A Honolulu City Council committee has approved another expansion of the so-called sit-lie ban, this time for lying down at bus stops, but voted to hold off on applying it to areas around schools and libraries due to legal concerns.
Councilman Trevor Ozawa, who represents Waikiki and East Honolulu, said his constituents aren’t able to use bus stops because people who appear to be homeless sleep on the benches. The complaints led him to introduce Bill 99.
“Nobody should be lying on a bus stop, whether you are wearing a three-piece suit and worth a million dollars or whether you’re carrying around a sleeping bag,” Ozawa said at a Tuesday meeting of the legal affairs committee.
Sit-lie bans prohibit people from sitting or lying down on public sidewalks at certain times of the day. The council adopted the original ban in 2014 for the Waikiki Special District, and has since passed five more bills expanding the ban in areas around urban Honolulu, including two passed this year.
Lots of people sleep at bus stops in Chinatown, said Chu Lan Shubert Kwock of the Chinatown Business and Community Association.
She testified in support of the measure but cautioned the city against removing stoops and benches at bus stops because elderly people rely on them.
City Transportation Director Wes Frysztacki said Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s administration supported the intent of the bill.
Councilman Brandon Elefante was the only committee member who voted against the bill. He has consistently opposed measures that expand the sit-lie ban.
Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi introduced Bill 83 to expand the sit-lie ban within 800 feet of schools and libraries. She said she was addressing a specific homeless encampment near the McCully-Moiliili Library and that the current measure might be too broad.
Caldwell vetoed an earlier measure by Kobayashi that would have expanded the sit-lie ban along Makahiki Way, which borders the McCully-Moiliili Public Library. The street is residential, not commercial, which might make the ban more vulnerable to legal challenges.
The committee deferred Bill 83 after discussing it for almost an hour behind closed doors with lawyers from the city’s Department of Corporation Counsel. Afterward, Kobayashi said that while people at schools and libraries have expressed concerns about homeless people on their grounds, the sit-lie ban needs to be associated with sidewalk use.
“They have to show that the homeless are on the sidewalk, not on their campuses,” she said. “It’s only McCully library that has a problem.”
Council Chair Ron Menor, who also chairs the legal affairs committee, said he intends to move the bill forward but library and school officials first need to explain how people who sit and lie down on public sidewalks impede access to the facilities.
Superintendent Christina Kishimoto of the Department of Education submitted written testimony supporting the intent of the bill.
Her testimony said homeless people who loiter around school campuses sometimes harass students walking to or from school.
John Field, the vice president of finance and administration at Punahou School, said the private institution also supported Kobayashi’s effort. While its uncommon for people to camp on sidewalks around Punahou, Field said people sometimes seek shelter at nearby bus stops.
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