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Judge blocks UCLA's proposed sale of Japanese garden in Bel-Air

A court ruling says the sale of the Hannah Carter Japanese Garden would violate UCLA's 1964 agreement with the garden's donors to maintain it in perpetuity.

July 28, 2012|By Martha Groves, Los Angeles Times
  • Bel-Air resident Michael Rich takes in the beauty of the UCLA Hannah Carter Japanese Garden. The university planned to sell the garden amid steep budget cuts, but a judge recently blocked the proposed sale after Carter's family filed suit.
Bel-Air resident Michael Rich takes in the beauty of the UCLA Hannah Carter… (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles…)

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge on Friday ordered a temporary halt to UCLA's proposed sale of the Hannah Carter Japanese Garden in Bel-Air.

In granting a preliminary injunction, Judge Lisa Hart Cole said UC regents had contractually agreed to maintain the garden in perpetuity.

UCLA said it would instruct its real estate broker to postpone the opening of any bids for the garden and an adjoining house and would consider its legal options. The opening of bids had been planned for August.

"We're disappointed by the judge's ruling," said Kevin Reed, UCLA's vice chancellor for legal affairs. "This will be a setback with respect to the sale."

In November, the university announced its intention to auction the two acres containing a Georgian Colonial house on Siena Way and the garden on Bellagio Road. The university set the minimum bid prices at $9 million for the residence and $5.7 million for the garden.

The garden was donated by Edward W. Carter, a retailing magnate and former chairman of the UC Board of Regents, and his second wife, Hannah Locke Carter, under a 1964 agreement that the university would maintain the garden in perpetuity. In 1982, the parties agreed that proceeds from the sale of the house would be used to create an endowment for the garden, as well as to fund certain professorships and, possibly, scholarships and fellowships.

In May, Carter's heirs filed suit seeking to stop the garden sale. In her ruling, Cole said they had a reasonable probability of prevailing in court.

She also said at an earlier hearing that the university had behaved in a "duplicitous" manner by failing to notify Carter's heirs in 2010 when the regents petitioned the Alameda County Superior Court for permission to sell the garden.

UCLA was facing steep budget cuts when it decided to sell the garden.

"The university believes that resources are best directed toward our academic mission," said spokesman Phil Hampton, "and not toward a garden that serves no teaching or research purpose."

martha.groves@latimes.com

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