “We still have our share of problems, and we’re weeding them out as fast as we can,” he said. “We’re kind of grown up. We’ve had to fight our way through the thieves.” The changes seen in Ocean View are part of the bigger story of population growth on Continued on next page

SUNDAY 4/28/13 >> HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

19

PART 2 A NEW ATTITUDE

Hawaii island. Increasingly, people looking for a land bargain are snapping up unimproved parcels in subdivisions created in rural areas decades ago. The fastest-growing area of Hawaii island is the expansive Puna district, where — despite a lack of infrastructure in subdivisions — the population has more than doubled since 1990 and is forecast to top Hilo’s before the end of the decade. The growth in Ocean View is often compared to what has been seen in Puna, only on a smaller scale. Just like in Puna, the influx of people in Ocean View is changing a community and a landscape, creating the need for improved infrastructure and services, and raising questions about how much growth is too much. County Councilwoman Brenda Ford, whose district includes the area, said the difference is that Ocean View was synonymous among Hawaii islanders with drugs and crime. “It’s calmed down quite a bit,” she said. “It’s no longer the wild, wild west.”

BUT WITH THE NEWCOMERS,
many of them families, have come new problems, too. Work is hard to find nearby, so people often must commute long distances to work. Getting children to school can also be a feat — the nearest elementary school is 30 minutes away in Naalehu, and the nearest high school is in Pahala, a 45-minute drive. And there is the issue of services, Ford said. For example, two police officers patrol Kau, the island’s largest district in terms of size. So calling the police usually means a fairly long wait. Accessing most county services, meanwhile, requires driving two hours to Kona or Hilo. That’s a particularly onerous burden on many who live in Ocean View, where the median income of a family in 2011 was $45,000, compared to $65,000 for Hawaii County, according to U.S. Census figures. Parcels in HOVE and several other Ocean View subdivisions, including Hawaiian Ranchos and Kona Garden Estates, started going on the market in the 1950s. In Ocean View, as in Puna, large developers got permission to subdivide huge parcels of undeveloped land, selling the individual unimproved lots to people from around the world. Today, about 1,300 lots in HOVE are officially occupied, which doesn’t count parcels where people are living in vans, tents or other temporary structures. The subdivision, mauka of the highway, be-

Top, Dennis Smith browses a display at the Ocean View farmers market. “The thing that attracts everybody in the beginning is it’s cheap,” Smith says of the area. “But we have a good community, it’s like a family.” Above, trash is collected weekly at a community transfer station. Residents can wait in line for up to an hour in order to dispose of their garbage.

20

BIG ISLAND / GROWING PAINS

gins at about 2,000 feet above sea level, where ohia forests provide a natural canopy. The highest lots in the subdivision are at about 5,000 feet above sea level. Progressing up the subdivision, the trees give way to barren lavarock lots — a stark reminder that HOVE is on Mauna Loa’s southwest rift zone, a “lava zone 2.” (A zone 1 area has the greatest hazard). At the upper elevations, a virtual moonscape, the air is chilly — most days, temperatures are in the 60s, though they can dip below freezing at night during the winter. Jack Marx, 66, lives near the top of the subdivision, in a seven-bedroom house he built himself. It’s a quaint A-frame, painted celadon and lime, that sticks out conspicuously in the treeless landscape. Marx moved to Ocean View in 1995, and, like most residents in the subdivision, he lives off the grid: He uses solar power for most of his energy needs, has generators for backup, and catches his own drinking water or has it trucked in. He said HOVE has a different pace, and offers a different lifestyle. “It’s tougher to live out here,” he added. “There are rough people.” When asked why he stays, he went to his lanai, where he pointed to his view of 24 miles of Kau coastline. He added, with a laugh, “I’m just not crazy about living around too many people.” Genny Galletes, 52, moved to Ocean View 20 years ago with her husband and four of her children. “It was very sparse, very wild,” she said, laughing. Her four children — and three more who came along — were raised in Ocean View and all of them have stayed.

LIVING IN OCEAN VIEW Median income

$53,591
HAWAII COUNTY MEDIAN INCOME

$43,910
OCEAN VIEW MEDIAN INCOME

Year housing units built

22.8%

33.5% 17.5%

2.1%

2.0%

1940-1949

1.5%

1950-1959

1960-1969

1.3%

1970-1979

8.5%

1980-1989

1990-1999

1939 or earlier

2000-2004

GALLETES WENT to the farmers market on a recent Saturday morning with one of her granddaughters. The two were selling framed photos of Hawaii scenes and foliage as a fundraiser for a summer program for kids. Galletes, her curly hair brushed back from her face, said when she moved into Ocean View, the roads weren’t paved (as they are now) and there were no street signs. “It takes a certain kind of person to live here,” she said. Galletes added she’s well aware of Ocean View’s tough reputation, but has never encountered any problems. “You respect each other, you get respected back,” she said. “Everyone knows to be aware, that’s all.”
Continued on next page

7.6%
No telephone service

Lack complete plumbing facilities

9.8%

5.7%
Top, Dennis Smith runs the Ocean View farmers market. Middle, Helene Hart, who moved to Ocean View seven years ago, sells beanies she knits herself. Above, Genny Galletes was at the market with a granddaughter, selling items as a fundraiser for a summer program for kids. All of her children were raised in Ocean View and have stayed in the community.
Lack complete kitchen facilities
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

SUNDAY 4/28/13 >> HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

2005 or later

10.9%

21

PART 2 A NEW ATTITUDE

living in Kona, and said he eventually plans to build a home on his acre of land. For now, he is enjoying himself in a place where a day can go by without seeing a passer-by and where, at night, the stars overhead are unimpeded by city lights. His shed, about 6 feet wide and 8 feet long, has a cot for a bed, a small bookshelf, pictures of Hawaiian vistas on the plywood walls and a kitchen the size of a telephone booth, with a sink and a hot plate. He uses a solar shower — a bag filled with water and heated by the sun — that’s hooked to the outside of his tiny home. Soren was a truck driver in Seattle before taking an early retirement to move to Ocean View. “I’m going to make this my abode,” he said.

There’s just a quietness here. You can breathe. The druggies gave this place a bad name. But it’s turning into a very good community.”
Helene Hart Ocean View resident

She added there are still a fair number of “characters” in Ocean View. “They’re all still here,” she said. One of those characters is undoubtedly Savory Yarrow, 59, who calls himself an “old hippie.” Getting water at the county pump station, he was dressed in a tight shirt and jeans and a cowboy hat. His red hair falls past his shoulders.

Some Ocean View properties are in disarray, but their owners say they prefer being able to live a rustic, unmonitored lifestyle.

YARROW HAS LIVED in Ocean View for eight years and said he moved here because “there’s more freedom per capita.” “It benefits everybody that there be a place that is largely unregulated and unobserved by the system,” he said with a drawl. “I can go in my backyard and stand naked. I can have a bonfire and run a sweat lodge. I just do whatever I feel like.” Back at the top of the subdivision, 58-yearold Steven Soren sat on a lawn chair in front of a shed he built to live in. Soren moved in six months ago, after first

PERHAPS NEEDLESS to say, enforcing permitting regulations is a tough job in Ocean View. Warren Lee, director of the Hawaii County Department of Public Works, said his office is complaint-driven in HOVE because there is so much land to cover. There are about 60 active cases in the subdivision, he said, most related to building without a permit. The department has also received numerous complaints about large encampments of people living in squalid conditions on lots. HOVE’s association estimates there are at least a dozen such encampments; one has an estimated 80 people living in tents, shacks and cars on a 1-acre lot. At another encampment on a recent morning, there were about 20 people mulling around, many of them women and children eating or working under the shade of a makeshift gazebo. About a dozen cars and trucks were parked on the lot, and some of them looked like they were being lived in. There were also a half-dozen plywood shacks, and rugs covering large patches of dirt. No one at the encampment would comment. At his home nearby, Jack Sugrue, 66, loaded household trash into a van with his son to take to the community’s one-day-a-week transfer station. HOVE is at the “low end of the real estate market,” he said, so there are bound to be a few problems. “The more good people that move in, the better,” said Sugrue, a cashier at a Tesoro gas station in Kona who has lived in Ocean View for 13 years. “Every year there’s a greater percentage of good people.” Back at the Saturday farmers market, where

22

BIG ISLAND / GROWING PAINS

residents sell everything from jellies to knives to Barbies, Tessa Wirtz and her husband, Ed, took orders for hamburger plates mounded high with freshly-cut fries. As she filled an order, Wirtz laughed at the suggestion that Ocean View has a bad reputation. “I feel it’s a growing, up-and-coming community,” said the 28-year-old, who works for Pacific Quest, a therapeutic wilderness program. Her husband, a plumber, said Ocean View offers privacy and a “huge lot for less than anywhere else on the island.” Plus, he added, it’s got a small-town feel. “Everybody knows everybody,” he said. Nearby, Helene Hart, 65, was selling beanies that she knits herself. She does pretty good business — especially on a chilly morning. Hart moved to Ocean View seven years ago, and said she can’t imagine living anywhere else. “There’s just a quietness here. You can breathe,” she said. “The druggies gave this place a bad name. But it’s turning into a very good community.” ■

Above, Jack Marx, who moved to Ocean View in 1995, lives off the grid in a seven-bedroom house he built himself. One of the perks of his home, he says, is his expansive view of the Kau coastline. At left, Steven Soren constructed the 6-foot-by-8-foot shed on his acre of land that he calls home. He moved here six months ago.

SUNDAY 4/28/13 >> HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

23

PART 2 A NEW ATTITUDE

PAHALA

POPULATION: MEDIAN AGE: UNEMPLOYED:

1,356 72.4%

41

7.7%*

OWNER-OCCUPIED HOUSING: MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME:

$44,527*
MEDIAN VALUE OF HOUSING UNITS:

$183,800*
HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE OR HIGHER:

84.4%*
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau and American Community Survey’s five-year estimate *

Jotak Enoch, left, picks coffee berries on Thomas “Bull” Kailiawa’s farm. Kailiawa, right, tends to drying coffee beans. He worked at Pahala’s sugar plantation for 12 years before it closed in 1996. He now grows coffee on leased land and sells it as a boutique roast.

ON THE BIG ISLAND
CROP LAND

LIFE AFTER SUGAR
Coffee and other crops have helped keep Pahala afloat as residents explore ways to protect its past and its future
PAHALA >> When thinking about the future weekend, pictures of old Pahala strewn across seeing property prices skyrocket.
of this town, residents say, it’s important to first consider its past. In particular, to consider the year everything changed. In 1996, Hawaii island’s last sugar plantation closed here, ending a way of life for a town that revolved almost exclusively around the industry. Many families had to move elsewhere for work. Those who stayed behind struggled. “Everyone went their own ways,” said Thomas “Bull” Kailiawa, 49, who worked at the sugar mill for 12 years before it shuttered. People here still recall the day sugar died with tears in their eyes — and say Pahala is still trying to find its footing, 17 years later. Pahala is one of a handful of communities on the island that saw a population decline from 2000 to 2010, according to U.S. Census estimates. Today about 1,360 people call it home. Most places on the island, in contrast, saw staggering population growth over the period. But Pahala residents bristle at the suggestion that their town is dying, and they’re determined to remake it on their own terms. “Look at what we have here,” Lynn Hamilton said as she sat with friends on a recent her dining-room table. “We have a real village. We have a town that is unique, and we have a people who are still here. This town, these people, are valuable.” There are some positive signs for the town. Kau coffee, now recognized as among the best in the world, has brought much-needed attention and economic opportunity to Pahala. Kailiawa now grows coffee on 7.5 acres of leased land above Pahala, dries it in his yard and sells it as a boutique roast. “Everybody right now, they’re growing coffee,” Kailiawa said as he raked coffee beans back and forth along long drying racks. The town is also home to several large — and growing — macadamia nut and other farms. And there is talk of putting a biofuel refinery above Pahala (an idea not uniformly welcomed by residents). Julia Neal, publisher and editor of the Ka‘u Calendar, lives in Pahala and said reinventing the town won’t mean putting in glitzy tourist hot spots or tearing down the plantation-era structures that are such an integral part of Pahala’s history. Residents, she said, aren’t interested in changing the character of the place — or of “People are trying to come back,” she said, “because guess where the fireman can afford a house?”

78%
Of state’s orchard land

81%
Of state’s papaya acreage

66%
Of state’s lemon acreage

65%
Of state’s lime acreage

69%
Of state’s avocado acreage

54%
Of state’s banana orchards
Source: State Department of Agriculture

———

PAHALA RESIDENTS, she said, want to honor their heritage and ensure their children and grandchildren have a home. That drive to preserve the past is evident in the work of a group of Pahala women who hope to turn the oldest plantation home still standing in Pahala into a “living museum” and visitors center. They’ve got quite a job ahead of them. The home is vacant, and while its foundation appears structurally sound, just about everything else needs to be replaced or refurbished. There are gaping holes in the wood flooring, missing windows, termite-eaten beams. The women, who include Hamilton, don’t seem overly daunted, though. They say Pahala will come through for them, giving them whatever the little house needs to live another life. Gail Kalani, who was born and raised in Pahala, said renovating the town’s oldest plantation house is a small way to send a big

24

BIG ISLAND / GROWING PAINS

LIVING IN KAU COUNTY Median income

$53,591
HAWAII COUNTY MEDIAN INCOME

$39,415
KAU MEDIAN INCOME

Year housing units built

12.2%

19.1%

27.7%

6.0%

6.8%

4.8%

Top, Eleanora Jerusalem Louis stands outside Pahala’s oldest plantation home, which she and several other women want to renovate and turn into a “living museum” and visitors center. Middle, Lynn Hamilton, left, Gail Kalani, Dorothy Kalua and Louis in front of the home they hope to spruce up. “We’re trying to save what we have, our area, our housing,” Kalani says. “We want to remember what it was like.” Bottom, the group met recently at Hamilton’s home.

message: “We’re trying to save what we have, our area, our housing,” she said. “We want to remember what it was like.” But as Pahala seeks a renaissance of sorts, trying to find itself in a post-sugar era, it is doing so with incredible challenges. Many in the community are aging. Residents still struggle to find work. And young people are leaving for opportunities elsewhere. Otis Salmo is a rare breed of Pahala resident: He’s young and he returned. Salmo, whose father worked at the sugar plantation, grew up in Pahala and graduated from Kau High in 2001. He joined the Navy, traveled and got bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Last year he decided to come back to his hometown, something he always knew he wanted to do. He accepted a position as a counselor at Kau High and Pahala Elementary School, and is also a youth volleyball coach. “Right now I think I’m the only one that returned among my classmates. All the other ones that left, I don’t see them anymore,” he said. Even Salmo’s siblings didn’t return. Salmo’s brother lives in Wyoming, his sister in Hilo. “Jobs here are very scarce and it’s a different life,” Salmo said. “Not everybody likes this lifestyle. There’s more things out there. Here there’s nothing.” ■

1940-1949

1950-1959

1960-1969

2.9%

1970-1979

1980-1989

1990-1999

1939 or earlier

2000-2004

10.2%

6.4%
No telephone service

5.3%
Lack complete plumbing facilities

3.8%
Lack complete kitchen facilities
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

SUNDAY 4/28/13 >> HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

2005-later

10.4%

25

PART 2 A NEW ATTITUDE

KONA

‘We are really lacking in medical help’
Scarce services on Hawaii island make life even tougher for residents who already face higher rates of health and socioeconomic problems
6.0%*

POPULATION: MEDIAN AGE: UNEMPLOYED:

11,975 38.4
OWNER-OCCUPIED HOUSING:

KONA >> When people come to see Dr. Anthony DeSalvo at Kona Community Hospital, they’re usually pretty sick, and they usually have more than one medical problem. The oncologist said his patient load is massive compared with the population and that his patients’ cancers are oftentimes in advanced stages when they begin treatment. He sees 28 to 32 people a day at the hospital, which primarily serves a rural area spanning from South Kohala to Pahala. Part of the problem, he said, is the dearth of health care options for people in many areas of Hawaii island: Patients might drive up to two hours to get even basic treatment at the Kona facility. The lack of access to physicians means many people don’t get the regular screenings needed to catch problems early. The issue is one of increasing urgency, given the massive population growth on the island which is only forecast to continue. A 2011 report to the Legislature from the Hawai‘i Physician Workforce Assessment Project estimated that Hawaii island needs about 174 more doctors just to serve its current population. By comparison, Oahu — whose population is five times larger than Hawaii island’s — is short 331 doctors. Complicating the shortage, Hawaii island residents are worse off on just about every health indicator, compared with statewide averages. They have higher rates of cancer and cardiovascular disease, and have lower life expectancies. At the same time, nearly one-fifth of Hawaii County adults smoke (compared with 13 percent on Oahu), and 24 percent are overweight or obese. And poverty rates are higher on Hawaii island: About 20 percent of residents live below the poverty line, double the percentage on Oahu. “When you factor in the social determinants of health — education, economics, all those factors, all those social conditions — they are exacerbated here, which complicates the treatment of diseases,” said Richard Taaffe, executive director of the West Hawaii Community Health Center.

52.0%
MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME:

$60,744*
MEDIAN VALUE OF HOUSING UNITS:

$440,500 *
HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE OR HIGHER:

88.5%*
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau and American Community Survey’s five-year estimate *

————— MAIN OPTION Kona Community Hospital is the primary health care facility serving West Hawaii: >> Beds: 94 >> Employees: 406 >> Medical staff: 70
PATIENT CENSUS

3,153
Admissions

446
Births

17,811
Patient days

16,924
Emergency-room visits
Source: Hawaii Health Systems Corp., fiscal year 2012

THE CENTER OPENED in 2005, and that year saw about 900 patients. Today it has three clinics and about 11,000 patients. The center serves an expansive area, from Kawaihae to Ocean View. “We’re filling in the pukas having to do with primary care,” he said. “There’s a tremendous need.” In addition to primary care physicians, the clinic offers behavioral health and pediatric dental services. Taaffe said a lack of access to specialty care — from dermatologists to neurologists — is another hurdle for residents. The clinic has had to send some of its patients to Honolulu for care. Hawaii County Councilman Greggor Ilagan said the shortage of health care services is also acute in his district in Puna, which has seen the biggest population increases on Hawaii island over the last decade. Puna, now home to about 45,000 people, has a handful of small clinics and private practices, some of which aren’t open daily. “We are really lacking in medical help,” said Ilagan. To access most services, he said, people

Oncologist Dr. Anthony DeSalvo and registered nurse Kim Million look through a patient’s file at DeSalvo’s office in Kealakekua. Many patients across Hawaii island struggle with a lack of health care options in their areas, the Kona Community Hospital physician says.

have to drive about 30 minutes to Hilo. Back at Kona Community Hospital, population growth has translated into higher patient counts at the 94-bed facility, which was designated as a trauma center in 2011 along with Hilo Medical Center. The hospital’s emergency room saw 16,924 people in fiscal year 2012, up 44 percent from 2003. Kona Community Hospital spokeswoman Judy Donovan said the facility, which is under the publicly funded Hawaii Health Systems Corp., is on track to see even more growth this year. In March the hospital averaged about 60 emergency-room visits a day, up from about 50 in the same period a year ago. ■

26

BIG ISLAND / GROWING PAINS

UP CLOSE

THE BIG ISLAND

TO U R I S M

HOU S ING

1,434,271
2 012 S TATI S TI C S
Occupancy Average daily room rate Total visitor days 62.0% $192.57 10,486,238 Exp penditures Expenditures Average Ave erage length of stay Revenue per available room $119.39

Visitor arrivals in 2012

$1.7 $1.7 billion 7.31 days $163.90

72.4%

Highest growth in housing units in the state from 1990 to 2011

Spend nding per day per person perso erson Spending

Spending ending per trip per person $1,198.30

26,550

Visitors on a typical day, a in 2011. Honolulu ulu County had the highest number at 88,979.

$247,000 $ 247, 7,000
Median home price in 2011

One in eight persons in Hawaii County was a tourist on a typical day in 2011

S TAN DAR D OF LIVING
Median family income in 2010

56% 14.4% 141

Percentage increase in electricity demand from 1990 to 2011 Percentage of energ energy consumption that is renewable

$57,308
People in poverty Average annual wage in 2010

Owner-occupied units in 2010

44,271
Renter-occupied units in 2010

13.1%

22,825
Gallons of water consumed per day per person in 2007, which was the lowest in the state

$36,421

$30,844
Per-capita personal income in 2010

EACH HOUSE IS 2,000

S Sources: ources: Hawai‘i Hawai‘i T Tourism ourism Authority; Authorit ty y; State State Department Department o of f Business, Business, Economic Economic D Development evelopment a and nd T Tourism; ourism; H Hawaii awaii C County ount ty yD Department epartment o of fR Research esearch a and nd D Development evelopment

83,186

Housing units in 2011

SUNDAY 4/28/13 >> HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

27

HONOKAA

PART 3 THE NEXT GENERATION

POPULATION: MEDIAN AGE: UNEMPLOYED:

2,258 63.5%

41.2

9.2%*

OWNER-OCCUPIED HOUSING: MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME:

$60,511*
MEDIAN VALUE OF HOUSING UNITS:

$374,800*
HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE OR HIGHER:

89.6%*
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau and American Community Survey’s five-year estimate *

We hope a lot of them would choose to come back or stay but not necessarily have to leave. Now it’s mostly they have to leave.”
Patti Cook Community liaison at Waimea Middle

NEW INITIATIVES AIM TO COMBAT ‘BRAIN DRAIN’
Big Island youth see few job opportunities at home, a mindset educators and officials hope to change

HONOKAA >> Tucked away in a small asphalt lot on Honokaa High’s campus, about two dozen carpentry students toiled away at their sawhorses. Hard hats and safety goggles on, measuring tape and saws out. “I’d rather be out here than in a classroom,” said Kaila Torres, 17, as she eyed a piece of wood she needed to cut. The group is earning dual high school and college credit as part of an intensive “construction academy,” designed to give students a head start on their postsecondary education before they leave high school. But while the students might graduate with a bit of an advantage, teachers and counselors acknowledge that these teens — and their peers across Hawaii island — still face considerable challenges: among them, a high unemployment rate, a lack of opportunities for young people and

28

BIG ISLAND / GROWING PAINS

Honokaa High School sophomore Jyrus Malicki is one of about two dozen carpentry students earning dual high school and college credit through an intensive “construction academy,” which is taught by Hawaii Community College instructor Reuben Chip.

breadbasket, stands to profit from the growing popularity of buying and eating local. In short, said Kurohara, the jobs that will lure and keep young people on Hawaii island “may not currently exist.” But, he said, they will. “I do see Hawaii island as a huge player in the future of Hawaii,” he said. “You don’t have to have everything in Honolulu.”

few options for work in their own backyards. “The hardest part is to try and convince the students that they can have success,” said Reuben Chip, the Hawaii Community College instructor who teaches the carpentry course. “They’re telling me their dad was laid off, there is no construction.” There are new initiatives underway aimed at better preparing Hawaii island’s young people for a competitive workforce, steering them to high-demand careers and bolstering options for a new generation. The fruits of these scattered efforts aren’t yet known, but many agree the work is sorely needed.

EVEN BEFORE THEY leave high school, Hawaii island youth must tackle a hard truth: Work is tough to find here, especially for those entering the job market. And for many youth living on the state’s second most populous island, getting ahead probably means going away. It means leaving small, rural communities like this one for the population centers in Hilo or Kona, or leaving the island for Oahu or the mainland. Those left behind often find themselves settling for whatever jobs they can find — or being unable to find work altogether. U.S. Census Bureau estimates show the unemployment rate for 20- to 24-year-olds on Hawaii island was a staggering 21 percent in 2011, the latest data available. The statewide average for the age group was 13 percent. “Yes, there are challenges. There is a brain drain. There is a lack of employment opportunities,” said Randy Kurohara, Hawaii County deputy managing director. But Kurohara and others see reason for hope. Hawaii island, they say, supports a robust entrepreneurial spirit and is attractive to families and businesses because of its relative affordability. It is home to groundbreaking research in astronomy and is at the forefront of Hawaii’s sustainable-energy movement. There are new science and technology opportunities, especially coming out of the University of Hawaii at Hilo, which has the state’s only college of pharmacy. And the island, long known as Hawaii’s Continued on next page

GETTING THERE, though, is far from easy. Alapaki Nahale-a, director of community programs at Kamehameha Schools and former director of the Hawaii Charter Schools Network, said the island has “all the bones” needed for job growth and new opportunities. But there is work to do. “The whole brain drain, keeping the best and the brightest, is really an issue,” he said. “We have to have the whole range of jobs. There are folks who want to own businesses, and we have folks who just want to make ends meet.” Patti Cook, community liaison at Waimea Middle and a well-known community activist, said the ultimate goal is for Hawaii island kids, especially those living in rural areas, to have choices. “We hope a lot of them would choose to come back or stay but not necessarily have to leave,” she said. “Now it’s mostly they have to leave.” At Honokaa High, like many secondary schools on Hawaii island, administrators and teachers are trying to tackle the lack of opportunities for young people by improving student preparation. They want students to be aware of the possibilities on the island — and the limitations. This academic year the school converted part of its library into a college and career hub for seniors. University pennants line the walls, scholarship announcements are tacked to bulletin boards and a full-time counselor helps students map out a plan for after graduation. About two dozen seniors were in the center on a recent weekday, seated on plush sofas and at long study tables, with earphones on and eyes glued to laptop screens. Several of the seniors said they can see their futures — in business administration, computer science, auto mechanics — and they aren’t in Honokaa. “The life is slow here,” said Mitchell Echavez, 17. Echavez said he plans to study computer science at UH-Hilo. From there, he said, who knows?

EMPLOYMENT BREAKDOWN Hawaii County in 2010 had 60,400 nonagricultural jobs, ranging from arts, entertainment and recreation to government workers at the local, state and federal levels. Natural resources, mining and construction 3,100 Manufacturing 1,200 Wholesale trade 1,600 Retail trade 8,600 Transportation, warehousing and utilities 2,500 Information 900 Finance, insurance and real estate 2,700 Professional and business services 4,800 Education services 1,200 Health care and social assistance 6,600 Arts, entertainment and recreation 1,600 Accommodation 5,600 Food services and drinking places 5,200 Other services 2,000 Federal government 1,500 State government 8,600 Local government 2,700 UNEMPLOYMENT BREAKDOWN BY AGE More than one-fifth of residents ages 16 to 24 were unemployed in 2011, according to U.S. Census data.
16-19 TOTAL POPULATION 16 YEARS AND OVER

21.9%

11.2%
20-24 25-44 45-54

20.6%

13.6%

6.0%

55-64

65-74

75 YEARS AND OVER

8.2%

2.8%

15.4%

Sources: Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey

SUNDAY 4/28/13 >> HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

29

PART 3 THE NEXT GENERATION

At left, chef instructor Paul Heerlein directs his students at Hawaii Community College’s West Hawaii campus, which is in a strip mall but is due to move into a permanent site in a couple of years. Opposite, Honokaa High senior Allen Chase works in the school’s college and career hub. Chase says he is thinking of going to Brigham Young University either on Oahu or in Provo, Utah.

Honokaa, a former sugar plantation town on the verdant Hamakua Coast, is like so many places on the island: rural, remote and essentially a bedroom community to Hilo or Kona. Angella Brandt, student activities coordinator at Honokaa High, said it isn’t just kids here who face tough choices. Their parents, too, find it hard to make ends meet. Nearly three-fourths of students at Honokaa High qualify for free and reducedcost lunch, a key indicator of poverty. Honokaa’s sugar plantation closed in 1994, she said, but people are still trying to recover. “That was their life,” she said. “Even though it has been 20 years, they’re still struggling with that.”

NOW, SHE SAID, most people who live in the town work at hotels in South Kohala, an hour’s drive away. Hulali Covington, dean of students at Honokaa High, said she fears today’s Honokaa students will also end up in the visitor industry, even if that’s not where they want to be. She has seen it before. “They all want to get out of here,” she said, “but they just can’t make it. They come home, and they go to work at the hotels for 30 years. It’s sad for them.” At the construction academy’s open-air workshop at the high school, William Coito, 17, sawed a piece of wood to be used for a shed the class is building. Coito, a “student foreman,” said the course gives him hands-on experience — and an excuse to be outside

during school hours. But whether it will help him find a job after graduation is still unknown, he said. Jobs, especially in construction, are scarce. His father, a carpenter, was laid off three years ago. He is now a dishwasher at a hotel. Coito said he’s more inclined to go into diesel mechanics. “There’s more jobs than carpentry,” he said. After graduation, Coito said he plans to move to Hilo. In addition to offering better preparation for high school students, one of the major efforts aimed at opening new doors to young people is getting them enrolled in postsecondary education. The UH system has increased its outreach — and collaboration with high schools — in recent years to attract more students to its Hawaii island campuses. And the central targets have been students who might not think they’re college material. The campuses have also worked to offer more distance-learning options, through videoconferencing or online classes, in recognition of the island’s expansive geography and long commutes. The push, along with the economic downturn, contributed to significant increases in enrollment at Hawaii island institutions. Enrollment at UH-Hilo is at about 4,150, up 21 percent — or by about 700 students — compared with 2005. Hawaii Community College, meanwhile, enrolled 3,600 students at its campuses in Hilo and West Hawaii in 2012, up 51 percent — or by about 1,200 students — from 2005. HCC reaches out to high school students by giving them a chance to take math and writing placement tests to see whether they need to brush up on any skills before they apply to college. The West Hawaii campus deployed its “mobile testing lab” 44 times to 13 locations in the 2011-12 academic year, giving 700 students a chance to take a placement test. Of those tested, 64 percent went on to apply to a UH campus.

Beth Sanders, interim director of the UH Center at West Hawaii, said offering the placement tests early is important because many incoming students — up to 90 percent — place into remedial courses for math and writing. By taking the test in high school, she said, students can figure out exactly what they need to study before taking the placement test again. The West Hawaii campus, in Kealakekua, operates out of a strip mall. Students share the tiny campus with a medical clinic and a local watering hole. A long-awaited permanent campus, with a price tag for phase one of about $22 million, is finally moving forward with construction in Kona. But until early 2015, when the new campus is set to open, West Hawaii is making the most of things.

ON A RECENT AFTERNOON at the campus, culinary students busily worked in a cramped kitchen on dishes for an upcoming event. One of the students, 22-year-old Samuel Vernon, is also a full-time line cook at a hotel restaurant. He said he went to work right after high school, then decided he needed to build on his skills if he wanted to advance. The HCC program, he said, has “given me the opportunity to plan for the future.” But while postsecondary education might give students an edge, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee a good job. Rachel Nazara, treasurer of the UH-Hilo student association, said many graduates have to leave the island to find a position that will pay the bills. “Is it a brain drain? Yes,” she said. “People have to leave. You have to decide what’s more important and leave.” U Back at Honokaa High, college and career coordinator Nicole Ryan sat in the newly created senior center, offering warm greetings to students shuffling in. Honokaa has about 120 seniors this year. The school’s graduation, at 86 percent, is above the state average. But 45 percent of Honokaa’s class of 2011 enrolled in two- or four-year colleges, compared with 53 percent among public schools statewide. Ryan said her biggest goal during this school year has been to ensure all Honokaa High seniors have an acceptance letter to some kind of postsecondary institution. “Every single student has wanted to go,” she said. “So we’re coming up with a plan.” ■

30

BIG ISLAND / GROWING PAINS

UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII AT HILO ENROLLMENT

HAWAII COMMUNITY COLLEGE ENROLLMENT

4,139

3,974

4,079

4,157

3,773

3,815

3,917
2011

3,300

3,288

3,422

3,507

3,573

3,040

2,440

2,346

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2002

2,182

2003

2004

2005

2,377

2006

2,358

2007

2,603

2008

2,884

2009

3,275

2010

2012

Source: University of Hawaii

SUNDAY 4/28/13 >> HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

3,663
31

PART 3 THE NEXT GENERATION

Farming in focus
Cultivating the land holds enormous potential for young people, advocates say, but it is often overlooked

It’s the type of job where you have to be into it. You have to be into working. You have to be into being close to the land.”
Jim Cain Taro farmer, shown holding packages of poi at his production facility in Honokaa

HONOKAA >> Jim Cain doesn’t sugarcoat it: Farming is tough work. Profits can fluctuate from year to year, making long-term planning both vital and next to impossible. It’s not a 9-to-5, and it’s rarely five days a week. It requires commitment and passion and a joy for working outdoors. In short, farming is not for everyone. But Cain believes that farming can be made appealing to some of today’s young people, es-

pecially given the growing popularity of efforts to live sustainably and buy local — and the demand for opportunities that allow youth to remain on the island. As they’re thinking about their futures, many young people don’t even consider farming as an option, Cain said. And that, in his view, has got to change. “It is hard work, and you do have some skills and you do have to have the support,

but it’s certainly an opportunity for young people to be able to stay home and make a living,” Cain said on a recent morning during a break from making poi. “It’s the type of job where you have to be into it. You have to be into working. You have to be into being close to the land,” he said. Cain, who produces King Lau Lau brand poi, has become a leading voice in the campaign to grow a new generation of small-scale

32

BIG ISLAND / GROWING PAINS

farmers on Hawaii island. This year he partnered with The Kohala Center to launch a hands-on program to attract young people to a career choice they often overlook. Ku i ka Mana, the beginning farmer training program, aims to give participants both the farming skills and the entrepreneurial knowhow needed to farm for a living. The 16-week training program, funded with about $637,000 in federal and county dollars, involves classroom instruction and hands-on projects on a 12-acre working farm.

$127,000
Sales of Hawaii island taro

50
Acres used to grow wetland taro on Hawaii island

100
Acres used to grow dryland taro on Hawaii island

THERE IS AN URGENCY to the effort, said Betsy Cole, deputy director of The Kohala Center. Many of today’s Hawaii farmers are older (that’s true nationally, too). And in Hawaii, she added, farming has often been negatively associated with plantation life. There are also bigger barriers to farming in the islands because of the high cost of land. The Kohala Center is helping with that by assisting prospective farmers in finding affordable lease properties. “We really need to revive our farming population,” she said. The beginning farmer training program, Cole said, could serve as a model for helping to do that. The program’s first cohort started earlier this year, and participants — there are 12 families in all — range in age from their 20s to their 50s. Cole said while the Ku i ka Mana program is targeted at younger people, it’s not realistic to have an age cap. She also said she believes the program will attract more younger people in subsequent cohorts as the center links up with high schools. Hawaii island has about 63 percent of available farm land in the state, and about 40 percent of its farm employment, according to a 2012 report prepared for The Kohala Center. Cole said while farming might not be for everyone, the farmer training program, in part, is meant to show that the challenges of farming are worth it. “It is hard work. If you grow up on a farm,

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Acres of taro grown in the state
Sources: State Department of Agriculture, State of Hawaii Data Book

Top, taro is hand-washed at Jim Cain’s production facility before it is pounded into poi. Middle, Dodie Thomas, left, Aloha Dela Rosa and Gretchen Cain, Jim Cain’s wife, continue to prepare the roots. Bottom, Jim and Gretchen package the finished poi.

you go, ‘Do I really want to do this, or do I want to be a lawyer?’” she quipped. Back in Honokaa, as he prepared poi for packaging, Cain said he’s determined to share with the next generation what he’s learned over his 20 years of farming in Waipio Valley. Lesson No. 1: Farming is more than just a job. “I have found … the economic side is part of it, certainly you have to pay your bills,” he said, “but it also builds such a strong connection to the community.” On a recent morning, Cain was adding water to puréed taro and mixing it by hand. He then transferred the completed poi into bags, which are sent to stores, hotels and families. “When you provide poi to a family over years and years, whether it’s the first time that baby has eaten any food, they eat the poi, the last foods the kupuna eat before they pass and all the spectrum in between … these connections are, you can’t buy that,” he said. “They’re very powerful and it feels good. That’s what encourages us to go on, because it’s the right thing to do.” ■

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PART 3 THE NEXT GENERATION

Students build homes, pride
Hawaii Community College’s housing construction project provides valuable experience and benefits families in need
HCC does not charge for student labor, only materials and any subcontracting costs. Malia Keli‘ikoa, 33, lives in last year’s model home with her family — her boyfriend, Paul Lee Jr., and their two young children. She teaches first grade at a nearby Hawaiian-language immersion charter school. Keli‘ikoa purchased the model home for $199,000. Her mortgage is less than what she was paying for rent at a home elsewhere in Hilo. She proudly showed off her three-bedroom, two-bath home on a recent morning, remarking on the kitchen cabinets (handmade by the students), the spacious living room and the novelty of living in a new home. “This is more for our kids,” she said. “I want them to have a place to call home.” Since moving in, she and her boyfriend have planted taro in the backyard, expanded an aquaponics system and added to the landscaping in the front. This year’s model home is being built right in front of her property.

HILO >> Just about every year since 1965,

This is more for our kids. I want them to have a place to call home.”
Malia Keli‘ikoa Owner of last year’s model home, who lives with her boyfriend, Paul Lee Jr., and their two young children

Hawaii Community College career technical students have demonstrated the skills they’ve learned in class by building a home for a family in need. In May, HCC’s 46th home will be transferred to its new owners. The tradition not only offers a novel and authentic educational experience for budding carpenters, welders, electricians, engineers, landscapers and others; it also gives students a real sense of pride. Students aren’t just building anything, their instructors say — they’re putting a roof over a family’s head. “They take ownership of it,” said Joel Tanabe, 57, chairman of HCC’s construction technology department.

Hawaii Community College carpentry student Orion Paye works on a cabinet for this year’s model home project. Since 1965, HCC students have built nearly 50 homes for families in need, taking care of just about every detail.

Dozens of students pitch in on the “model home” project, taking care of just about everything, from the concrete driveway to the home’s foundation to the kitchen cabinets to installing solar panels on the roof. When the program began, the homes were built for public-housing recipients on state land. Now they are constructed on Department of Hawaiian Home Lands properties.

A FEW MINUTES AWAY, at HCC, carpentry students were busy constructing this year’s kitchen cabinets. Louigie Lagua, 23, said the model home project has given him a new appreciation of all the elements that go into building a home. He added that when he sees the 2013 model home under construction, he thinks, “I made that home.” HCC professor Gene Harada, who teaches concrete form and rough framing, went through the model home program himself. He helped build the 11th house. Tanabe, the department chairman, helped build 1982’s model home. Harada said the model home project is about giving students real “job site experience.” “We give them insight into what the industry is like,” he said. That’s invaluable, especially in today’s competitive construction market, he said.

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Harada added that some of Hilo’s top construction firms are headed by HCC model home graduates. Back in the workshop, Jhon Padamado, 22, of Hilo, eyed his measurements. He said he wants to be a carpenter and hopes hiring will pick up as the economy improves. “I never did build one home,” Padamado said, laughing, when asked what he thought about the program. Tanabe, the department chairman, said perhaps the greatest testament to the success of the program is not that a home is built every year, but that all but one of the homes are still standing. The only one not around anymore, he said, was demolished to make way for a car dealership. ■

Above, Malia Keli‘ikoa shows off the model home she purchased last year and occupies with her family: her boyfriend, Paul Lee Jr., and their two young children. The three-bedroom, two-bath home cost $199,000. At left, Hawaii Community College carpentry lecturer Darryl Vierra, left, guides student Kaisyn Resureccion in the school’s Hilo workshop.

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