The Honolulu City Council on Wednesday suspended a final vote on a bill that would extend the city’s ban on sitting and lying on sidewalks in Waikiki to commercial districts throughout Oahu after four council members said they hadn’t been given sufficient time to review last-minute amendments.
The City Council has rescheduled a vote on Bill 48, aimed at clearing homeless away from storefronts and areas frequented by tourists, for Friday.
The bill would prohibit obstructing sidewalks during the hours of 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. and would be punishable by fines of up to $1,000.
A new version of the bill, which includes detailed street maps, was submitted to the council Wednesday shortly before the start of public testimony.
A homeless man sits on a sidewalk in Chinatown.
Nick Grube/Civil Beat
Council Chair Ernie Martin moved to waive a council rule that requires the public be given 48 hours’ notice about any changes to a bill before it comes up in a hearing.The rule is designed to ensure that the public, as well as the full council, is given time to review changes and comment on them before taking action on a measure.
The council routinely waives this rule. But on Wednesday, the bill’s original introducer, Councilman Ron Menor, objected.
“I think the public needs to be given more opportunity to comment,” Menor said.
The latest version of the bill wasn’t on-hand in the council’s chamber on Wednesday. To view the changes, the public had to go downstairs and request a copy from the city clerk’s office. The amended version also wasn’t posted online in the city’s document system.
Menor also complained that council members continue to seek amendments to the bill to include streets that will likely render the measure unconstitutional. The city is already bracing for lawsuits over the sit-lie bans, and council members have been warned by Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s administration that they need to be able to show that businesses and the public have actually complained about homeless people obstructing sidewalks along all the proposed areas by soliciting testimony from area residents or businesses.
“The bill needs to have a rational basis, which means demonstrating that there is a need,” Menor said. “All it takes is testimony or evidence.”
Council members Joey Manahan, Kymberly Pine and newly-seated Brandon Elefante joined Menor in objecting to waiving the 48-hour rule. The council’s 5-4 split meant that Martin didn’t have the needed six votes to pass the waiver.
Martin said he “was surprised” by the objections. The new version of the bill is just a compilation of three separate district amendments submitted by council members Ann Kobayashi, Carol Fukunaga and Stanley Chang about a week ago, which were listed on the meeting’s agenda, he said.
Pine said she trusted her fellow council members, but still needed to make sure that there weren’t any changes in the latest version that she didn’t know about.
The latest version of the bill contains detailed maps showing which streets would be off-limits to sitting and lying. Some areas in previous versions of the bill have been stricken, including parts of Haleiwa, Waipahu and Kalihi. Other areas in downtown and McCully — Moiliili and Kapahulu — have been added.
It remains to be seen how homeless people would keep track of which streets they can’t sit and lie on.
Critics have argued that the measure shuffles homeless people around Oahu without addressing the root causes of homelessness.
Meanwhile, there’s a significant shortage of shelter space for the island’s rising homeless population, according to city data.
In the six areas initially covered by Bill 48 — Chinatown, downtown, McCully — Moiliili, Waipahu, Kalihi and Kailua — there are an estimated 2,352 unsheltered homeless. However, there are only 1,226 shelter beds, many of which are already full, homeless advocates say.
Here are maps of the areas covered by the proposed sit-lie ban below: