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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 11, 2010

Shopping cart, tent bills advance

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer

Bills restricting tents and banning shopping carts at city parks moved out of a key Honolulu City Council committee yesterday.

There was a lot of discussion before passage in the Executive Matters and Legislative Affairs Committee, which comprises all nine council members. Councilman Nestor Garcia was the only one to vote against the two bills, but others expressed concerns. Final approval is not certain.

Bill 7-10 requires park-goers to obtain permits before erecting tents. Bill 8-10 bans shopping carts.

The two bills, proposed by Mayor Mufi Hannemann, now go the full council for a public hearing.

Council members asked city Parks Director Lester Chang repeatedly if the intent of the measures was to reduce homelessness at the parks.

Chang said while the homeless may be affected by the bills, they were designed primarily to ensure parks are available to the public.

"The objective in mind is to make the parks as acceptable and accessible as possible to all users," Chang said.

Executive Matters Chairman Charles Djou said there is "a problem" not just at Kapi'olani Park, but from Wai'anae to Kaka'ako.

"We have a problem that too many public parks are no longer available to the general public," Djou said. "Too many public parks are becoming the exclusive domain of a select few. That's a problem that we need to address."

Garcia, the sole dissenting vote, said neither bill addresses the root problem, although he did not use the word "homeless" specifically.

Garcia said existing laws already address overnight camping at parks and questioned the need for the measure.

"We already have existing rules and laws that perhaps we might need to redefine in order to get at the problem that this is supposed to be applied to everyone," he said.

Daniel Gluck, senior staff attorney for ACLU of Hawaii, repeated his criticism of the bills.

"The idea is to target the homeless and remove homeless individuals and their tents from Kapi'olani Park and other city parks," Gluck said, adding that others would also be affected because everyone would need a permit to put up a tent.

The bill defines a tent as a makeshift structure with at least one wall. Gluck said many park-goers use tents with at least one side to shield themselves from the sun or the wind.

The shopping cart bill may also affect people who are not homeless, Gluck said, since the definition of shopping cart is not clear. Seniors and others use two- and four-wheeled carts for shopping, he said.

University of Hawai'i constitutional law professor Jon Van Dyke said he worked with parks and law enforcement officials for months to craft the language in both bills.

Of the tent bill, "the goal of this was to allow people to enjoy the park on a temporary basis, and to provide shade in the middle of the day but to discourage any more long-term use of the park which a habitation-type facility would permit," Van Dyke said.

The shopping cart bill states specifically that the ban would apply only to those used by wholesale or retail establishments, he said.

Chang said temporary canopies and pop-up tents are allowed.

"We encourage that," he said. "Certainly that is not a restriction. We're not trying to discourage people from having fun."

Officials with the Waikiki Improvement Association and the Kapiolani Park Preservation Society testified in favor of both bills.

"Presently, Kapi'olani Park is out of bounds now for ordinary citizens," said Carol Tompkins, a member of the Kapiolani Park Preservation Society. "These two bills clarify and support the City Council's efforts to keep our parks open and free for everyone to use. Kapi'olani Park is one of the best sites on the island and it has been co-opted by a special interest group."