Hannah Carter Japanese Garden Update

Hannah Carter Japanese Garden

I think this is a bit of a pyrrich victory, but at least it’s a stop gap measure.  UCLA has managed a compromise in its legal fight to sell the Hannah Carter Japanese Garden. Those of you who read about the initial uproar about UCLA’s proposal to sell the house and garden to developers (Ofgardens February 16, 2012) may remember that the historically important garden was given to UCLA with the stipulation that the house and garden never be sold. Nevertheless, in November 2011 the University went to court to break the bequest. The compromise reached recently is  that the garden can be sold, but the new owner will preserve and maintain the garden for at least 30 years.

I question the strength of the legal binding of this agreement. Afterall, it was only 50 years ago that UCLA was given the house and garden with instructions to maintain and preserve it forever. La plus la change….

Here is a synopsis of the update from The Cultural Landscape Foundation:


The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has reached an agreement with the heirs of Edward and Hannah Carter, according to the Los Angeles Times, settling a legal dispute over the immediate fate of the historic Hannah Carter Japanese Garden in Bel-Air. Under the terms of the new agreement, the university is permitted to sell the garden only on condition that the new owner agree to preserve and maintain it for at least 30 years. 

Created by Nagao Sakurai and faithfully reconstructed by Koichi Kawana, the garden is among the most significant examples of post-War Japanese gardens in the United States. It was entrusted to UCLA in 1964 by Edward W. Carter (and subsequently renamed to honor his wife Hannah) and the university pledged to maintain it in perpetuity. But in 2010, following Mrs. Carter’s death (Mr. Carter predeceased her), UCLA persuaded a judge to overturn the terms of the bequest and subsequently put the garden up for sale.

TCLF listed the garden in its Landslide program as an “at-risk” landscape in January 2012 and joined a coalition that included the Los Angeles Conservancy and others to halt its sale and ensure its long-term maintenance. Then, on July 27, 2012, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge issued a temporary injunction delaying UCLA’s sale of the garden and upholding its legal obligation to maintain it. The garden has been closed to visitors for some time, and this most recent agreement contains no stipulation regarding public access. But it is the hope of the members of the Coalition to Save the Hannah Carter Japanese Garden that any new owner would seek a conservation easement and allow for periods of public visitation.


2 thoughts on “Hannah Carter Japanese Garden Update

  1. What ever happened to the covenant institutions make when they accept a gift. Well
    Paul Smith cannot change its name! How is Fred?


    1. I have been wondering the same thing, what has happened to the covenant. I am curious, curious enough to perhaps look into how gardens gifted over time have been sold and lost.


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