Stalled Waikiki noise bills get new chance for hearings

Oct. 3—Two bills inspired by the quest to reduce noise in Waikiki that were stuck in the Honolulu City Council's Transportation, Sustainability and Health Committee earlier this year were given new referrals, giving them a new chance to move forward.

Two bills inspired by the quest to reduce noise in Waikiki that were stuck in the Honolulu City Council's Transportation, Sustainability and Health Committee earlier this year were given new referrals, giving them a new chance to move forward.

Honolulu Council Chair Tommy Waters in late 2021 introduced Bill 43, which bans amplified sound in Waikiki under certain conditions. The bill passed its second reading in February. It was amended by the TSH Committee in March, but Council member Radiant Cordero never scheduled a hearing. She requested that the bill be referred directly to the Council floor, a move that Waters approved Sept. 8.

Now an amended version of Bill 43 is up for a third reading during Wednesday's full Council meeting at Kapolei Hale.

Another bill that could come into play again is Bill 23, which bans trash pickup before 6 a.m. The bill, introduced by Council member Calvin Say, was inspired by Waikiki resident Carlino Giampolo, who has grown so frustrated by early morning trash pickups that disturb his sleep in Waikiki that his protest of the practice has included a march in front of the Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach.

Since moving from Kakaako to Waikiki, Giampolo said he has found his sleep disturbed sometimes as early as 2 :30 a.m. by the sounds of private garbage collectors revving loud truck engines, beeping horns, crushing and grinding trash, and banging bins as they empty trash into their trucks.

Bill 23 passed first reading in April and stalled when Cordero did not schedule it for a hearing. She requested that the bill be referred to the Budget Committee, a move that Waters approved Sept. 9.

Before scheduling a hearing, Say said in an email that he planned "to conduct additional research on the impacts of this bill, as well as to explore the possibility of other possible options."

"As with many pieces of legislation, the bill was introduced as a starting point for conversation, as my office has received numerous noise complaints relating to early morning refuse collection, " Say said. "The bill's language is based on examples from other municipalities on the mainland, so to customize the bill for Oahu, further discussion will include what will work best locally for all stakeholders."

Say said public testimony so far has favored Bill 23 as it has primarily come from those who are directly and negatively affected by early morning collections.

It's always been hard to balance Waikiki's status as the state's economic engine against the needs of residents who live in the heavily populated neighborhood. But the lengthy pandemic-­inspired downturn of 2020 and parts of 2021 hinted at the possibilities. As the visitors come back and Waikiki returns to its position as the state's top resort district, noise complaints are getting louder again, rising almost to the level of frustration over crime and homelessness.

Cordero did not provide the Honolulu Star-Advertiser with an updated reason for referring the Waikiki noise bills.

She told the Star-Advertiser in June, "I believe these bills do have merit, and as we continue the process, we would like to hear more from interested individuals or entities to help us weigh the benefits, or any potential unintended consequences resulting from the these bills."

Both bills have elicited a great diversity of opinion from Waikiki residents and businesses.

Waikiki Neighborhood Board Chairman Robert Finley said the Waikiki Neighborhood Board supports the concept of Bill 23.

"The pickup of trash before 6 a.m. is a major concern of the board and our neighbors who are having sleep disturbed by the early morning backup beepers and crash of trash bins being dumped into trucks, " Finley said.

Giampolo got an ovation from attendees at the Waikiki Neighborhood Board when he brought the issue to the attention of the board again in September. Following the board meeting, Giampolo said in a letter to Finley, "I am requesting that the Waikiki Neighborhood Board, in its fiduciary duty to the community, file a lawsuit against the City and County of Honolulu to accelerate the passing of Bill 23 and to protect our community from the abuse of way too early morning trash pickup by private refuse companies, as early as 2 :30 a.m. The abuse cannot be justified, and it must end."

Bill 23 has been more popular with Waikiki residents than the district's businesses owners. Some businesses owners fear that later trash collection could interfere with commerce and traffic, and if lots of stinky trash cans are left sitting around, that might mar the resort district's image as a world-class destination.

West Oahu Aggregate, one of the private trash collectors operating in Waikiki, submitted written testimony against Bill 23.

"We oppose Bill 23 because it will impact the collection of garbage in Waikiki. This bill will negatively impact the public because we will be trying to jockey our way through the already congested cars and buses on the street, " the company wrote. "It will also be unsafe for pedestrians that ignore traffic signals. The curious children that want to get up close to touch a garbage truck could be dangerously hit, backed over or sideswiped. The dangerous day conditions outweigh the work that we do early in the morning. Please consider the safety of our public and oppose this bill."

On the flip side, Waikiki businesses, outside of street performers, mostly like Bill 43. Waters has proposed a floor draft of the bill, , which would ban amplified sound that can be heard from Waikiki public sidewalks to 80 decibels at and beyond 30 feet from the sound source during certain hours.

It limits the period during which the amplified-sound restrictions apply to the hours from 7 p.m. of one day to 6 a.m. of the following day.

The proposed ordinance would exempt noise generated during an emergency or an emergency response, as well as noise from parades and other permitted activities.

Bill 43 doesn't mention street performers, who have been appearing in higher numbers in Waikiki since tourism ticked up and the city relaxed some restrictions. Still, some street performers have said they feel that the bill unfairly targets them as it excludes commercial establishments.

At the Council meeting, Bill 43 could be amended to Waters' proposed Floor Draft 1. The amended bill could then be passed on third reading, which means that it would go to the mayor for signature, veto, or he could allow it to become a city ordinance without his signature.