A judge Thursday tentatively voided the sale of a former convent in Los Feliz to a restaurant owner, but he did not rule on whether the Archdiocese of Los Angeles may sell the property for $14.5 million to Katy Perry.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that the sale was improper and invalid,” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant said. “It was a bad deal.”
Chalfant said restaurant owner Dana Hollister — who bought the Waverly Drive property from the nuns who used to live there — may remain in possession of the grounds pending a Sept. 15 hearing on whether she, Perry or someone else can best maintain the buildings and provide the best benefits for the nuns.
Hollister was ordered to pay $25,000 a month rent in the meantime. She has not been living on the property, but has a caretaker there. She also cannot sell, lease or modify the property in the interim. Neither side is allowed to have security guards, a point of contention by archdiocese representatives who claim they were ordered off the property by guards hired by Hollister.
The archdiocese filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court on June 19, stating that Hollister is considering using the property for a boutique hotel with a restaurant and bar. According to the lawsuit, the archdiocese’s lease of the buildings for the priests’ house of prayer has a remaining term of 77 years.
In his tentative ruling, Chalfant said the issue boils down to control. He said that although the nuns own the property, the archdiocese, through authority granted by the pope, must approve any disposition of it.
Chalfant said a trial of the case on all issues may not take place for two years and that it will be before another judge.
Attorney J. Michael Hennigan, on behalf of the archdiocese, said Thursday’s actions for the most part favored his clients. The archdiocese released a statement regarding Thursday’s actions.
“The care and well-being of all five sisters has always been our primary concern,” the statement read. “We were forced to take legal action to protect the sisters from the Dana Hollister transaction which allowed Hollister to take possession of their property away from them.”
However, Hollister’s attorney, Randy Snyder, noted that the judge did not order his client off the property or approve the sale to Perry, both of which were requested by Hennigan in his motion for a preliminary injunction.
Chalfant said it was too soon to make a decision on the merits and clear the way for the Perry deal in a preliminary injunction.
“They’re not selling to Perry anytime soon,” Chalfant said.
Hollister and two nuns in favor of the sale to the restaurateur were present in court. At one point the judge admonished those in the audience supporting Hollister and the nuns to be quiet even if they were upset by the arguments by the archdiocese attorneys. The judge also said he understood that the nuns feel they can’t trust the archdiocese to act in their best interests.
Lawyers for the sisters supporting the Hollister purchase also released a statement regarding Thursday’s proceedings.
“We’re pleased that the sisters’ efforts to maintain their independence, control the sale and the proceeds of the sale remains alive and well,” the statement read. “We think today’s hearing and the comments the judge made during the hearing indicate that he clearly understood the sisters’ concern about their security and welfare.”
The sale to Hollister was for $10 million, of which only $100,000 has been paid, according to the archdiocese. The proposed sale to Perry would be worth $14.5 million, consisting of $10 million in cash and an agreement to provide an alternative property for the house of prayer worth $4.5 million, according to the archdiocese.
The same day the suit was filed, Judge Robert O’Brien issued a temporary restraining order directing Hollister to permit archdiocese officials and their attorneys to enter the property. However, Chalfant’s order Thursday revoked that ruling.
Snyder said he is uncertain whether both sides are entitled to a jury trial. He declined to say whether he prefers a jury trial or one before a judge.
—City News Service