Katy Perry Joins Auction to Rent L.A. Convent

LOS ANGELES (CN) – Katy Perry can enter into a bidding war to rent a convent at the center of her dispute with two nuns, a state court judge said Thursday.
     Superior Court Judge James Chalfant issued a tentative order granting the Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles’ request for a preliminary injunction against developer Dana Hollister, who is allegedly paying $25,000 a month to rent the order’s eight-acre property
     Hollister, who wants to turn part of the Los Feliz-area Roman villa into a boutique hotel, is the nuns’ preferred buyer for the proposed $15 million sale.
     The fight has been over whether archbishop Jose Gomez and the archdiocese has the authority to sell the property to Perry – who is not a party to the legal claim – a point the nuns dispute.
     Chalfant said that “unfortunately” for the nuns the “law is clear” – Los Angeles archdiocese has legal authority to control the property.
     The judge said he expected the litigation to last more than two years and made clear that Perry would not be able to buy the convent, which she plans to turn into a residence, until the litigation is done.
     “You’re not selling to Katy Perry anytime soon,” Chalfant told lawyers for the archbishop.
     The two elderly nuns, Sister Rita Callanan and Sister Catherine Holzman, were present in Chalfant’s packed downtown LA courtroom. The pop princess was not in attendance, though her lawyer Michael Starler of Greenberg Traurig was.
     The two sisters frequently shook their heads, and gasped and muttered in disdain as the archbishop’s attorney Michael Hennigan assured Chalfant that the nuns would be cared for financially if the judge ordered Hollister removed.
     Battle for control of the property has turned ugly, with both sides accusing each other of placing armed security guards on their portions of the property.
     Hollister’s attorney Randy Snyder urged Chalfant to let his client rent the convent until the dispute is over.
     “The church has a horrible record of taking care of this property,” Synder said.
     Hennigan estimated that rent on the property is $200,000 a month and said that the archbishop’s preference is for the court to order Hollister, who does not reside in the convent, to vacate it until the sale to Perry is finalized.
     In a petition filed on July 20, Callanan and Holzman claim that the archdiocese amended the bylaws of their order – The Institute of the Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart – to oust them and installed Gomez and bishop John Brennan as directors.
     During the hearing, the nuns’ attorney Bernard Resser told the court that the takeover was a “coup.”
     “They can’t just come in and amend the bylaws. Directors have to amend the bylaws,” Resser said.
     During the hearing, Hennigan took the unusual step of conferring with Starler in the gallery to confirm that Perry would be willing to pay rent on the convent.
     The archbishop sought a preliminary injunction to establish it has the authority to push through the sale to Perry. But the nuns are contesting the church’s authority to sanction the sale.
     Chalfant said he believes Gomez has the power to sell the property for the benefit of the five nuns because the Pope had given the archbishop that authority.
     “There is no doubt in my mind that the sale to Dana Hollister was improper and invalid,” Chalfant said.
     Resser said after the hearing that his clients are less than enamored with having Perry take up residence because of her public image, and said Hollister had put $100,000 in an escrow account for the convent.
     Perry has reportedly offered $10 million for the convent and another $4.5 million to buy out the archdiocese’s lease on a retreat house.
     Though Chalfant said the preliminary injunction is a done deal he said he still needs to sort out the “nature” of his order to ensure the nuns are cared for.
     He continued the hearing until September 15 so that parties can appraise the property to determine the value of the rent and make a determination on whether Perry or Hollister should cover those costs.
     The judge said that as part of his order he would order armed security to leave.

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