CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Isabel Silva, who for about 46 Christmases has been decorating her Kapalama Avenue home, might have to end the tradition because the lease expires next year. CLICK FOR LARGE
Kalihi couple fights museum for home
Their lease will expire in 2007 but this pair wants to stay put
Isabel Silva has been adorning her Kalihi home on Christmas for about 46 years, but this year may be the last.
She and husband, John Silva, have to leave by October, the end of their 55-year lease.
"People come by. They say it's a landmark," she said about the red brick house at Bernice Street and Kapalama Avenue. "Tourists pass by taking pictures" of the decorations, many of which she made by hand.
But their modest home, surrounded by abundant fruit trees and flowers, is another kind of landmark in a decades-long struggle to buy the land under it.
The Silvas are the last holdouts in refusing a buyout offer from the Bishop Museum, which is located behind their home. The museum needs the land to proceed with expansion plans. Bishop Estate was the original holder of the Silvas' lease, but transferred the property in a land exchange with the Bishop Museum.
Homeowners failed in an attempt to buy the leasehold land.* The Bishop Museum did not return several calls from the Star-Bulletin seeking comment.
Eighteen of their neighbors accepted a buyout from the museum and have moved. In the past few years, the Silvas have asked that they be allowed to live in their home until they die, but the museum has declined.
"It would be a great burden for us to move now at our ages. How much longer do we have in this world?" said John Silva in a July 3 letter appealing to Gov. Linda Lingle for help. He and Lingle have corresponded through letters dated from May through September this year, but Lingle said with "deep regret" that there is nothing she can do to force the museum to sell the land or allow them to live there for life under existing law.
Isabel Silva, 77, said that, if they have to move in October 2007, "I don't know where we'll live. We can't afford to buy a place at our age."
Once their lease runs out, she said, "Bishop Museum offered us an empty house, where we can stay and pay the lease, on Bernice Street, but my husband doesn't want it. But we might have to accept it."
John Silva said, "Why should I have to move at my age when (I should be able to) stay for life?"
Their eldest son, John A. Silva, acknowledged that his parents' long "battle is lost." His father has been "the thorn in the side" by being "the last guy who fought to the bitter, bitter end." But "it would be nice at this point if (the Bishop Museum) would allow them to live their lives out" at their own home, he said.
After years of spreading aloha at Christmas and Halloween, giving candy to thousands of children every year, and sharing the bounty of their fruits and vegetables with neighbors, his parents deserve at least to spend their last years with "peace of mind" at their "little oasis," son John said.
"It's not going to hurt Bishop Museum's expansion plans to wait another several years," he said, adding that the corner lot would be used for a parking lot in all probability because the entrance to the museum is right next to the house on Bernice Street.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
» Isabel and John Silva were among a group of Kapalama homeowners who failed in an attempt to buy a plot of leasehold land near Bishop Museum. A Page A3 article Dec. 12 incorrectly said the homeowners failed in the courts to buy the land. The process never made it to court.