The fight over the sale of the Hannah Carter Japanese Garden has moved to the courts.
On Monday, heirs of Hannah Carter filed a lawsuit against the U.C. Regents to block the sale of the garden by UCLA, saying that it violates a promise UCLA made to keep the garden "in perpetuity," the Los Angeles Times reports.
A representative from UCLA told the Los Angeles Times the sale is legal and the university plans to contest the lawsuit. In 2010, the university received court approval to remove the “in perpetuity” requirement.
Leading the sale’s opposition is Bay-area resident Jim Caldwell, son of the late Hannah Carter. He and a coalition that includes The Garden Conservancy, The Los Angeles Conservancy and Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz, among others, have spoken out against UCLA’s plans to sell the garden, which was purchased with funds donated to the university in 1964 by Edward Carter, former chairman of the UC Board of Regents and Caldwell’s late stepfather.
In April, an . A protest against the sale was planned for the afternoon of the open house.
Citing concerns such as rising maintenance costs, lack of visitor parking and the university’s need to concentrate on academic endeavors, UCLA in November 2011 announced the sale of both the garden and residence. The garden has since been closed to the public.
“The university doesn’t seem to understand that we are looking for a win-win situation,” Caldwell said, “and we think there are win-win situations that are available.”
While UCLA plans to open bids for the property on May 22, the university will be obligated to sell to the highest bidder because the property is state owned. UCLA also has placed no conditions on the intended use of the site after the sale, riling coalition members and other interested parties who believe the garden could be destroyed.
UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, however, has been vocal in defending the university’s position. In anop-ed for the school’s newspaper, The Daily Bruin, Block wrote, “As much as I wish we were in a position to partner with others to preserve the garden, the unfortunate reality is that UCLA has been severely impacted by dramatic reductions in state support and must sell the property.”
According to the Daily Bruin, about $1.4 billion in state funding has been cut from the UC system since 2009, and tuition has seen an almost 50 percent increase since 2009.
The garden itself is estimated to generate about $5.7 million.
“Regent Carter’s intent was to benefit specific academic programs at UCLA,” wrote Phil Hampton, associate director of UCLA media relations and public outreach, in an email to Westwood-Century City Patch in April. “Proceeds from the sale of the residence will be used to support the programs and professorships he specified. Any additional proceeds will be available for academic priorities such as fellowships and scholarships.”
In April, Caldwell told Westwood-Century City Patch in an interview that the university entertain public-private partnerships to maintain the garden. Identifying the Garden Conservancy as a probable lead agent, Caldwell said that other coalition partners would be eager to find a “creative solution.”
“What we’re asking is for them to sit down and talk to the coalition and say, ‘How can we solve this problem?’”