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City says clean up or face hefty fine

By Andrew Pereira
Published On: Apr 26 2013 06:36:00 PM HST

As of today you can do more than make idle threats to that neighbor who won't mow the lawn or keep the yard at least somewhat picked up. A new law just hit the books that puts a little more teeth in your complaints.

HONOLULU -

If your neighbor is a 'Messy Marvin' or a 'Junky Jane,' there's now more of a reason for them to clean up their yards.

Bill 3, which increases the maximum daily fine for neighborhood blight, was signed into law Friday by Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. Instead of a maximum fine of up to $1,000 per day, violators now face a fine of up to $5,000 per day. Complaints are handled by the city's Department of Planning and Permitting.

"This is not going after somebody who has weeds this tall in their yard," Caldwell told reporters, while holding a hand up to his waist. "It's going after the most egregious bad actors."

Some have dubbed the legislation the "Genshiro Kawamoto" bill, after the eccentric Japanese billionaire who allowed several of his Kahala properties to fall into disrepair. DPP says Kawamoto has corrected all 67 violations he was cited for over the past several years, and paid about $42,000 in fines. Caldwell said enforcement of Bill 3 would take place islandwide.

"There are always a few bad actors in our community, and they're around this entire island," said the mayor. "They're going to feel the full measure of the law now. Five thousand dollars every day, it adds up pretty darn quickly."

"The maximum fine is levied by the inspectors at their discretion only against the most egregious repeat offenders, so mom and pop are not going to be affected," said Councilman Stanley Chang, who drafted the bill.

Deputy DPP Director Arthur Challacombe said complaints about neighborhood blight can be made in person at the Frank F. Fasi Municipal Building, by email or by calling the DPP office. Residents can also visit the city's information and complaints web page to fill out a form. All complaints will be kept anonymous.

"If one person is messing it up, it makes the whole area look really bad, so I will call," said Joseph Walton, a Waikiki resident who has dealt with his neighbor's messy yard for years. "I think this new law is going to be very important for everybody to clean up their own mess."

Challacombe said 13 inspectors within DPP's residential enforcement branch can respond adequately to all complaints the agency receives under Bill 3, even if those complaints become more frequent.

"We will still be doing the same good work that our inspectors do, it's just now we have a better tool to work with," he said.  

The fine for a first-time violator will likely start at $50 and only the messiest Marvins in a neighborhood will reach the maximum of $5,000 per day.

Correction: An earlier version of the story said the previous maximum fine was $2,000 per day.

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