Enforcement of sidewalk nuisance law begins Monday
Although Honolulu's new sidewalk nuisance law is more than two months old, enforcement won't begin until next Monday, after the city was forced to delay implementation of Bill 7 until new administrative rules could be written.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell said workers with the Department of Facility Maintenance used the time from when the law was enacted on April 19 to inform the homeless population in various areas that enforcement would begin July 1.
"We're giving them a heads up, so they will not be surprised when we show up and say, 'We're taking your tent,'" said Caldwell. "There are shelter spaces open, (and) we're not taking away all of your possessions and letting you just lie here in the open."
Unlike a previous law that dealt with stored property on city sidewalks (Bill 54), the new ordinance allows DFM to confiscate personal belongings without 24-hour notice. However, the city is still required to post a written notice that items have been removed for three consecutive days.
"We call this compassionate disruption," the mayor told KITV4. "Providers have told us if we allow it to be convenient for people to take over our sidewalks to camp on, that they're going to continue to do that."
Any person who has their property removed from a sidewalk has 30 days to get it back, or risk its destruction by the city. Still, violators are forced to pay a $200 fee, something the ACLU of Hawaii said is a breach of the equal protection clause in written testimony sent to the City Council Feb. 25
"Bill 7 is particularly problematic in its breadth: enforcement will likely result in violations of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment," wrote ACLU of Hawaii senior staff attorney Dan Gluck.
Four city agencies, including the Honolulu Police Department, will be involved in sweeps of city sidewalks. The effort will include homeless advocates who can help find temporary shelter for those who want it.
"The problem is they do not want to enter these facilities because they do not want to conform to some of the rules," said Chu Lan Shubert-Kwock, president of the Chinatown Business Community Association, a strong proponent of Bill 7.
Councilman Ikaika Anderson, one of three Bill 7 sponsors, says he has an abundance of compassion for the homeless, but everyone in society is required to obey the rule of law.
"Unless they can find a private piece of property to house themselves in, unfortunately that's the way it works, and they are going to have to abide by some sort of rules in order to be a part of society," said Anderson. What about the compassion to our kupuna? What about the compassion for our children, and what about the compassion for our physically challenged who need to access our sidewalks?"
Caldwell says the city plans to follow Bill 7 exactly as written to avoid any pitfalls should a legal challenge against the new ordinance be mounted by the ACLU or any other group or individual.
"We're trying to follow the proper procedure and protocol every step of the way, so that if there is a challenge, at least we've done everything right," said the mayor. "We're going to go to the places where we've received a lot of complaints, (and) no one area is going to be targeted."
The (de)Occupy movement at Thomas Square is what motivated the City Council to pass Bill 7 more than two months ago. However, illegal camping on sidewalks has grown in recent months to include Kalakaua Avenue by the Hawaii Convention Center, Ilalo Street by the John A. Burns School of Medicine and North Beretania Street by Aala Park.
"These sidewalks are designed for one thing and one thing only – for people to walk on, not to camp on or to takeover in any other way," said Caldwell.
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