Judge leaves Katy Perry's bid to buy convent in limbo
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Katy Perry's dream of owning a hilltop convent near Hollywood is going to have to wait a while longer.
The convent, which Perry has wanted to buy to be her personal residence for several years, is in the middle of a legal fight between a group of elderly nuns and the archbishop of Los Angeles over who has control of the sale and its proceeds.
At least two of the nuns don't want Perry to buy their former home and in June hastily sold the convent to a businesswoman with ambitions of turning it into a boutique hotel.
Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant said Thursday that he believes the sale to entrepreneur Dana Hollister is invalid. Still, he blocked Perry and representatives of the archdiocese from visiting the convent until after the court case is resolved. That could take months, if not years, the judge said.
"You're not selling to Katy Perry anytime soon," the judge told lawyers for the archbishop.
Archbishop Jose H. Gomez wants to sell the convent to Perry, but the sale cannot go forward because Hollister has already registered a deed for the property.
The Roman villa-style convent sits on 8 acres in the Los Feliz neighborhood.
Perry's involvement as well as infighting between the nuns and archbishop packed the courtroom Thursday with journalists, concerned residents, Hollister and two of the nuns.
Chalfant's mixed ruling requires Hollister to pay $25,000 a month to the nuns until a September hearing, when he will determine who should pay rent on the property while the court battle is waged.
An attorney for Perry, who performed her hit "Roar" at this year's Super Bowl halftime show, said the singer would pay rent on the property.
With a pair of nuns watching in the audience, Chalfant said it appeared they had acted improperly when they sold the convent to Hollister in June.
"There is no doubt in my mind sale to defendant Hollister was improper and invalid," the judge said.
The Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary have owned the property for more than 40 years, but they haven't lived in the convent for several years. Only five sisters, ranging from 77 to 88, remain, and their order has bickered with the archbishop for years on various issues.
Chalfant said the case boiled down to control and ruled that the dispute should be governed by church, not civil laws. But at one point he chided the archbishop's lawyers over the church's treatment of the sisters.
"They don't need your help, so long as you let them have their own money," Chalfant said, drawing cheers from the audience.
Bernard Resser, an attorney for the sisters, said after the hearing that the judge seemed to recognize the nuns' concerns about their welfare.
"The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary have shown great courage in maintaining their independence and have demonstrated they are self-sufficient and capable of conducting their own affairs," Resser wrote in a statement.
The archdiocese wrote in a statement that the wellbeing of the sisters is its primary concern, and it sued Hollister over the sued to protect their interests as well as the property.
The property was bestowed to them by a devout Catholic who wanted the nuns to keep him in their prayers.
Before it was a convent, the property was a private residence, rarely photographed, and few people have ever seen it up close.
"It's really a beautiful, old Hollywood estate," said Adrian Glick Kudler, senior editor of the real estate blog Curbed LA.
Perry, whose parents are protestant ministers, has agreed to pay $14.5 million for the convent and to relocate an adjoining house of prayer used by priests. Hollister has agreed to pay $10 million for the property and set aside $5.5 million to relocate the prayer house.
In May, at the archbishop's request, the nuns met with Perry to see if a compromise could be worked out. At least two of the five surviving nuns — who had already searched for Perry's music videos and weren't pleased with what they saw — weren't swayed by the meeting.
Perry's bid to purchase the convent still requires the Vatican's approval.
Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP .