State wants vacant-
lot farmers out
Rep. Roy Takumi plans a meetingBy Rosemarie Bernardo
to see if Waipahu residents can keep
using state land for their gardens
FOR 10 years, the Rev. Ephraim and Jovita Amodo have planted eggplant, string beans, sweet potatoes and onions in their garden patch on a six-acre vacant lot on Paiwa Street in Waipahu.
The vegetables have provided for them, their children and grandchildren. Even, at times, for the homeless.
Today state workers were to begin clearing a section of the lot in response to a neighbor's complaint that overgrowth provided cover for burglars.
But state Rep. Roy Takumi has arranged a June 29 meeting among about 12 area residents who cultivate the lot, other area residents, the state Housing and Community Development Corp. of Hawaii, which owns the land, and the state attorney general.
"Hopefully, we can set a portion of the land aside for the gardeners," said Takumi (D, Pearl City-Waipahu).
Amodo and fellow gardeners had been told that today state workers equipped with weed trimmers and a backhoe would begin clearing a 40-foot stretch along Paiwa Street and 40 feet from the residential fenceline.
Instead, the state agency decided to wait. "We'll hear everybody out on the 29th," said Janice Okubo, housing information specialist.
"I'm happy because Rep. Takumi gave us allowance," said the Rev. Ephraim Amodo, 67, a Filipino United Church of Christ minister. The garden he works with his wife is in the area slated for clearing.
Twelve other gardeners who cultivate patches on the land are also worried about what will happen to their gardens. Most of the gardeners are Filipino-American senior citizens.
Amodo said, "More than 100 people benefit from the gardens," many of them retired and living on a fixed income.
The state Housing and Community Development Corp. has earmarked the land, next to Waipahu District Park, for senior housing someday. But there are no plans to build on it anytime soon, said Okubo.
Amodo said an employee of the housing agency visited the lot two years ago and said his group would be allowed to garden there as long as they followed rules, such as no burning of materials.
But the Amodos and other farmers were notified on June 7 to clear out their belongings and plantings.
"They will kill me first," said Amodo.
Okubo said agency employees were aware of gardeners planting in the area and that "there may have been some verbal agreements. But no formal agreements were ever set up," she said. "We were notifying them that they were trespassing."
"It is our intent to clear the area," she said.
David Callies, professor at the University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law, said, "If it's not their land, it's the state's right" to ask the gardeners to move.
The meeting is set for 3 p.m., June 29, at the Waipahu YMCA.