Waikiki publication racks are a ‘source of trash and trouble,’ but getting rid of them isn’t easy

Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 5:31 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Publication racks in Waikiki have become a high-maintenance blight. And despite being wrecked and often filled with garbage, the city says they are almost impossible to remove.

“They’re a source of trash and they’re a source of trouble,” said Waikiki resident John Deutzman.

To say Deutzman is fed up would be putting it mildly.

“Sometimes (there are) hostile people” at the publication racks, he said. “Sometimes drunk people. Sometimes bodily fluid around them.”

Whether it’s the unsavory activity or the sometimes cracked and busted facade, there’s no question ― Waikiki’s publication racks have seen better days.

They used to be packed with pamphlets and magazines aimed at visitors. But COVID changed that.

“The publishers of these different brochures and coupon books have decided to pull back their advertising,” said Waikiki Business Improvement District Association President Jennifer Nakayama

Now mostly abandoned, they’ve morphed into open air rubbish bins.

There are a total of 149 them on the sidewalks from Kapahulu Avenue to Hobron Lane. Aloha Ambassadors are tasked with cleaning them out three times a day.

Saul Delarosa’s seen it all.

“Some pretty nasty stuff: Diapers, underwear, needles,” he said. “There’s also people that sleep in these. They like to camp inside.”

The Aloha Ambassador team leader says homeless people will often toss out whatever brochures are inside the stand to make room so they can fit.

“Sometimes they’re just scattered all over the street,” said Delarosa.

Workers sanitize then from 6 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. seven days a week.

“We have six guys out in the district right now,” he said. “We look for graffiti, profanity. Any stickers, vandalism. We do our best to keep it clean.”

While the racks sit and deteriorate, many call them obsolete and no longer worth the effort, space and tax dollars to keep up.

“There’s actually laws, in my opinion and based on the wording this is a public nuisance,” said Deutzman.

The law states nuisances on public sidewalks “frustrate the purposes, functions, and activities for which the sidewalk is intended.” It goes on to say it was created to promote “pedestrian health and safety” and “prevent visual blight.”

“Get a wrench,” Deutzman said, pointing at the rack near his home. “Unscrew it and pull it out!”

HNN took all the complaints to the city. A spokesperson said getting rid of even a single publication rack is a complicated process that requires notice and hearings.

The spokesperson also said the racks shouldn’t be empty much longer. Publishers will be able to enter a lottery to claim their spot on the shelf later this month.

The head of the Waikiki Business Improvement District worries that’ll only mean more litter. Most people these days turn to their smart phone for information.

“A lot of times we’re asked, ‘Why isn’t there a digital form of this?’” said Nakayama. “Having anything paper nowadays is outdated.”

Copyright 2021 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.