Little garden in Chinatown may run into big problems - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Little garden in Chinatown may run into big problems

(Image: Hawaii News Now/File) (Image: Hawaii News Now/File)
Image: Hawaii News Now Image: Hawaii News Now
Image: Hawaii News Now Image: Hawaii News Now
Image: Hawaii News Now Image: Hawaii News Now
Roberta Oaks (Image: Hawaii News Now) Roberta Oaks (Image: Hawaii News Now)
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Residents sometimes take the initiative to improve their neighborhoods. But a business owner has been told she may be breaking the law by doing so.

About two and-a-half weeks ago, store owner Roberta Oaks created a small garden in front of her Chinatown shop.  It's a spot in the sidewalk fronting her store, where a tree grows. 

Oaks has had her store here for six years. She said she got tired of people leaving litter and cigarette butts, broken bottles, or even using the little patch as a restroom.

"I honestly was just kinda burned out on picking up trash around the tree in front of my store, and so I decided to put something nice there that was enjoyable to look at," said Oaks.

So she added some mulch, a small picket fence and a few more plants. And since then, Oaks says there have been no problems.

"Honestly, like 40 different people, random people that aren't customers necessarily, passer bys, that have knocked on the window of my store, give me a thumbs up," she said.

But at least one person complained. And the city came calling.

"I got a call last week Friday, and a follow-up email yesterday, basically saying that it was not permitted, and it needed to come down by tomorrow."

The call came from the City Department of Planning and Permitting. A city spokesman said putting up fences could cause a hazard on the sidewalk, or even block it. 

There have been other attempts by citizens to beautify their neighborhoods. For example, a group of surfers was allowed to clear the bush and do some landscaping in an area below the Diamond Head lookout. However, the city told the surfers they had to remove a small memorial.

Oaks said her little garden in Chinatown is a big improvement, compared to what else is going on nearby.

"The city is concerned about something positive that I did that's costing them zero money," she said. "Meanwhile, there's a constant problem with the homeless camp in the park across the street. We have illegal dumping." 

The city has given Oaks until Friday to remove the garden. Will she do it?

"Nope," she said. 

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