Full Council to consider ban of street performers
WAIKIKI BUSINESS representatives, residents and law enforcement officers told a City Council committee yesterday that street performers are clogging the sidewalks in Waikiki and jeopardizing the safety of pedestrians.
"Why do we build the sidewalks? For people to walk on and not for performers," said Ted Soong, of the Waikiki Business and Shopping Plaza.
The Council's Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee held a meeting to discuss Bill 71, which would ban performers from 7 to 10 p.m. nightly on Kalakaua Avenue between Lewers and Uluniu streets. After lively testimony, the committee approved the bill for a public hearing on Dec. 7 in front of the entire City Council.
"I think this is an excuse for the businesses to get us off the street," said Lamar Nobles, who entertains in Waikiki as Silver Man.
Critics of the bill said there are several reasons Waikiki sidewalks are congested, yet only street performers are being blamed.
But proponents of the bill say the prohibition would only take effect when the sidewalks are the most crowded.
"The impact of the street performers is significant," said Karl Kim, University of Hawaii professor of urban and regional planning, who presented findings of a study he did for the Waikiki Business Improvement District Association.
"Clearly, the sidewalks were not designed for this function," he said.
Police and prosecutors also support the measure, saying it would help law enforcement clear congested sidewalks.
"I feel that this law would add clear-cut laws for us to enforce as opposed to some of the existing ordinances," said police Maj. Thomas Nitta, district commander for Waikiki.
Kathy Wong, store manager for the Waikiki Louis Vuitton store, said performers do not help businesses, and they cause excessive noise.
"What we find on the corner of Kalakaua and Lewers is that the street performers impede pedestrian traffic in the front of the store and into the store," Wong said.
But street performers say the bill would in essence kick them out of the heart of Waikiki during peak performance times.
Lois Perrin, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, said the bill is unconstitutional because it targets a single unpopular group.
"There are a number of other ways that this can be handled without attacking a particular group," Perrin said.