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One of the odder news stories to break last week was the curious tale of a tug-of-war over a former convent.
As first reported by the Los Angeles Times, Katy Perry, the pop star recently named the world’s highest-paid female celebrity, had negotiated with the head of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to purchase an 8-acre hilltop property in Los Feliz — formerly home to 52 sisters from the order of the Immaculate Heart of Mary — for $14.5 million, with $10 million of it in cash. However, before the singer’s deal could be finalized, a pair of nuns from the order stepped in to block it.
According to the sisters, the property was theirs, not the diocese’s, to sell. And what’s more, they’d already sold it to local nightlife maven Dana Hollister. Oh, and by the way, Hollister already had moved into the massive villa, which was designed by master architect Bernard Maybeck in 1927.
None too surprisingly, the archdiocese was disinclined to give this stealth sale its blessing, filing a lawsuit against Hollister and seeking to void it, instead. The convoluted convent contretemps now is headed for court, with a hearing set for July 30.
While just about everyone on the planet is familiar with Perry — including the elderly nuns the 30-year-old performer reportedly attempted to win over by showing them her “Jesus” tattoo and serenading them with “Oh Happy Day” — her rival is more of a local celebrity. An interior designer and proprietor of several bars and restaurants in Silver Lake and downtown, Hollister appears to have a bit of a convent-and-nun habit. Back in the ‘90s, she befriended some Franciscan sisters who then were cloistered on a grand-but-run-down estate in the Silver Lake hills that had been built in the 1920s by an oil heiress and her silent-screen-star husband before it later was converted into a nunnery.
Hollister eventually convinced the Franciscan sisters to sell her the historic property, which she renamed the Paramour Estate. As she explained to Los Angeles Magazine, she originally intended to turn the 22,000-square-foot Mediterranean mansion into a boutique hotel, but she had to abandon the plan in the face of vehement opposition from the surrounding community. Instead of a hotel, the estate became a frequent site for photo shoots, reality shows, concerts and private events.
For the last few years, Hollister’s boutique-hotel hopes have been pinned on an abandoned church in Silver Lake’s Sunset Junction; however, this project, too, has met with no small amount of resistance and delays.
In its lawsuit documents, the archdiocese asserts that Hollister’s purchase of the Los Feliz property is conditional, hinging upon the developer’s ability to obtain the zoning approval necessary to operate a hotel and restaurant on the site. Hollister, who, as of last week, had paid out just $100,000 in cash, along with a $10 million promissory note before taking possession of the property (and allegedly installing security guards), refuted this claim to The New York Times, stating: “There’s no reason for them to allege that.” Perhaps not — nevertheless, the fact that Hollister also told the L.A. Times that she “might or might not” try to turn the property into a boutique hotel no doubt will be of great interest to her new neighbors.
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