The H0nolulu City Council voted 7 — 2 on Friday to extend the city’s ban on sitting and lying on sidewalks in Waikiki to commercial districts throughout Oahu.
Bill 48 now goes to Mayor Kirk Caldwell for review. Caldwell indicated in a press conference after the vote that he hoped to sign the bill, but that it needed to be vetted by the city’s Corporation Counsel to ensure its constitutionality first.
The bill, aimed at clearing homeless away from storefronts and commercial districts, would prohibit obstructing sidewalks from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. and would be punishable by fines of up to $1,000.
A man sleeps on the sidewalk by a trash can along Kalakaua Avenue In Waikiki.
PF Bentley/Civil Beat
Concilman Ron Menor, who introduced the bill and is also an attorney, remained supportive of the measure while expressing reservations about its ability to stand up in court.
He noted that he had repeatedly asked his colleagues who sought to expand the bill to solicit testimony from businesses and residents about the need for the measure in their districts to ensure it was legally defensible. However, he said that testimony was still lacking from Kaneohe, Waimanalo, Waianae, Kahala, Aina Haina, Niu Valley and Ala Moana.
“I believe that in terms of constitutional issues it would be sufficient for the council members who represent these areas to offer comments today on the record indicating that they have received direct communication from their constituents advising the council members of the business and commercial disruptions and the adverse effects of homeless sitting or lying on sidewalks,” he told council members before the vote.
“It’s another tool to make sure residents have access to our sidewalks, not tripping over people sitting or lying or putting things down.” — Mayor Kirk Caldwell
However, only Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi testified to this effect.
“Condo owners in Ala Moana expressed concerns that they can’t take early morning walks, seniors are afraid to walk on the sidewalk,” she said. “Those pushing baby carriages have to go out in the street, and that’s not fair.”
Kobayashi said she didn’t like the bill, but that she needed to listen to her constituents.
Councilman Ikaika Anderson spoke more broadly about the need for the measure, conceding that it wasn’t popular.
“The fact of the matter is we must act,” he said. “Every single resident of the City and County of Honolulu is entitled to free and clear access to our sidewalks.”
The City Council’s vote approving Bill 48 comes after Caldwell successfully ushered through a law in September that bans sitting and lying on Waikiki sidewalks. The measure was heavily supported by Waikiki hotels and shops that complained the homeless were hurting tourism.
Council members expressed concerns that the homeless would begin migrating into their districts in increasing numbers due to the Waikiki ban.
Both measures have been controversial among advocates for the homeless, who for months have argued in City Council hearings that the measures don’t address the causes of homelessness and that many homeless people have nowhere to go because there is a shortage of shelter space.
“All it is doing — just like the sit-lie bill in the Waikiki Special District — is moving around people.” — Councilman Brandon Elefante
The Caldwell administration is currently striving to develop long-term housing for 400 of the most vulnerable homeless living on the streets with the support of $47 million that was built into the city’s 2015 fiscal year budget. The city estimates that there are about 1,500 homeless people living on the streets.
Caldwell said after Friday’s vote that it appeared that Bill 48 had been adequately revised to satisfy any legal concerns, but that the Corporation Counsel needs to provide a final review.
“It’s another tool to make sure residents have access to our sidewalks, not tripping over people sitting or lying or putting things down,” he said.
The bill applies to targeted areas in Chinatown, downtown, Kailua, McCully — Moiliili, Wahiawa, Ala Moana Sheridan, Kaneohe, Waimanalo, Kahala, Aina Haina, Niu Valley, Kaimuki and Hawaii Kai. (Click here for maps.)
Council members Kymberly Pine and Brandon Elefante cast the only dissenting votes.
“This bill is bad policy. It doesn’t address the root cause,” said Elefante. “All it is doing — just like the sit-lie bill in the Waikiki Special District — is moving around people. We need to put people in homes with our Housing First program. It is going to take some time. It is not going to happen overnight. And we need to show love, compassion and not criminalize these individuals.”
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