PARACHINI: Influx of new arrivals could be permanent or temporary

Maybe it’s the fact that it’s now commonplace to see multiple out-of-state license plates on Kaua‘i’s highways, where not long ago it was not an everyday occurrence. In a half hour driving between Kilauea and Princeville a few days ago, I saw five or them.

California, Washington and Oregon seem to be the most common, but they’re from everywhere, including Texas, Ohio and the Cherokee Nation.

Maybe it’s the fact that the Kaua‘i real-estate market is being heated to the scorching level, with prices shooting up as homes are snapped up by new arrivals. The median house price has now surpassed $1 million.

For good measure, a local moving-company estimator mentioned casually that a quarter to a third of his business right now is mainland people moving to the island without ever having seen the homes they have purchased.

Or maybe it’s the fact that Hanalei School has enrolled dozens of new students this academic year — seemingly the vast majority children of families that have moved to Kaua‘i quite recently, either to ride the pandemic out or as a new, permanent home.

Maybe it’s people who’ve had houses or condos here on Kaua‘i for many years, but have hunkered down long term to escape COVID-19 and brought their extended families with them.

And, finally, maybe it’s the fact that local small businesses are being driven to ruin. They are closing and the people who’ve operated them — some for decades — are moving go the mainland because Kaua‘i has become too expensive for them to survive.

On top of that, some older local residents with sons and daughters who are considering starting families have concluded that Kaua‘i is a bridge too far and that moving closer to the kids makes sense. Count my wife and me in that category. For some, like us, COVID-19 is a motivating factor, though in our case we’ve been thinking about moving closer to the kids for two or three years.

Most of these are only impressions for which documentation and hard numbers don’t exist. But I expect everyone on Kaua‘i has observed, or at least sensed, trends that are taking shape.

There are two things that may be happening — neither of which has historical precedent.

First option: The influx of people who have flocked to Kaua‘i to escape COVID-19 is not a permanent change, but a temporary state of affairs;

Second option: The influx is permanent and will reshape the island in some fundamental ways.

Or it could be a mix of both. Some may have come to escape COVID-19 but may decide not to stay. Or vice versa.

Two national trends are driving this. People are abandoning cities for a wide variety of reasons. I’ve heard recently that rents and home prices are in freefall in San Francisco, for example.

At the same time, people have discovered that in many — though clearly not all and perhaps not even most — professions have found they no longer have to be tied to being in a specific place to do their jobs. Permanent remote work has emerged as a viable option for millions. Kaua‘i beckons.

Of course, COVID-19 is the immediate driver of both of these trends. When the pandemic is eventually brought under control, some of these changes may turn out to be transient. But just in the tech sector, companies that were once constructing or planning large office complexes are putting those plans on hold or canceling them. Those companies are betting that this COVID-19-instigated, remote-work trend is the new normal.

Does that mean that the dream of Kaua‘i becoming a tech hub may come true? No one can possibly know right now. And is it a dream or a nightmare?

What if this is lasting, permanent change for Kaua‘i? I’m painfully aware that people in the business community are anticipating this and trying to discern what it means.

For one thing, the departure of residents who cannot afford to stay, many of whom are small-business owners, means that part of the community that sees business as inseparably tied to the local identity, suggests that the presumption that local businesses need to give back and contribute to the community will weaken.

The ability of local-business-driven-support organizations like Rotary and the Lions clubs is likely to degrade. That could tear into the island’s fiber.

And if the people coming here are not tied to Kaua‘i — if, for example, they’re in financial services and their days start here at 3 or 4 a.m. and isolate them on phones or at computers all day — the motivation to take on contributing community roles will diminish.

That’s not to say that Kaua‘i’s traditional, historic spirit — which derives mainly from the Native Hawaiian ancestry of so many residents and long-term influence of the Portuguese, Japanese, Pacific Islander and Chinese heritages this all represents — will be destroyed.

Kaua‘i will still be one of the most special places on Earth. The spirit of aloha will not be snuffed out — not by a long shot.

It does suggest, however, that what’s been happening during this pandemic year will be lasting and perhaps permanent in terms of how island society works. A wise approach is to see this reality taking shape and try to adapt to it, or finding ways to draw newcomers into the heritage of Kaua‘i.

We won’t know if what’s happening is permanent or temporary for five or 10 years — minimum. Recognizing it and finding ways to adapt is the only sensible approach.

•••

Allan Parachini is a Kilauea resident, furniture-maker, journalist and retired public-relations executive who writes periodically for The Garden Island.

19 Comments
  1. Imua44 February 21, 2021 6:37 am Reply

    Half of Kauai properties have been owned by off island people for decades.
    A few out of state license plates does not indicate a flood of new property owners.
    It is easy to check thru property sales records, but no one has done it.
    Most of the small business brick and mortar small business owners were newcomers not so long ago. As is this article’s author. Mr Parachini has written a few good pieces, but he is definitely not a voice for the island. As proven by his short sojourn.
    As a great Kauai politician once said when a bunch of newcomers threatened an election with NIMBY attitudes, ” Haoles come and Haoles go, the locals will be here forever”
    The focus should be on where will money for the island come from, not fear over a few out of state license plates. This island needs money and opportunity, not trivialized shallow blame games


    1. Planetbeing February 22, 2021 2:50 pm Reply

      I think we’ll see more of that, as people figure out the big cataclysms Earth is experiencing due to polar electromagnetic switch that’s going on. The weather will become more extreme everywhere, even Kauai.


  2. randy kansas February 21, 2021 6:43 am Reply

    just hope the new people do not leave their rusted cars, and old appliances on the side of the road and no beer cans, dirty diapers and cigarette butts at the county parks please…


  3. USAF Brat February 21, 2021 7:35 am Reply

    Transplant Paradouchini, the elephant-donkey circus clown minion Kawakami COK Kollar judicio KPD COP et all from Las vegas fake state igenoring us, as well as USAF/Navy/Nasa ballistic missile PMRF military occupation who intercepted “oops” not to mention or including hui O guilty power couple Kealoha, Miske and subsequent FBI Kenji recent resignation, needs to take a look around. Somewhere during Taylor Camp outside of Ke’e, hurricane Iwa then Iniki and the rotation out of those ethnics brought in by sugar baron and their born and raised. A beautiful year was 1970, where transplant arrivals blended in nicely and who now have children and grandchildren Kauai B&R, AND they have Koko. Never will any of you be considered “local”, ever! Narcissists/co-dependents think they got this, and I beg to differ with your continued boondoggle, trying to make yourselves such in our communities. The house next door and other homes in our subdivision were purchased by retreating california peoples. We welcome their entry, even though these same homes were purchased sight unseen. No worries, they will be apprised of what is going on with truth and integrity, not your combined lies. Had you been “paying attention” during the CocoPalms courtroom incidents, Z purchase of lands and/or stealing kuleana and O south shore “dairy” shut down, as we did with blingle’s superferry and now the Chinese flu, which old-retired KMG M.D.s has us incorrectly on a death watch, is absolutely typical of the frightened “privileged” peoples, that fear having to leave here forever. Tourism was mishandled for decades. There is Tahiti, which has had amazing means and ways to their tourism movement that has never been considered for Kauai much less the other moku within. The memo is out, GAME OVER!
    Yesterday, outside of Kukui Grove, i whop-jawed a new banner that offers a solution petition option, endccp.com.
    There are many author book publishing the reality to everything you think or say, except the transplants conjure these reads are “conspiracy”, and thus the fearful moves to follow Kollar rules and our surfer mayor says we will be delivered to “cut bait” if we don’t follow these fearful-judiciary tactics provoked by the KPD, Sheriff, DLNR mighty that are referred to as “slithering snakes” including the new mayors wife boasting on social media, gucci-wear and mayor bragging and flaunting his new GoPro 9!
    The conspiracy is all on your side of the fence, and as my mom would have advised, We the people aren’t as dumb as we may look. We incite you to fess up, get it right, because you can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people, all of the time.


  4. development is regression February 21, 2021 8:48 am Reply

    Allan Parachini claiming to be local after what 6 or 7 years? LOL classic.


  5. Rev Dr Malama February 21, 2021 9:04 am Reply

    Every man has his price Alan and it seems like you are another temporary resident ready to cash in your chips for profit and the opportunity to be elsewhere so good luck and Aloha!
    Don’t worry about the people you used to support your elite lifestyle…. we’re fine with the new $$$$.


  6. KauaiFarmMan February 21, 2021 9:58 am Reply

    Clear evidence that this prolonged economic shutdown has fast tracked gentrification. Locals are quickly being out priced by mainland money. With lack of tax revenue, our property taxes and state income taxes are likely to increase. Prior to this scamdemic, we had a housing crisis. With lack of industry and economic collapse there is no way local families can compete with mainland money. It’s clear people are moving here at a rate never seen before. It will take a decade for tourism and business to rebuild here. By that time home and rent prices will far exceed the amount that local jobs afford. This is the beginning of the end for Kauai. Open everything up before we can’t recover. Sadly it seems we are already at that point. This was a calculated maneuver by local politicians to bankrupt all of us and allow the island to become a playground for the wealthy. The only ones left will be essentially a slave class here to serve the rich. Thanks Mayor for “protecting” us against this grave threat.


  7. JKS February 21, 2021 10:40 am Reply

    Kauai taking ‘the sensible approach’ ?
    LOL!


  8. Carla February 21, 2021 11:05 am Reply

    Aloha Allan! I always enjoy reading your contributions. I agree that the changes are a mix of many factors. It’s happening all over the country. Change is inevitable no matter where we are. I truly hope the changes turn out to be a good thing for everyone and agree that Kauai and all of Hawaii is suffering somewhat from over-tourism. However, pivoting an entire economy takes time and planning. I fear this extended lock-down by Kawakami is going to have disastrous long-term negative effects that will be felt for years. I supported him 100% in the beginning, but now it appears he just wants the super-rich to visit. That strategy will have its own set of negative impacts too. We certainly wish he would rejoin Safe Travels ASAP to help the small business community survive and have time to adapt to his goal of lower visitor populations. In your article, I think you forgot one large demographic- the Filipinos. Just love them, when I grew up in Hanapepe almost all of my classmates were Filipino. Good luck in deciding on your own next move – I’m sure it will be a tough decision to leave Kauai behind.


  9. Rae-Marie May February 21, 2021 1:38 pm Reply

    These are the people the Mayor and the Council are trying to recruit. Not a lot of love for the families and honeymooners.


  10. local control February 21, 2021 2:14 pm Reply

    I find the tone somewhat fatalistic, as if the only way is to adapt to whatever changes this island goes through and accept them. The role of public policy here can help to manage whatever downsides we see happening as a result of new residents (school overcrowding, housing costs rising, etc) and incentivize the behaviors we want folks to adopt when they decide to make Kauai their home. There are options that would help those born or raised here to be able to stay here, which I think would be better for the health of the community, but it takes some imagination and courage.


  11. Mailman Mike February 21, 2021 3:07 pm Reply

    We’ll just have to wait and see. Kauai is not for everyone. I’ve seen many people come and go over the 40yrs I’ve lived here. If you don’t use the Island, you might as well live somewhere else. I’m lucky. My small family lives on Oahu in Honolulu and Kaneohe.


  12. truth be known February 21, 2021 4:03 pm Reply

    Alan, thanks for your insightful compilation of “maybes”. Remember, the only constant in the universe is change. How the current change will affect us remains to be seen.


  13. RetiredusafBrat February 21, 2021 5:56 pm Reply

    Transplant Paradouchini, the elephant-donkey circus clown minion Kawakami COK Kollar judicio KPD COP et all from Las vegas fake state igenoring us, as well as USAF/Navy/Nasa ballistic missile PMRF military occupation who intercepted “oops” not to mention or including hui O guilty power couple Kealoha, Miske and subsequent FBI Kenji recent resignation, needs to take a look around. Somewhere during Taylor Camp outside of Ke’e, hurricane Iwa then Iniki and the rotation out of those ethnics brought in by sugar baron and their born and raised. A beautiful year was 1970, where transplant arrivals blended in nicely and who now have children and grandchildren Kauai B&R, AND they have Koko. Never will any of you be considered “local”, ever! Narcissists/co-dependents think they got this, and I beg to differ with your continued boondoggle, trying to make yourselves such in our communities. The house next door and other homes in our subdivision were purchased by retreating california peoples. We welcome their entry, even though these same homes were purchased sight unseen. No worries, they will be apprised of what is going on with truth and integrity, not your combined lies. Had you been “paying attention” during the CocoPalms courtroom incidents, Z purchase of lands and/or stealing kuleana and O south shore “dairy” shut down, as we did with blingle’s superferry and now the Chinese flu, which old-retired KMG M.D.s has us incorrectly on a death watch, is absolutely typical of the frightened “privileged” peoples, that fear having to leave here forever. Tourism was mishandled for decades. There is Tahiti, which has had amazing means and ways to their tourism movement that has never been considered for Kauai much less the other moku within. The memo is out, GAME OVER!
    Yesterday, outside of Kukui Grove, i whop-jawed a new banner that offers a solution petition option, endccp.com.
    There are many author book publishing the reality to everything you think or say, except the transplants conjure these reads are “conspiracy”, and thus the fearful moves to follow Kollar rules and our surfer mayor says we will be delivered to “cut bait” if we don’t follow these fearful-judiciary tactics provoked by the KPD, Sheriff, DLNR mighty that are referred to as “slithering snakes” including the new mayors wife boasting on social media, gucci-wear and mayor bragging and flaunting his new GoPro 9!
    The conspiracy is all on your side of the fence, and as my mom would have advised, We the people aren’t as dumb as we may look. We incite you to fess up, get it right, because you can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people, all of the time.


  14. Wil Welsh February 21, 2021 8:32 pm Reply

    Interesting speculations! I’d add my thought that many moving here in these strange times have been coming to the island for many years, have found it beautiful and welcoming with warm and positive abiding memories. As they’ve grown older, they’ve benefited from good financial times, and now, feeling somewhat constrained by Covid, they’re possibly thinking, “Hey, where do we really want to be?” Add to that the Pandemic-related safety of Kauai even above the other islands, very low interest rates, an active (hyper-active?) real estate market across the country making moves involving sale of homes or investment properties fast and profitable–and, voila!, our island becomes the perfect place to be. We who live here could not agree more, of course, with the island’s multi-level appeal. At the same time, change is rarely easy, and Parachini’s article promotes the hope that so much change won’t destroy or radically change Kauai’s heart.
    We’ll hope for the best and, as is our collective culture, extend our aloha and hope these newcomers truly “get it.”


  15. hutch February 21, 2021 9:47 pm Reply

    For full disclosure, Parachini should mention how long he’s been on the island. Two years? Three? He seems to think he knows enough about Kauai from his short time here to be some kind of wise kamaaina social commentator. We’ve seen the type over the years. Ho-hum.


  16. Be reasonable February 22, 2021 9:01 am Reply

    Allan, thank you for your thoughtful, forward-looking piece about the long-term impacts of in- and out-migration due to Covid. I’m sorry to hear that you will be part of the out-migration, as yours have been some of the best contributions to journalism and thought leadership over the past years. It looks as if we will also be joining you as part of that out-migration now that our business has been crushed by Covid. I hope that Kauai does not lose the wonderful people that make this place so special, and I will miss them more than any beach, trail, or favorite spot to pick up some grindz. A hui hou, and best wishes to you and your family as you start your next adventure.


  17. Amused February 23, 2021 5:14 am Reply

    Oh, they won’t last long once the reality of the rampant racism, high cost of living, isolation and stifling provincialism hit home.


  18. james February 23, 2021 7:28 am Reply

    Two points: First, almost each of these comments contain the word “local” as if everyone knows what that means. What exactly is a “local”? Do you have to born on Kauai? What if you’ve lived here for 50 years but born somewhere else? Do you have to be of a certain ethnic background, ie have some Hawaiian blood (5% or 10% or 100%) or can you be Portuguese, Philippine, Japanese, Caucasian, Micronesian, Chinese, African American, etc, or a combo of these? Or is a local just someone who lives here permanently as opposed to a visitor, even if they just moved here? Are those who are multi-generational Kauaians more “local” than a Pacific Islander whose folks moved here when they were kids? What about short-term residents who own businesses; are they “locals”? Some say, “if you have to ask, then you are not a local” but this seems to be a cop-out. Isn’t using the term “local” devisive, creating an “us vs. them” mentality? If we live here, we are all Kauaians and Americans (for the most part).
    Second point: I was looking at real estate prices for the Silicon Valley and they are much more expensive than Kauai. The cold, hard fact is that not everyone can afford to live wherever they would like to live, if they can’t afford to do so. Kauai is no different from hundreds of other high-priced and desirable locations around the world that are not affordable for most folks. Should Kauai taxpayers pay for affordable housing so some who can’t afford to live here can stay or maybe others can move here and find housing they can afford? Who decides which families qualify for affordable housing? I’m a free market proponent but feel that non-profits could help bridge this gap without raising taxes and having the government pay for affordable housing.


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