City Council approves bill on Waikiki parades
The ACLU of Hawaii says the bill might invite lawsuits
For Waikiki the magic number is 39.
That is the number of parades, fun runs, hoolaulea and other activities that will be permitted annually in Waikiki under a bill approved yesterday by the City Council.
"Waikiki has been and, even with the passage of this legislation, will continue to be the single most popular location for parades, marches, athletic events and street closures anywhere in the state of Hawaii," said Councilman Charles Djou, who represents the area.
Last year, parades and other events in Waikiki closed streets 58 times. By year's end, Waikiki is on pace to host 60 events, Djou said.
That has not made Waikiki residents and business owners happy. They pushed for a cap.
Waikiki Neighborhood Board Chairman Robert Finley said Waikiki has the been the site of hundreds of parades in the past several years, providing free entertainment for residents and visitors and promoting business.
But there is a limit to how much Waikiki can handle.
"Kalakaua (Avenue) events are both an enjoyable benefit and the price you pay for living in Waikiki, unfortunately. ... There's heavy traffic and disruption to the residents," Finley said.
"Passenger movement is very critical in and out of Waikiki, and when the streets are closed hours ahead of the parade start time, it's just difficult to get people where they need to get to," said Gareth Sakakida, of the Hawaii Transportation Association.
But the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii said the bill still poses potential obstacles for those seeking to organize parades and marches protected by the First Amendment.
ACLU of Hawaii legal director Lois Perrin said at this point they do not plan on suing the city over the bill, but there is the potential for other groups to do so.
"I think it does open up the Council for potential litigation from a group who has been denied the opportunity to march in Waikiki on the basis that their event is not a First Amendment event, because the First Amendment virtually encompasses everything with respect to expressive activity. Almost every parade is a First Amendment parade," Perrin said after the meeting.
Djou said it took two years for the bill to be crafted, and the goal was to strike a balance between the different needs.
"Even though we are eliminating the number of street closures here in Waikiki, we are not eliminating these events in Waikiki," Djou said.
The bill limits the number of parades and other street-closing activities to:
» 14 parades or events that are being grandfathered in as "legacy" events that have been held in Waikiki for at least 15 years.
» 15 permits handed out via a city lottery.
» 10 waivers by the mayor for events denied a parade permit.
The bill, which would apply to parades beginning Jan. 1, now goes to Mayor Mufi Hannemann.