Sidewalk clearing: Objects get a talking-to

 

The new city sidewalk nuisance law has had an unexpected side-effect: city officials having to talk to inanimate objects.

KHON2 observed a city worker reading rights to a chair during one of the first few rounds of sidewalk clearing last week in Kakaako.

That had some onlookers scratching their heads, and viewers who caught a glimpse of this in our story about the cleanup asked: What in the world?

KHON2 took that question to the city.

“I can understand where those comments and opinions may originate from,” Department of Facility Maintenance Director Ross Sasamura said. “But at the same time procedurally we have to ensure the city’s interests are protected, as well as the people that may be involved with getting their items removed.”

Clearing the nuisance property falls on him and his staff, who he says are just doing what the city’s corporation counsel has decided is necessary.

“We’ve known homeless people to live under bridges, within storm-drain structures, within culverts. There are people that are standing there as bystanders that may not admit to being the owner of the property,” Sasamura said. “We’re not sure exactly who the owner — the rightful owner – is. We’re not exactly sure where that person may be. So we read those actual rights out aloud so that if there is anybody there who would actually later claim to be the owner, we would make sure that they’re aware of everything.”

The city also pays somebody to videotape the announcement, the items, and their takeaway.

They don’t read the rights just once for the area; they have to read it once per set of belongings.

“It is exactly one pile,” Sasamura said. “Because if it could be one person’s belongings, then each person would have that same opportunity to remove those items.”

“I can understand your average person would think that’s absolutely insane and why would we do that,” Councilman Ikaika Anderson said, one of the lawmakers who introduced the measure that became the sidewalk law. “But at the same time we need to ensure we’re protecting the taxpayer from liability.”

The ordinance itself refers to written notice left at the scene, online, and even mailed if an owner can be determined and has an address. It doesn’t say anything about read-aloud.

“If that’s what corporation counsel opines is necessary in order for the bill to be enforceable, OK,” Anderson said. “I think at the end of the day the people of Honolulu expect that the ordinance will be enforced.”

KHON2 asked Anderson: “Is there anything that can be done to tighten this up, to make it more cost-effective, and a little less ridiculous to look at?”

“If there’s another way to do this, I’m happy to work with corporation counsel and Mayor Caldwell toward an amendment if need-be to make this more efficient,” Anderson said. “Perhaps we need some voice amplification, such as a microphone, sound system, or maybe even a megaphone so the announcement can be heard far within earshot range, so they can do one announcement, two announcements, or not have to do one announcement for every single piece of belonging.”

“I will contact the administration to see if this is something they want to explore,”Anderson said. “And if they do, then my office will take it upon ourselves to work with the mayor on behalf of the council and put something out there to see if we can streamline this process.”

KHON2 will follow-up to see what they decide.

Click here for the text of Honolulu City & County Ordinance 13-8 (PDF)
Purpose. HRS Section 46-1.5(12) authorizes the City and County of Honolulu to enact and enforce ordinances necessary to prevent or summarily remove public nuisances and to compel the clearing or removal of any public nuisance from sidewalks. The purpose of this ordinance is to authorize the summary removal by the city of public nuisances from the sidewalk.

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