Houseless people sit beside their belongings along Fort Street Mall in the middle of Downtown Honolulu. Many of Hawaii's houseless sleep in the busiest parts of the island for the safety of being in public view.

Carlisle makes life difficult for Honolulu’s houseless by signing ‘Pedestrian Use Zones’ bill

in Houselessness

HONOLULU—In the latest effort to keep Hawaii’s “homeless problem” out of site, Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle today signed into law Bill 39, which establishes “Pedestrian Use Zones” that reserve substantial portions of City sidewalks for pedestrians in high pedestrian traffic areas.

On the surface, the City’s description of the bill makes it sound like Hawaii has a serious foot-traffic problem, with the Pedestrian Use Zones clearing the way for Honolulu’s citizens as they walk to work or do their shopping. Opponents to the bill call it simply another “homeless ban”—not unlike the recent law banning tents and shopping carts in Honolulu’s parks.

Bill 39, introduced by Councilmember Ann Kobayashi, prohibits the storage of personal property within a Pedestrian Use Zone, defined as the portion of a sidewalk that extends toward the street up to eight feet from the adjacent private or public property line bordering the sidewalk opposite the curb.

The restrictions will not apply to persons unable to comply due to suffering a medical emergency; or engaged in other activities such as waiting at a bus stop or taxi stand; or attending a parade, festival, performance, rally, demonstration, meeting, or similar event conducted on the public sidewalk pursuant to and in compliance with an applicable permit.

Pedestrian Use Zones will be established primarily in Honolulu’s most precious tourist shopping commodities: Ala Moana/Kakaako; Downtown; Kalihi; McCully/Moiliili/Makiki; and Waikiki. The restrictions will apply between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. except in Waikiki, where they will apply between 6:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. of the succeeding day.

Upon conviction, violators—houseless people targeted by the law—may be fined a maximum of $50 or be sentenced to community service for a time period determined by a judge.

The measure appears to be one that makes more of a moral statement, such as the smoking-near-a-doorway law, than one that will immediately see Honolulu’s houseless swept from City streets. Carlisle cautioned that “resource constraints limit the City’s ability to implement the measure’s requirements immediately in all areas.” The City will conduct an educational and warning program prior to enforcement.

The City Council approved Bill 39 on October 13 by a vote of 5 to 4. The measure will take effect in 60 days, and is available here.

During a declared statewide “homeless” crisis that is facing a shortage of affordable housing and shelter space, Oahu’s houseless population has been banned from beaches, parks, and now city streets. Where will they end up? The answer will likely come via a testifier’s complaint at the next Neighborhood Board meeting or committee hearing—unless our communities and elected officials enact real solutions to the multitude of problems that lead to houselessness.

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