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Sidewalk tent ban approved

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    Tents set up on Makahiki Way and South King Street in Honolulu.
    A bill the City Council passed yesterday bans makeshift structures on sidewalks in some urban zones. Here, a cart and piles of blankets blocked the sidewalk on Makahiki Way and South King Street in McCully last week.

The City Council passed a bill yesterday that bars tents and other makeshift structures on urban sidewalks during daylight hours, but city officials warned such a law will take nearly $250,000 and possibly years to put into effect.

Mayor Peter Carlisle must now decide whether to sign Bill 39. Because the vote was 5-4, an override would be unlikely should the mayor veto the measure.

City police, attorneys and other officials said the Carlisle administration supports the intent of the sidewalks law. But what constitutes a "pedestrian use zone" on each block needs to be delineated and the city will need to clearly mark the zones, they said.

The issue arises because the bill would not apply on state, federal or privately owned sidewalks.

Deputy Corporation Counsel Dawn Spurling said that if prosecutors were to go to court with a violation of the new sidewalk provision, "they have to prove the legal boundary of the property line, so we need to have a determination of where the property line (is)."

"You cannot just use some measurement," Spurling said. "You have to have an identified legal boundary."

Police Maj. John McEntire said the department is concerned about how effectively it can enforce the measure. "And we have concerns about how the pedestrian use zones will be established," he said.

The department also wants to know who would be responsible for impounding and storing items picked up when a person is cited or arrested, McEntire said.

Asked if the bill would be enforceable, McEntire replied: "At least as long as the pedestrian use zone is accurately and positively identified by some sort of signage or markings, then we will be able to enforce it."

The administration also questions whether it can take effect within 60 days of its approval as specified in the bill.

Keoki Miyamoto, acting director for the city Department of Facility Maintenance, said defining pedestrian use zones would require surveying properties and placing signs designating them, something that could take months, if not years. Further, the department does not have the estimated $250,000 necessary to get the project under way this fiscal year, Miyamoto said.

Tom Miyato, of the city Department of Design and Construction’s Land Division, estimated it would cost as much $10,000 and take three months for each block that’s surveyed, "depending on how big the block is." That would not include the cost of signs, he said. For all the areas to be surveyed and issued signs, "it would be like a few years," Miyato said.

Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, who introduced the bill, said the police can begin enforcing the bill by just issuing warnings. Meanwhile, University of Hawaii students can help with the surveying, she said.

Kobayashi, Ikaika Anderson, Todd Apo, Romy Cachola and Rod Tam voted for the bill, and Donovan Dela Cruz, Lee Donohue, Nestor Garcia and Gary Okino opposed it. Several Oahu residents said they didn’t think the bill goes far enough.

The bill would apply only in Honolulu’s urban zones, which include Ala Moana, Kakaako, downtown, Kalihi, McCully, Moiliili, Makiki and Waikiki, where congregations of homeless people have a problem.

The bill also bans blocking sidewalks from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., or until 2 a.m. in Waikiki.

Hawaii Kai resident David Nickle questioned why the ban did not include all districts and all hours.

"If you don’t designate Kaimuki, that’s where they’re going to go," he said.

But Kobayashi said city attorneys warned that blanket bans would not pass legal muster.

The sidewalk proposal is the latest in a series of moves that clear the homeless from public areas. In 2009, the Council shelved a bill that would have outlawed sitting, sleeping or lying down on a public sidewalk. Earlier this year, the city banned tents and shopping carts at city parks.

Daniel Gluck, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, submitted written testimony opposing the bill. Not only does the bill violate First Amendment rights guaranteeing individual liberties, he said, but the measure is punitive toward the homeless.

Kobayashi said the bill is designed to ensure the rights of pedestrians to use sidewalks, not to single out the homeless.


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