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Signage, sidewalks measures advance

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Proposals aimed at limiting the size of campaign signs and freeing up sidewalk space for pedestrians were advanced by City Council committees yesterday, while lawmakers deferred a measure to regulate plastic shopping bags.

Bill 43-10 would have prohibited the distribution of nonbiodegradable plastic bags under certain conditions by big businesses and encourage the use of alternatives such as compostable bags, recyclable paper bags or reusable bags.

Tim Steinberger, city director of environmental services, said Bill 43 was "a good start" to addressing the issue of plastic bags, but it raised several concerns.

Among them, the bill would have applied to businesses with gross annual revenue of more than $1 million. It was not specific as to whether it applied to individual stores or corporations, such as ABC Stores and 7-Eleven.

He also noted that many of the plastic bags that end up in the environment are from small businesses, such as plate lunch operations.

Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, chairwoman of the Public Infrastructure Committee, deferred the bill.

"There’s lots of information-gathering we need to do to improve on this," she said.

The committee advanced Bill 39-10, a measure aimed at clearing sidewalk space for pedestrians.

It would define an area of a sidewalk that would have to remain clear at all times for pedestrians. Those found to be blocking such "pedestrian use zones" with their bodies, furniture or personal belongings could face a $50 fine.

Kobayashi’s committee advanced the bill but planned to address concerns raised by the city Prosecutor’s Office and corporation counsel — among them, clearly defining how much of a sidewalk must be designated for pedestrian use.

Lori Nishimura, city deputy prosecutor, said enforcement would require knowledge of the property line, the pedestrian use zone and proof beyond a reasonable doubt that someone was blocking that zone.

The bill now goes before the full Council for a public hearing and the second of three required votes.

Meanwhile, the Council’s Zoning Committee advanced a resolution asking the administration to propose changes in the Land Use Ordinance to regulate political campaign signs.

The committee amended Resolution 31-10 to address free-speech concerns, changing the language to apply to all noncommercial signage, not just political signs, and deleting a provision restricting when signs could be placed but keeping restrictions on size. The amended bill also changed the penalty from a potential criminal fine to a civil fine.

Committee Chairman Ikaika Anderson advanced the measure to keep discussion alive and put it before the full Council for a public hearing and vote.


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