A bill expanding the city’s controversial “sit-lie” ordinance into Iwilei and additional parts of Kapalama moved out of a City Council committee Tuesday after receiving passionate testimony from area merchants and residents.
The Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee, which consists of all nine Council members, voted 7-2 to advance Bill 13. Council members Brandon Elefante and Kymberly Pine, who’ve consistently voted against sit-lie measures because they feel they’re ineffective in fighting homelessness, cast “no” votes.
The sit-lie ordinance now consists of 15 zones where sitting or lying on public sidewalks is banned from 5 a.m. until 11 p.m. daily. They include business neighborhoods in 10 parts of the island: downtown/ Chinatown, McCully-Moiliili, Kailua-Kaneohe, Wahiawa, Ala Moana-Sheridan, Waimanalo, Kapahulu-Kahala, Aina Haina-Hawaii Kai, Aala and Kapalama.
Bill 13, introduced by area Councilman Joey Manahan, would add the section of Kapalama bounded by Waiakamilo Road, North King and Kohou streets and Dillingham Boulevard, and create another zone comprised of sections of Iwilei Road and Sumner, Pine and Kuwili streets.
The ordinance needs to be expanded in Kapalama because homeless encampments in both regions have become “no longer … manageable,” Manahan said. Some “pretty heavy-duty encampments” have also popped up in Iwilei despite efforts by the city and social service providers to give help, he said.
City attorneys have told Council members that to pass legal muster, there needs to be ample proof that businesses within the sit-lie zones are being adversely affected by people in front of their properties. As a result, several primarily residential neighborhoods that had been in the bill were taken out in the version of the measure that advanced Tuesday.
A handful of Kapalama business interests made cases for why their neighborhoods should be included in the prohibition.
Susan Morita, manager of Menehune Mac Candies at Kaumualii Street and Waiakamilo Road, said business has declined at the chocolate factory and gift shop because of the homeless situation. The business relies heavily on visitor traffic, but many potential visitors complain that what is going on outside is discouraging them from stepping into the shop.
A more respectful group of campers was replaced by a more ominous group that was pushed out of the Kapalama Canal area when it became unlawful to camp there, Morita said. That has led to thefts and property damage, she said.
“We know it’s a Band-Aid — it’s not a cure-all or a fix-all — but please help us stay in business,” she said.
Tiffany Lizares, co-owner of Technics Jiu Jitsu and Lino Hau Jewelry, said that a young woman attempted to grab her 1-year-old daughter from her vehicle. Two men came and pushed the woman back, she said.
Her business and those of her neighbors are surrounded by drug activity and prostitution and have been the victims of numerous crimes, Lizares said. Two weeks ago Lizares had a petition with the signatures of about 100 neighbors who support the bill. That list has now grown to about 600 signatures, she said.
Kimo Carvalho, community relations director for the Institute of Human Services, said the homeless provider supports the bill, which includes the area in front of its Sumner Street shelter. Those who remain on the street in the neighborhood have refused help, he said.
As in Kapalama, “crazy stuff” — including drug activity, prostitution and theft — is happening regularly, he said. “We are constantly dealing with a population that’s just not interested in accepting services, so we really need that motivation. Sit-lie does cause that disruption in their lives so that this does not become a way of life or normalize that way of life. Housing is the goal, not a sidewalk.”
Several Iwilei area residents also voiced support. Rick Gray said that in the past 18 months, “there’ve been two deaths, one shooting, one stabbing, daily fights in the street.” People are regularly relieving themselves in front of his building, and residents are intimidated and discouraged from using the sidewalks in front of their own homes, he said.
Councilwoman Kymberly Pine said most of the concerns raised Tuesday deal with activity that’s already criminal, and she questioned why more enforcement has not taken place.
HPD Capt. Stephen Silva of the Kalihi patrol district said, “We address the complaints as they come in. We do what we can to be proactive, to try to be out there as much as we can, but like every other city department, our resources are somewhat limited at times.”
Often, complaints are anonymous, so there are no witnesses to crimes that may have taken place when responding officers are not there, Silva said. “We’re sensitive to the community’s needs, and it’s a matter of trying to get a little more cooperation. We’re willing to work with everybody as long as they’re willing to meet with us and help us to do our job a little bit better.”
Councilman Ikaika Anderson urged business owners and residents to call 911 to report criminal activity and then be willing to speak with responding officers about their complaints.