By Nathan Eagle
March 18, 2019
The waves lap indifferently against the rocky revetment that guards a crumbling stretch of Kamehameha Highway in Kaaawa.
Immediately on the other side of this coastal road that connects several windward Oahu communities, workers are framing up the wooden beams of a new two-story house.
Sturdy Foundations, a Honolulu residential development company owned by Amanda and Michael Gregg, bought the empty 6,000-square-foot lot in October for $410,000 and by November had a permit to build a 1,700-square-foot home on it.
No one from the company returned a call seeking comment for this story. But it’s clear they plan to sell the property as soon as it’s done. The Sturdy Foundations website advertises an oceanfront home, just steps from Kaaawa Beach. A slideshow features artist’s renderings and photos of a palm leaning over a smooth stretch of sand.
But on a recent Monday morning, there is little to no beach. The tides fluctuate, and there is sand at certain times, but the beach is disappearing as sea levels rise and erosion intensifies.
Scientists have projected that this stretch of highway will be at least partially flooded with just a half foot of sea level rise, forecast for 2030. When it rises 3 feet, expected by the end of this century or sooner, mapping tools show the whole road and entire property will be underwater.
Now, Hawaii lawmakers are considering whether homeowners should have to tell buyers that their property is in a sea level rise exposure area — or SLR-XA as planners call it.
The state Climate Commission and top climate experts have all recommendedmandatory disclosure.
Department of Land and Natural Resources Chair Suzanne Case told a Senate panel last month that it is critical for buyers to understand the hazards and risks they are assuming in purchasing oceanfront property, “in the spirit of transparency and disclosure and to support informed decision-making by buyers and government agencies.”
But the Hawaii Association of Realtors, representing 9,500 members, wants disclosure to remain voluntary.