Honolulu mayor rejects widening city's ban on lying on sidewalks

Thu May 21, 2015 8:45pm EDT
 
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(Reuters) - The mayor of tourist-heavy Honolulu vetoed a bill on Thursday that would have further restricted people from lying and sitting on city sidewalks, citing likely legal challenges, and called on lawmakers to work to provide more affordable housing.

Honolulu's so-called sit-lie laws, passed by the City Council last year, already prohibit people from sitting or lying on public sidewalks in certain areas zoned for commercial and business activities, such as the Waikiki Beach area and in Chinatown.

But the council earlier this month adopted an ordinance that expanded those laws to include areas abutting public sidewalks, such as on landscaped or unpaved public property, on areas zoned for residential use, and in a canal area that has seen homeless encampments, Mayor Kirk Caldwell said.

Caldwell said in a statement and counter-proposal to the city council on Thursday that the expansion was unlawful, "clearly goes beyond the intent and purpose of the Sit-Lie Laws," and might not withstand a legal challenge.

He also said the sit-lie laws already identify areas zoned for commercial activities in which the "general public most urgently requires use of the sidewalks for pedestrian access," Caldwell told the council.

Caldwell's own proposal would cover only public sidewalks and exclude areas that are zoned for residential or preservation use, his office said.

The mayor also called for efforts to provide more affordable housing in the city of some 375,000 residents.

"I am also acutely aware of the many challenges faced by the people of the city who either are forced or choose to live on the sidewalks, in unsanitary and unsafe conditions," Caldwell said.

"Their living conditions are undesirable from not only their perspective, but also that of the people of the city who walk, drive, own a business, live in a house or attend a school next to them," he said.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Eric Walsh)