L.A. County Supervisor Calls on Archdiocese to Account for Sale of Building

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A powerful L.A. politician said Friday that Los Angeles' Roman Catholic Archdiocese mishandled the sale of an East L.A. building for decades home to a nationally known arts group. She's calling on Catholic leaders to explain their actions. KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez has the story.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: Earlier this year, leaders of Self Help Graphics met with their landlords the Sisters of Saint Francis, a religious order, to discuss how the arts group could buy the building.

Self Help failed twice to secure enough grants to do so. That, the religious order's lawyer said, prompted the building's sale last week to a private developer. News of the sale spread fast among Self Help's supporters, including long-time painter Margaret Garcia.

Margaret Garcia: The first thing that happened to me, I just felt like I was stabbed in the heart. But, you know, Self Help isn't a building, it's the artists, the community, and the programs that it has.

Guzman-Lopez: Dozens of those supporters showed up at Self Help's parking lot, in the shadow of the building's mosaic-covered walls, to voice their opposition to the sale. It was disrespectful, L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina said, to keep this group in the dark.

Supervisor Gloria Molina: I am so disappointed in the Archdiocese, in not informing us, not having community meetings, not trying to create a pathway ... as to how we could be a part of saving it and helping them. It is an insult to the community.

Guzman-Lopez: Molina said she'll call for a meeting with Cardinal Roger Mahony, the leader of the Archdiocese, to talk about the sale and what the church can do to support Self Help Graphics.

Archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg said Mahony isn't interested. The Archdiocese, he said, limited its involvement to the sale of the building, and any future talks should be with the new owner. That's L.A.-based Piedmont Investment Company. The company didn't return calls seeking comment.

Proceeds from the sale, church spokesman Tamberg said, will be split, possibly 50-50, between the Sisters of Saint Francis and the Archdiocese. Tamberg didn't rule out that the Archdiocese may use its share to help pay multi-million dollar settlements to victims of alleged sexual abuse by Catholic priests.