HONOLULU (AP) — Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell has vetoed a bill that would have expanded the city’s ban on sitting and lying down on sidewalks.
Caldwell has been a champion of the city’s sit-lie bans, which began in Waikiki after complaints from the tourism industry and local residents and expanded to include Chinatown and other commercial areas.
But Caldwell said Thursday that the city would face legal challenges if he signed Bill 6 into law, which could jeopardize Honolulu’s existing sit-lie bans. His administration proposed an alternative that he says the city can defend.
The council-approved bill was problematic because it bans people from unpaved areas adjacent to sidewalks and could include some residential or non-commercial areas, like the banks of a canal where a small tent city emerged. The original law was based on keeping sidewalks open for public use, Caldwell said in a letter to the council. He asked the members to sign his alternative bill that only includes sidewalks and excludes areas zoned for residential or preservation use.
“I continue to wholeheartedly support the intent and purpose of Honolulu’s recently adopted Sit-Lie Laws,” Caldwell said in the letter.
When the city approved its first sit-lie ban in September, officials planned to set up a temporary open-air shelter in Sand Island, so that homeless people moved away from resorts could be moved to an industrial location that was used during World War II as a an internment camp for Japanese Americans. But the proposed site was near a wastewater treatment plant and former dump, and under criticism, the plan never materialized.
Now, some city council members are pushing for a friendlier alternative to Sand Island. They want to set up a shelter and service center in the flagship store of Hilo Hattie, the Hawaii-themed fashion retailer that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February.
The city has been in discussions to either take over Hilo Hattie’s lease or the building, which is located in a part of Honolulu far from tourist hubs, said Councilman Joey Manahan. Depending on how it’s set up, the building could provide shelter to hundreds of homeless people, and could include space for service providers, Manahan said.
“I consider it to be a better plan than just putting tents up in Sand Island,” Manahan said. Plus, because the store’s building is set up to welcome busloads of tourists from Waikiki, it can accommodate the city’s plan to bus homeless people from the same location, he said. “Hilo Hattie was just kind of a natural fit for that.”