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Businesswoman testifies about bid for former convent

LOS ANGELES — A Silver Lake businesswoman testified Nov. 9 she believed the Los Angeles archbishop was not opposed to her $15.5 million proposal to buy a former convent in Los Feliz and had begun making plans for the future when she was surprised to learn that an offer from Katy Perry was still being considered.

Testifying on her own behalf in Los Angeles Superior Court, where she is a defendant in a civil lawsuit, Dana Hollister said the attorney for an order of nuns who once lived at the Waverly Drive property told her after an April 2015 meeting between the lawyer, the sisters and the archbishop that the nuns had the clergyman’s blessing to sell the property to her. But a month later, the archbishop summoned the nuns to a meeting with Perry, according to Hollister.

“I thought it was really weird because I was already in escrow,” Hollister said.

Hollister said the nuns were happy with her bid because it was $1 million higher than what Perry offered and would generate some income during escrow for the sisters. She said the nuns also were happy that she was considering putting a hotel there that would create jobs.

Hollister said she did never had any doubt when she entered escrow that the nuns had the authority to sell the property.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles filed suit against Hollister shortly after she recorded the grant deed in June 2015, alleging that the businesswoman knew she needed the written authority of the archbishop to buy the property as well as approval from the Vatican. The archdiocese and Perry maintain Hollister’s actions forced them to come to court and fight for two years to get the Hollister transaction undone.

The archdiocese maintains Hollister made the purchase through Sisters Rita Callanan and Catherine Rose Holzman, representing only two of the five nuns of the California Institute of the Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin. Judge Stephanie Bowick later canceled the deal.

Holzman and Callanan are the only members who are against the sale of their former home to Perry, according to the institute and the archdiocese, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Hollister testified that she first visited the property in 1999 and became enamored with it. She said the convents gates were open at the time and that she met Callanan first and later the property manager. Years later, the property manager invited her to bid on the property when it came up for sale, Hollister said.

Hollister said the Paramour property where she currently lives in Silver Lake also was once the home for another order of nuns. She said she bought the property for $2.25 million in the 1990s and upgraded what was a deteriorating group of buildings in a crime-ridden neighborhood so that it is now the sight of film shoots, weddings and other events.

The Waverly property has been vacant since 2011 because it became too costly for the retired sisters to maintain and no longer accommodated their physical needs, and the proceeds from any sale of the property would go to the institute, according to the archdiocese.

Perry, 33, is seeking $2 million in compensation for attorneys’ fees from Hollister through a cross-complaint filed under the name of her company, The Bird Nest LLC. The archdiocese and the institute want $3.5 million.

Perry’s $14.5 million deal includes $10 million in cash, plus another $4.5 million to provide an alternative property for a house of prayer for priests that still has a lease on the Waverly Drive property, according to the archdiocese. Despite her higher offer, Hollister paid $44,000 and agreed to a contingent promissory note, archdiocese attorney J. Michael Hennigan has said.

The judge has frequently pressed the attorneys to speed up the trial so that it can be given to the jury by the end of this week. If forced to go into the Thanksgiving week, the risk of losing unhappy jurors and forcing a mistrial will be enhanced, Bowick said.

 

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