The following comes from a July 31 Angelus article by Maria Luisa Torres:
Los Angeles County Superior Court James Chalfant ruled July 30 that the contested sale of the former convent of the Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters to restaurateur and urban developer Dana Hollister is invalid.
The judge also confirmed that the eight-acre, villa-style hilltop property located in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles is Church property under the oversight Archbishop José H. Gomez.
The archdiocese initiated legal action June 19 to protect the sisters by seeking to nullify the “unauthorized” transaction with Hollister. In a recent deposition, Hollister confirmed that she took possession of the Waverly Drive property for $100,000 (of which the sisters received only $44,000), and the balance of $9.9 million in a non-recourse promissory note, with no payments for three years.
The archdiocese contended that the sale violates the California law protecting the elderly from transactions that are not in their best interest — the five surviving Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters are between 77 and 88 years of age.
Because the loan is non-recourse, it does not require payment after the three years, the archdiocese explained in a recent statement. As such, if Hollister were unable to pay the remaining $9.9 million, the only remedy to get the property back would be foreclosure and the sisters would have to pay the related legal costs.
Other points of contention include the archdiocese’s lease of the buildings on the property for the priests’ house of prayer, which has a remaining term of 77 years, and Hollister’s reported plan to convert the villa property into a boutique hotel.
Judge Chalfant set another hearing for September 15 and ordered the lawyers to prepare proposals detailing possible remedies that would most benefit the five sisters. He said that Hollister may remain in possession of the property pending the hearing, but ordered her to pay $25,000 a month rent and stipulated that she cannot sell, lease or modify the property in the interim.
“The care and well-being of all five sisters has always been our primary concern,” said the archdiocese in a statement released shortly after the July 30 court ruling. “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. We are grateful that the judge found the sale to Hollister to be invalid, and that he agreed that this was a ‘bad deal’ for the sisters.”
During July 29 interviews, three of the five sisters — Jean-Marie Dunne, Marie Christine Muñoz Lopez and Marie Victoriano — reiterated their unequivocal support for the archbishop. All three sisters had previously signed declarations stating that they agree that the institute may not sell the property without the written approval of leadership in the archdiocese, as outlined in the institute’s amended articles of incorporation.
The remaining two sisters, Sister Rita Callanan and Sister Catherine Rose Holzman, disagreed and opted to move ahead with the sale to Hollister. At the time of the unauthorized transaction, the archdiocese had already accepted an alternate offer from pop star Katy Perry, which was supported by Sisters Jean-Marie, Marie Christine and and Marie Victoriano, for $14.5 million — $10 million in cash and $4.5 million for an alternative property for the house of prayer (to be owned by the sisters).
Due to continued litigation, the sale is now in limbo, but all proceeds from any future final sale will be dedicated to the care of the sisters, according to the archdiocese.