Friday, May 03, 2013


Ugly and unfortunate—Honolulu surrenders a sidewalk instead of working to solve homelessness issues

by Larry Geller

After I saw the Star-Advertiser photo of the newly-installed planters placed on the sidewalk fronting Thomas Square on Beretania Street, I thought I should visit in person. The photo of planters crammed together looked like those shots taken with a telephoto lens that make dozens of telephone poles look like they are practically touching each other. I felt the paper owed me a better view without perspective distortion.

The pics below show the true story. And it’s ugly. Those planters really are close together and numerous.

Instead of tents, there is now an almost solid wall of hard, potentially hazardous objects blocking far more of the sidewalk than the (de)Occupy and homeless tents ever did. The entire length of the sidewalk is burdened and narrowed. Bicycles, wheelchairs and anyone with a cart will contend to pass each other in the drastically narrowed space.

It looks more like a one-way alley than the wide sidewalk that city planners intended (does Honolulu actually have city planners? This is a crime against modern architecture and design).

Unless they are to be moved, the planters have been installed not at the edge of the sidewalk, but smack in middle of it, a little off-center.

Predictably, there are going to be scrapes and injuries as people and things try to pass each other in the narrow corridor.

Add their cost to the approximately $1 million the City has already spent raiding the homeless encampments and often illegally seizing possessions (see: Mayor admits huge waste of money in homeless raids, 4/3/2013) and the cost of maintenance and lawsuits from scrapes and collisions on the narrowed passageway.

So while (de)Occupy can’t be said to have won, we all have lost, and no doubt will have to pay one day to removed these eyesores and hazards.

Ugly 1

Ugly 2

The barrier extends the entire length of the block:

Ugly 3

The City, as we know, also doesn’t care much for maintenance, and it will take a significant budget to clean the narrow gaps between the planters and remove rubbish and mold. The plants will need attention or they could die.

Essentially, the new planters are a memorial to a city government that can’t cope. It believes that by doing things to homeless people it is solving a problem, while so far avoiding doing anything for homeless people that would help solve their problem. In this instance, the City has robbed everyone of the use of the sidewalk in perpetuity.

Readers may not agree with me that these planters are ugly, but I doubt that architects would ever install obstructions in this number in middle of what was a wide pedestrian promenade. The street-side of the sidewalk has been rendered useless.  It doesn’t make sense.

Tents on Honolulu sidewalks ought to be viewed as a temporary situation, a testament to a City government that just can’t cope, but which one day will. Sidewalk tents are no solution to homelessness and should disappear one day. The planters are a permanent eyesore.

If the Mayor wants to beautify something, former mayor Mufi Hannemann left him plenty to do. He could start by dealing with Mufi’s ugly concrete posts in Chinatown and repairing the crumbling pedestrian bridge over the stream.


How dumb can the city be? Your photos demonstrate! Who made this decision? Fire them now!

Ahhhwww. This is unbelievable. This is some kind of criminal ordinance being violated by the city.
Nuisance. Hazard.

Actually it is encroachment of public space.

The City should have used chain link on both sides of the sidewalk. Cheaper, low maintenance and every bit as pretty as those monstrosities. Plus you could hang campaign signs on the fence. Must I be the one who always thinks of everything?

Chain link fence would have been the cheaper solution, you have an obvious cost saving there. Perhaps it will be the next step if treehouses appear above the planter boxes.

The same people who brought you tents on the sidewalk is creating this ugly scene. We should not forget who places the houseless on the curbs in a not-so-good interpretation of Kanawai Mamalahoe. By placing the houseless on the curb, the politicians know full well that this will create a public outcry against the houseless. This allows them to move money around and creates an unsafe condition for the houseless and is actually indirect violation of Kanawai Mamalahoe which is to keep people safe. It is inhumane to take tents, food, toiletries, and other possessions away from those out on the streets.

Wow, talk about blocked access. I hope the complainers are happy now. One wheelchair (manual or motorized) coming down the Ward Street side, and another coming down the Victoria Street side... uh oh, there's no way for both to get by or even to turn around. It's a Robin Hood meets Little John situation. I do believe the yellow pages for "ADA Plaintiff's Attorney" are already being referenced.

That newly fenced area looks a bit suspicious to me. A crew of City workers came on December 29, 2011, and hurriedly REDREW the park boundaries to where that wood frame is standing. It took only an afternoon to redraw the park boundaries when it took months for the same sort of survey in Waikiki?


Oh, okay. So I guess my brother being bound to a wheelchair is unimportant to the city. The city's tightly holding onto might-is-right and ignoring the needs of the people.

Sorry I'd rather see the planters than the Tents...thank god they are gone ...


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