On Feb. 9, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block wrote a piece in the Daily Bruin stating that the sale of the Hannah Carter Japanese Garden is in the university’s best interests.
The organizations and the family of Hannah Carter who have formed the Coalition to Save the Hannah Carter Japanese Garden respectfully submit that other options are possible, and, indeed, preferable.
We are prepared to work with UCLA to create a solution that addresses the budgetary pressures of the university and also achieves the cultural, educational and aesthetic value of preserving the garden as an intact whole ““ including all of its historic artifacts ““ for the benefit of the university, the surrounding community and the general public.
Selling this cultural landmark to the highest bidder with no restrictions on use puts the garden at extreme risk. It is not a responsible treatment of a resource of this distinction and cultural importance. Moreover, we are quite certain the university does not have the legal right to remove these use restrictions or any other deed restrictions. Better alternatives are available.
There are examples of important historic gardens owned by universities, including Stanford and the University of Virginia, that are managed in partnership with horticultural and preservation organizations. We would like to work with UCLA to maintain the garden and bring the public to it. The Los Angeles Times, among others who also sympathize with the seriousness of UCLA’s budget challenges, has encouraged this route.
Claims that the university reached out to preservation groups and other interested parties prior to announcing its intent to sell the garden are overstated. In fact, the family of Hannah Carter, who along with the university signed an update to the agreement in 1999 to preserve the garden in perpetuity, was never contacted and did not find out about plans to sell the garden until an alert neighbor noticed unusual activity in the garden and notified the family.
On Jan. 31, the coalition convened a public informational meeting ““ the kind of meeting any preservation organization would have gladly convened on UCLA’s behalf had they truly wanted to “reach out to interested parties” and “preservation-minded groups and individuals.” The unanimous opposition of the nearly 100 attendees, along with more than 600 people who have since sent emails to the chancellor, signals that it is time for UCLA to take another approach.
What might a win-win situation look like?
UCLA would proceed with the sale of the former Carter residence, generating an estimated $10 million, but retain ownership of the garden. A sale of the residence would generate enough money to endow a fund to maintain the garden in perpetuity, as well as the other required endowments agreed to by Ed and Hannah Carter and the university. Funding the garden endowment “for the maintenance and improvement of the Hannah Carter Japanese Garden” was the first priority for use of any proceeds from sale of the property, terms that were reaffirmed by the subsequent agreement in 1999. UCLA should honor the agreement and fund the garden endowment in 2012 dollars.
The coalition and UCLA could develop a management plan to address: maintenance and staffing; volunteer management; operating budget; interpretation and public access; educational mission and programmatic partnerships; and fundraising. Members of the coalition have experience with public/private partnerships.
With the City of Los Angeles, the Bel-Air Association and UCLA would address parking by developing alternative means of promoting broader public access.
Together, all partners would develop further relationships with cultural and civic organizations such as the North American Japanese Garden Association and institutions here in Los Angeles that support the preservation of Japanese culture.
Members of the coalition have worked in successful partnerships with educational institutions, government agencies and nonprofit organizations in a variety of situations to maintain and preserve gardens. We would welcome the opportunity to do so with the Hannah Carter Japanese Garden. Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz has stated concern and opposition to any effort to change the use of the property from anything other than the cultural landmark it is today. Perhaps UCLA will explain why it is unwilling to enter into discussion to seek a win-win situation before the bid process is initiated.
On behalf of the Coalition to Save the Hannah Carter Japanese Garden, which includes the following groups:
The Los Angeles Conservancy, The Garden Conservancy, California Garden & Landscape History Society, The Cultural Landscape Foundation, California Preservation Foundation, National Trust for Historic Preservation, American Public Gardens Association, North American Japanese Garden Association, The Hannah Carter Family (Partial list)