COURTESY OUTDOOR CIRCLE
Flyers were plastered on utility poles on Beretania Street.
Join Outdoor Circle’s fight against visual ‘blight’
I've seen a business-card-sized "Work At Home" solicitation placed nearly every day on the poles for traffic signals and on newspaper racks all around the downtown area. Does this advertising constitute littering? What can be done to stop this?
Q: Realtors are putting up for-sale signs for apartments at Harbor Square downtown and it's really getting out of hand. This past Sunday we had them on trees, lampposts, street corners, in the middle of the block - all over the place. Can something be done?
Answer: The Outdoor Circle is actively working to stop the visual pollution and you can join in its fight.
We've addressed the problem of business offers and other flyers being plastered on utility poles across the island several times in the past, the last in 2001 (Kokua Line, July 4, 2001).
You can see them in almost every neighborhood - flyers announcing concerts, garage sales, birthday parties, business opportunities and missing pets.
It's against both state and city laws to post such notices in public places.
Section 29-4.4(7) of the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu says no person shall "post, affix or display any notice, poster or other paper or device, calculated to attract the attention of the public, to any lamppost, public utility pole or shade tree, or upon any public structure or building except as may be authorized by law."
State law says basically the same thing, but is more definitive. Section 445-115 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes says "it shall be unlawful for any person to paste, post, paint, print, nail, tack, or otherwise fasten any card, banner, handbill, sign, poster, outdoor advertising device, or notice of any kind or cause the same to be done, on any curbstone, lamppost, utility pole, streetlight pole, hydrant, bridge, tree, street sign, traffic sign, or traffic light upon any public property in the state," except as legally authorized.
However, the Honolulu Police Department reiterated to Kokua Line recently that the problem is one of enforcement, since officers have to catch someone actually posting a flyer before they can be cited.
You can call police if you see someone tacking up a flyer, but they'll probably be long gone by the time an officer responds. And, HPD says officers won't cite anyone, even if the flyers have names and numbers, without witnessing the actual violation.
Community and utility company officials have said the public can help combat the problem by just ripping off the flyers when they see them and if they can do so safely.
Hawaiian Electric Co. says you also can call its security office at 543-7685 if you see poles plastered with notices.
It's impossible to post inspectors at all locations to monitor the activity, but when apprised of violations, the city Department of Planning and Permitting will investigate and cite violators, said Director Henry Eng.
Inspectors have the option of removing the flyers themselves and tossing them in the trash, but if there are too many of them, it's much easier to go through the Notice of Violation process, Eng said.
Meanwhile, the Outdoor Circle has taken a proactive approach on what it says is a recurring and pressing problem of a visual "blight."
The organization regularly receives complaints about illegally posted flyers, said Bob Loy, director of environmental programs.
In May, Loy said the group dealt with eight separate flyer-posting events "that resulted in hundreds and probably thousands of flyers being posted around Oahu."
When the Outdoor Circle sees or is informed of the postings, it researches their origin, if not readily apparent, then reports them to the appropriate agencies.
Sometimes, it will contact offenders directly, as in the case of what Loy called the "mass flyer posting" of a June 21 event at Pipeline Cafe. He said the business was contacted by the Outdoor Circle in May about similar violations for a different event.
He sent us a copy of an e-mail sent to Pipeline Cafe, as well as the organizer, registering "the strongest possible complaint" about the recent postings.
After contacting "offenders" directly, the Outdoor Circle
often receives positive responses from businesses claiming they didn't know the law, Loy said.
"Other times we receive no responses - particularly from repeat, frequent violators such as Pipeline Cafe and others, which host numerous music events that frequently are advertised with flyers," he said.
When it is unable to contact promoters of events being publicized by the flyers, the city will issue citations to the owners of the event venue, if the venue is identified.
Eng said Pipeline has been cited several times over the past few years, as had Jaron's in Kailua, which has closed.
In defense of Pipeline Cafe, co-owner Chris Jewett told Kokua Line that Pipeline is being blamed for the flyers, even though it is not responsible for their postings.
"We just rent the venue out," he said. "We don't put on the shows, we don't promote the shows. ... Basically, the promoters are the people who have no regard, obviously, for the law or for the community by posting flyers all over the state."
Jewett said promoters sign a contract saying they won't put up posters around town, but that there's really no incentive for them to refrain from doing so because, for them, "there's no liability."
The city, instead, will go after Pipeline, "so there's no recourse for us to stop the promoter from putting up the posters because they've got nothing to lose, just more money to be gained by having the posters all over the state."
Jewett says he's working with the Department of Planning and Permitting to find some way to hold promoters responsible.
"There may be a solution in developing contracts with promoters which require compliance with our sign regulations," Eng said.
Loy said the city Department of Enterprise Services, which oversees the Waikiki Shell, Blaisdell Arena and Concert Hall, has been one of the most responsive agencies in curbing the problem.
After hearing of the Outdoor Circle's concerns, department officials pledged to use language in contracts "to convince event promoters that posting flyers would violate their contracts and jeopardize pending and future events," Loy said. "Since then, flyers for events at city venues have been greatly reduced."
He encourages the public to call 911 immediately if they see people posting flyers, then to call the Outdoor Circle at 593-0300.
"We understand that this is a very minor violation from a criminal standpoint, but still, the law is the law," Loy said. "We understand that it is not an efficient use of law enforcement personnel or the courts to pursue the criminal side of the laws, but we would like to see enforcement of the most egregious offenders as a deterrent to others."
Got a question or complaint?
Call 529-4773, fax 529-4750, or write to Kokua Line, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu 96813. As many as possible will be answered. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
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