Neighbors don’t have to look at the small, city-owned Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Park to know there’s a problem.
They can smell it.
"The homeless are living, urinating and defecating in the park every hour of the day," said Andrew Friedlander, principal broker for Colliers International, which operates a number of buildings downtown. "It’s repulsive."
A meeting at the park with city officials and frustrated neighbors was postponed Wednesday but is expected to be rescheduled soon.
Friedlander said city officials need to experience for themselves the filth created by the growing number of homeless engulfing the park. He and others want the city to build a public restroom there to cut down on the stench.
"We need to get the homeless out of Waikiki. We know we can’t get them out of downtown. But we do need to take care of the filth and the smell — because it’s embarrassing," he said.
It’s a problem that reaches across downtown and Chinatown, where lots of business owners, residents and visitors have expressed frustration at a growing number of homeless people using the area as a toilet.
"It’s the perfume of Chinatown," said Dolores Mollring, a member of the Downtown Neighborhood Board. "It takes your breath away. The stench is so bad, and it’s only going to get worse when the summer heat comes."
Right now there is only one place where the homeless can use a public restroom: at the Honolulu Police Department’s Chinatown substation at the corner of Hotel and Maunakea streets. But it is often out of order due to the abuse that users inflict on the facilities, officials said.
City Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga, who represents the downtown-Chinatown area, has been pressing the administration to install public restrooms in Chinatown, and she has proposed spending $500,000 in the fiscal year 2015 budget in support of a solution.
In addition, the city recently completed a study looking at potential restroom locations at Fukunaga’s request.
Pam Witty-Oakland, director of the city’s Department of Community Services, said her staff found only a few locations where a public restroom can work. She said there was some resistance from business owners who don’t want a restroom built nearby, believing it to be an attractive nuisance.
Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Park, next to Hawaii Theatre Center, was not one of the sites identified as a potential location, she said, because there is a larger homeless problem near River Street several blocks away. However, Witty-Oakland said she would be willing to look at the park again.
Friedlander said the problem in and around the park is so bad he’s afraid people who want to support business downtown will abandon the area and go elsewhere. Public restrooms are essential to improving sanitation and enhancing the overall experience of the area, he said.
"Otherwise, downtown will return to the haven for drugs and prostitution that it was only 15 years ago," he said.