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Hannah Carter heirs sue UC Regents over planned garden sale

UCLA Hannah Carter Japanese Garden

Heirs of Hannah Carter have filed suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court to block the UC Regents' plan to sell her namesake Japanese garden in Bel-Air.

In a suit filed Monday, Carter's heirs assert that the regents breached a contract under which they agreed to maintain the Hannah Carter Japanese Garden in perpetuity.

Late last year, UCLA announced its intention to put the Bellagio Road hillside garden on the market, with the expectation that the sale would generate more than $4 million for endowments and professorships. The university cited annual operating costs -- $120,000 for maintenance and $19,000 for staffing -- as reasons.

A 2010 ruling in Alameda County Superior Court cleared the way for the school to auction the property.

Bel-Air residents, Hannah Carter's children and garden advocates challenged the plan, saying UCLA should honor its commitment to preserve the garden, designed in 1959 by famed landscape architect Nagao Sakurai to resemble the gardens of Kyoto.

A UCLA spokesman said the deadline to submit sealed bids is May 22. The number and identity of bidders will be made public May 23 at a public bid opening at the UC office in Oakland.

The spokesman said UCLA was confident that it had followed all appropriate steps and had "every legal right to proceed with the sale."

"UCLA," he added, "intends to contest the lawsuit."

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-- Martha Groves

Photo: Koi swim in a pond at the Hannah Carter Japanese Garden, which also features stone sculptures, a waterfall and a teahouse. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

 
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