Campus wins court ruling on Japanese garden sale, extends sale process
By Phil Hampton May 17, 2012 Category: Campus News
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has rejected a request for a temporary restraining order to block UCLA's sale of the Hannah Carter Japanese Garden.
While the May 17 ruling confirms UCLA's right to proceed with the sale of the property at 10619 Bellagio Rd. in Bel-Air, UCLA announced that it will extend the period during which prospective buyers can submit bids.
"Even though we are confident that all appropriate steps have been followed and that the meritless lawsuit will be dismissed, it is important that we minimize any legal impediments before we complete the bidding and sale process," said UCLA Administrative Vice Chancellor Jack Powazek.
Sealed bids for the garden and a residence on a separate adjacent lot in Bel-Air had been due on May 22 and were scheduled to be publicly opened on May 23. Campus officials said the bidding process will be extended until Aug. 15.
The request for the court order was brought by plaintiffs in a lawsuit aimed at stopping the sale.
The basis for the judge's decision to deny the temporary restraining order was that the plaintiffs did not have a likelihood of success on the merits of the lawsuit.
UCLA is selling the garden because it serves no teaching or research purpose and lacks the parking necessary to operate it as a public asset. The campus spends more than $100,000 a year to maintain the garden, even as state funding for UCLA has been dramatically reduced. Campus resources are best directed to academic priorities, UCLA leaders say.
"Simply put, we are selling the garden because it is in the best interests of the university," UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said in a Feb. 9 op-ed in the Daily Bruin.
In September 2010, an Alameda County Superior Court judge entered an order approving UCLA's request to sell the garden, based on changed circumstances. The Los Angeles Superior Court judge on May 17 expressly referred to the 2010 court order in his decision denying the temporary restraining order.
The university purchased the garden in 1964 with funding provided by University of California Regent Edward Carter. Carter also made a commitment to donate the adjoining residence upon his death. The gift agreement envisioned a day when it would no longer be practical for the university to own the garden.
In 1982, Carter and the university amended the original agreement, allowing the university to sell the residence upon his death, following a reasonable time for his widow, Hannah, to rent the residence from the university. Proceeds from the sale would be used to establish endowments to fund specific academic programs on campus, as well as a $500,000 endowment for garden maintenance. The agreement named the garden in honor of Hannah Carter and called on the university to maintain it.
Because of a mistaken property description, the lack of parking became clear only after the 1982 agreement. Later, it also became clear that costs exceeded potential pay-out from the maintenance endowment and that the garden was no longer serving a teaching or research purpose.
Regent Carter died in 1996. Hannah Carter lived in the residence until 2006 and died in 2009.
Hannah Carter was not a party to the original agreement; neither were her children, who are the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The university maintains that they lack legal standing to contest the sale of the garden.
Proceeds from the sale of the residence and the garden will be used to fund the professorships and other academic endowments specified by Regent Carter, as well as other campus priorities, such as scholarships and fellowships.