Lahaina's Recovery & the Issues We Face - Housing & Transportation - Sakamoto Properties

Lahaina’s Recovery & the Issues We Face – Housing & Transportation

Home » Betty’s Hawaii Real Estate Corner » Lahaina’s Recovery & the Issues We Face – Housing & Transportation
October 20, 2023
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Betty Sakamoto: Aloha and welcome to Betty’s Real Estate Corner, brought to you by Sakamoto Properties, Coldwell Banker, and all of West Maui for today.

Roy Sakamoto: Yeah, we’re a real estate show, but very little real estate today, given our recent tragedies in Lahaina. We’ll be talking quite a bit about Lahaina’s recovery.

BS: It’s going to be, it will be difficult because we’ve tried to write things down and talk about things. We’ve got all sorts of little notes. One of the most important things in life right now other than housing and everything that you already know is Lahainaluna football. Lahainaluna football is happening no matter what. I mean, it’s going to have a home game coming up soon. And Maui High game first. Everybody in Lahaina is still waiting for football.

RS: Wasn’t there something last Saturday, the first game against Baldwin High School at War Memorial?

BS: It was an unbelievable game. First of all, we got there. It was hard to get tickets. I kind of felt if we couldn’t get tickets, how could anybody get tickets? I mean, we just thought it was going to be so easy, but it wasn’t. It was a nightmare to get tickets. And then we got there a little bit late. My daughter was here, Julie Flynn Sherlock and she was with all of her classmates from the class of 1982.  They had all met with their cars and were, whatever you call it, there.

RS: They were tailgating.

BS: They were tailgating. Coming up to the game.

RS: At 20 or so over classmates.

BS: Yeah, they had a really great time. Archie Collette was one of her classmates. It was a great class, I mean, a class that really stuck together, etc. Again, it was really something to get to the game, and then realized the whole Lahainaluna side was full. Then you look over to the other side that’s full of red shirts. It looks like the whole stadium was Lahainaluna. I do think that some Baldwin people, out of respect, wear red shirts because they cheered for their team, but a lot of people wear red. I do think it was just out of respect, it was more of as the killer.

RS: There was a total sea of red. I think the stadium holds 5,000. It was a complete sellout. Talk about the halftime show with the Baldwin band.

BS: Oh, that was really the whole thing was so touching. The Baldwin band, it was like really one band. Baldwin, Lahainaluna.

RS: Yeah,

BS: It just great.

RS: Yeah. The Baldwin High School band went out and raised money for the benefit of the Lahainaluna High School band members to replace their instruments, many of whom had instruments burned up in the fire. They donated $10,000 to the Lahainaluna High School bands and the camaraderie on the field at halftime between the bands. You just don’t see, it’s just anywhere else.

BS: No, it brought tears to pretty much everybody’s eyes.

RS: Maui No ka ‘Oi. It was fantastic. The cheerleaders getting together, walking hand in hand. Pretty awesome. Talk about chicken skin. It was a chicken skin moment.

BS: There were a lot of hugs going on out there. Hugs and kisses and excitement from everybody and all of the parents and young people. It was quite a game. 42 to 0, which was probably not bad.

RS:  Score didn’t matter.

BS: No, it didn’t.

RS: The whole attitude was just amazing. Again, real chicken skin moment. Like Betty said, we got there late. We had to sit on what is normally the Baldwin High School side, the home team side, and again, a sea of red on that side. I know many Baldwin High School backers wore red in honor of Lahainaluna.

BS: They did.

BS: They were cheers whenever Baldwin had a first down somebody in red cheering which was great.

BS: It was perfect.

RS: Yeah

BS: It was as perfect as it could be.

RS: This is what sports is all about. In a small way, we helped contribute to the Sea of Red. We were contacted a few weeks ago by the downtown Hawaii Athletic Club as to whether or not we’d like to participate and help out getting red shirts, red t-shirts for Lahainaluna High School students and athletes. I mean, the athletes, faculty and teachers, and support staff. And through the help of John and Janet Hudson from Edmond, Oklahoma, Takashi and Hesai Hisano from Kobe, Japan. They helped us get um what did we get 1200 T-shirts.

BS: 12 or 1300 T-shirts.

RS:  Luna Strong T-shirts, red Luna Strong T-shirts. They were prevalent throughout the stands.

BS:  Everybody had one. It was really fabulous. I can’t remember exactly what it says on the back, but the front and back of the shirt were both printed. They were fabulous, and they were worn proudly. They were really spectacular.

RS: Right. It was great to see the Lahainaluna High School kids wearing their red football shoes that were donated with the help of Marcus Mariota, a professional football player from Hawaii, as most people know. And again, that was through the Downtown Athletic Club in Honolulu.

BS: There were so much really so many donations that were made across the board because most of the kids had their stuff at home. I don’t remember the number of families that the kids played football, but it was huge that had Lahaina homes that were lost. Very big.

RS: Maybe even more.

BS: The coaches, Lanny Tihada lost his home. You know, a lot of the other coaches.

RS: Quite a few the coaches.

BS:  Yes. A lot of the coaches lost their homes. A lot of them are in the same neighborhood.

RS: Yes

BS: So that the loss, I mean, even when you think about being at that game and how the game went and the kids and the way they behaved, they were it was like there was nothing wrong anywhere in Lahaina. The behavior and the play everything that went on. Lahainaluna football spectacular, Baldwin football spectacular. It was quite amazing.

RS: So now we’ve got the Lahaina schools starting to reopen with the help of the Department of Education, Kamehameha Third Elementary School, which was burned down completely, 600 plus or minus students. They’ll soon be housed within the next 90 days at a site at Pulelehua and I guess Kahana is right below Kapalua airport. Army Corps of Engineers will be building these classrooms, including a cafeteria and restrooms, and the 600 students will have a place to actually come to school.

BS: And the building will be done primarily by the military, won’t it?

RS:  Well, through the Army Corps of Engineers.

BS: Army Corps of Engineers.

RS: Local contractors but the Army Corps of Engineers will be supervising all the permits will be fast-tracked and looking forward to having those kids, elementary school kids back in their school element. In the meantime, the other schools are set to reopen very shortly.

BS: The Lahainaluna will be reopening pretty much at the same. Well, before Lahainaluna will be opened right after the fall break.

RS: Right, yeah.

BS: Everybody will go back to school at Lahainaluna.

RS: In a couple of weeks.

BS: Yes

RS:  Yeah

BS: That’s going to be really, really great. It is like they keep talking about how so many of these young people and their families, etc., and the faculty are living in temporary dwellings right now just getting along as best they can.

RS: They’re scattered all over Maui. There are students, faculty in Kihei, Wailuku, Kahului because housing is at a premium. It’s extremely difficult to find rental housing right now for our displaced families. And transportation for these children to get to school, whether they’re going to school and in Kihei or in about two weeks coming back to Lahaina. Transportation is going to be an issue. Department of Education is working with the students and trying to figure out the common bus stops in East Maui to bus kids over to West Maui to their Lahaina Intermediate or Lahainaluna High School. Again, many of these displaced families are scattered all over.

BS: It is hard. We’ve seen a lot of the people talk to a lot of the people. The Ritz-Carlton had, I think, 130 or close to 100 families.

RS: 140-something families, pets, which included dogs, cats.

BS: Turtle. I heard a turtle, bird.

RS: Turtle, bird.

BS: It was orderly there. They were having meals at set times, and somebody had commented that they were told the hotel was told that it would be really important for these families to have some sort of order not that you could just come and eat when you wanted, which they could have probably done, but they had like breakfast was at 7 a.m. I could be wrong in these times lunch noon.

RS: Three set meals a day and they had evening activities, they had talent shows, trivia night.

BS: They had a whole bunch of different things.

RS: Karaoke night and organize activities to keep the kids busy during the daytime.

BS:  It was beautiful over there.

RS: Yeah. One thing we found out, too, is that Blackstone is a big investment firm. They own the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua. They also own the Grand Wailea. Anyway, for housing these hundred and 40-some-odd families at the Ritz-Carlton. Blackstone accepted nothing from FEMA or the Red Cross. They housed these people, fed these unfortunately displaced people all in their nickel and they felt that they were on good enough financial grounds that they did not have to use FEMA or Red Cross money. Big compliment to Blackstone. I mean, that’s fantastic.

BS: Yeah, it really is. I mean, it’s amazing that they did step up like they did, and everything there was perfect. We were over there at different times. We had a couple of meetings that were there. It was interesting to just see the total order. Everybody was relatively happy. A couple of days we went over and were learning that they needed things, and we did our best to take over some of the things that we could find games, playing cards, anything that we had.

RS: Underwear.

BS: Underwear. Yeah. Somebody said, well, let’s not go there.

RS: Actually, we went to Costco one day and bought all the underwear. Men’s and women’s underwear.

BS: And there wasn’t much there.

RS: No

BS: It was really kind of interesting.

RS:  Whatever they had left we brought out.

BS: Yeah, it was kind of, that was great. But I get that. I never would have thought about it, but I get it now. I mean, I could wear anybody’s clothes, but short of that, I don’t think so. It was pretty amazing. And people were really happy with whatever they ended up with. It was pretty super. The kids were happy. The moms were happy. I mean, again, what is happy? Happy is everybody’s alive. Everybody had a place to sleep. And I know it gets harder and harder with every day again because you’re going to be moving to the next location, doing the next thing, getting in to see what you’ve lost. The whole thing is got to be so overwhelming. It’s overwhelming for us. And we have a home, and we have what we had before, but I can’t imagine what’s really going on in everybody’s head.

RS: The mental health aspect of these displaced families is critical. And we had dinner last night. We have a dear friend whose daughter has just got into town. Alisa is, I think, 26, and she’s been helping out in Napili Park, trying to talk to people. She has a psychology background, but she’s been spending volunteer time at Napili Park talking to people, just basically talking and finding out if they have any particular concerns, how depressed are they, and so forth. In a week she reached out and touched quite a few people. And we’ve had professionals that have told us that following a tragedy, something like what happened in Lahaina there’s a period of time where it could be six weeks, eight weeks, ten weeks, where the people feel desperate and the suicide rates, unfortunately, creep up.  God willing, we won’t see that in Lahaina. If anybody listening out there who is having some nightmares and so forth about going through what you’ve gone through, please reach out. There are many, many outlets for you to find help. There’s many, many, many people that will help you. You’re not in this alone. And I think it’s important that we keep going.

BS: They said that the Department of Education is working with Queens, Kaiser State Health Department, to get more professionals on campuses to provide mental health support for the employees. Also, there’s several grants that are going to be helping with people similarly that need help.

RS: Yeah

BS: In the schools.

RS: Right

BS: Students

RS: Yeah. And you know, this applies to their parents. The student’s mental health is key. You’ve got to keep a positive attitude. I’ve been talking to a company well, not a company, I guess a group of concerned individuals on the mainland, they’re scattered in Minnesota, North Dakota and so forth they all know each other. One of the groups is into modular home building. I’ve been talking to this group about helping Mauians recover, and maybe there’s a solution in terms of modular housing and so forth. As part of this group, there are two former San Francisco 49ers Guy McIntyre and Jesse Sapolu. Jesse is a local boy from Kalihi on Oahu. If people know Kalihi that’s kind of the rough side of the tracks. You grew up in Kalihi and you either grow up to be simply outstanding or you go the other way and become a bum and join whatever organized crime is rampant in that area. Not knocking Kalihi but that’s kind of where Jesse grew up. We’ve been talking about hopefully having them both come over and they compare a tragedy like this to sports and they love to talk to the children, and they’d love to talk to adults. In sports, you have nothing is all hunky dory. You have your ups, your downs. Every time you have your downs, you have a bad loss, you get beat up physically, or whatever you’ve got to come back stronger. And that’s both mentally and physically you need to come back stronger. We’d love to arrange for Jesse and Guy to come over in the near future not only to help with this modular housing plan if it goes forward but also to talk to our schoolchildren and adults because we need to get up off the floor and pick ourselves up and move forward and become a better community because of us.

BS: Well, in their saying now that they are going to be able to have enough funds to establish clinical psychologists and support personnel that’ll serve the Lahaina schools and that should really help a lot. All students and facilities have to be aware of this and that there will be in-person counseling and support. Again, I don’t know exactly how it’ll all come together, but I think that if somebody is calling through the Department of Health, you can get the information.

RS: Right and again, there’s plenty of help available. It takes a village and as a village, we’re going to come back strong.

BS: It just right now does seem as you talk to everyone, it’s overwhelming. It’s a crisis but I think the only way is for everyone to be together, to pull up the bootstraps, so to speak.

RS: Sure

BS: And work together and try to always be available.

RS: Right

BS: I mean, each one of us in different ways. If you can just talk with someone, spend time. Julie was taking her friends out, you know, out in the water. They’d go and just spend an hour or half-hour just soaking in the water. They’d be in the ocean and talking. And that really got a lot of them through quite a few days.

RS: Yeah. Again, is very, very sad. We attended a celebration of life for a dear friend Buddy Jantoc who passed away because of the fire. It was quite a moving celebration of life at Napili Bay. He lived a great life but it’s very sad to lose him.

BS: So sad that it went the way it went. I mean, without talking about it, I mean, he was someone that was trapped. It was really difficult, passed away and too young I mean, I think younger than we are. I guess we’re too young to hopefully.

RS: A lot of people are.

BS: A lot of people will think we’re too young when something like this happens. It was very sad. I mean, his family was all here. We’ve known him for almost 47 years or so.

RS: Long time.

BS: He originally entertained with Sunday night here, who probably nobody knows anymore. He passed away.

RS: Right

BS: This was a real tragedy. And there’s a lot more things like this that are going to happen.

RS: A lot of people have reached out to us, you know, how can we help? And these are people from the mainland, from all over the world, really. We’ve got a quick list of some of the charities that you can contribute to.

BS: I mean, let’s start the American Red Cross of Hawaii, monetary donations help, and you would put on it Hawaii, Maui, wildfires. And I think you can do that at redcross.org/hawaii, Maui United Way, Salvation Army, The Maui Food Bank, I think has done amazing things.

RS: Very, very important Maui Food Bank. If you go to mauifoodbank.org they have done so, so much for helping the community get back on its feet, supplying food and also products, toothpaste, toothbrush, toilet paper, and so forth.

BS: Another one, the Hawai’i Community Foundation, the Maui Strong Fund. Right, is that?

RS: Right

BS: And that goes to, I think, hawaiicommunityfoundation.org/mauistrong. Again, I think that the money is being handled right under hawaiicommunityfoundation.org/mauistrong.

RS: Here’s one I wasn’t really familiar with. It’s the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement. They have a Kākoʻo Maui program where they’re matching every individual donation up to $3 million. They’ve raised over $7 million so far. As of their website this morning, it a $7,185,000. Here’s a quick list of some of the donors. There’s one anonymous donor at $1,000,000, one anonymous donor at $800,000, another anonymous of $250,000. I presume it’s okay to read this because it’s on their website, but Morgan Stanley donated $50,000, the Snoqualmie Tribe out of Washington State $50,000. Here’s a business Ono Hawaiian Barbecue $45,000. I mean, it’s amazing. Northern Trust Bank $10,000. The Chugach, Alaska Corporation, local Alaskan Eskimo Corporation, $10,000. The Maui Inn Hotel, $10,000. I mean, there’s a whole list of donors on this.

BS: It is amazing, Roy the number.

RS: Here are two that really make me proud. The Realtors Association of Maui donated $5,000, and Castle Health Group also donated $5,000. And here’s one that came out of left field a little bit. The California Real Estate Brokers Association donated $5,000.

BS: It’s amazing. We’re really right now at the one-minute warning.

RS: It’s amazing. You know, donations and contributions.

BS: That keeps coming in.

RS: From all over.

BS: But they still need money. I mean, it’s going to be needed.

RS: Absolutely.

BS: I don’t think this is over.

RS: No, no. So, we need to support our leaders, those who are trying to get us affordable housing, which we sorely need. Maui, we need to stand on our feet and give our support.

BS: And support one another. I mean, we have our politicians. Nobody’s perfect, but let’s give everybody a chance. Give one another a chance.

RS: Absolutely. Here’s Danny

BS: Danny Couch is back, and he loves Hawaii. We love Hawaii. Aloha.

RS: Aloha