Newly passed bill targets owners of neglected, trash-ridden properties


Do you live next to a home that you think is a potential threat to your family’s health and safety?

On Wednesday, the Honolulu City Council enacted a bill that would go after owners whose properties are more than just an eyesore. It now goes to Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell for his consideration.

Under Bill 52, the process would start with a complaint. The city would investigate and, if there is a threat to public health and safety to the surrounding neighborhood, the city can move in and clean up the mess.

KHON2 came across two homes in Honolulu that sit on the same street. At one home, the front yard was so overgrown with vegetation that it posed a safety threat.

The next-door neighbor said he’s had to cut down tall weeds before he can pull his car out of his driveway, because the weeds block his view of traffic.

At another home nearby, neighbors complained of the rocks and building material piled up in the front of the house. But it’s the stuff that sits in the backyard that scares an elderly home who lives next door.

The woman turned to a neighbor, who has testified before the city council to do something about the problem.

“Directly below her property, if that ever caught on fire, the firemen, it would take a day to put that out, there’s so much stuff down there,” said resident Tim Garry.

First, a notice of violation would be issued. If nothing is done, a notice of order and fines would be imposed. If there’s still no clean-up, the city would move in and get a court order if necessary.

KHON2 in the past has focused on another home in Honolulu that has drawn complaints from neighbors. The piles of stuff around the house has gotten worse over the years.

“As far as the hoarding problem goes, there are actually a fair number of properties that this kind of accumulation does occur,” said George Atta, the city’s director of planning and permitting. “The real question is, when does it become a public nuisance that affects the neighborhood around it?”

But does the city have the money and the manpower to clean up the property? The city says if it came down to that, officials would probably consider hiring someone else to do the work.

“There’s a sorting process, there’s a clean-up process and there’s a storage process – and all of that takes people,” said Atta.

Atta says if the measure is signed into law, he would have to ask the city council for more money and time before there can be any cleanup of properties.

That would take a year, since Atta would have to wait for any funding to come from the fiscal year 2016 budget.

Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi helped to spearhead the measure. She says if the law is placed on the books, she hopes the city would carefully review the property owner’s ability to pay for a cleanup.

She’s concerned that the poor just don’t have the means to head off a violation.

“They want to clean the property, but don’t have the resources,” said Kobayashi, “so if the department (of planning and permitting) can use caution and a little bit of consideration to the circumstances.”

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