Artist John De Herrera will not be given leave to amend
A petition to open Bellosguardo to the public appears to be on its last leg.
On Tuesday Santa Barbara Judge Thomas Anderle decided not to force the opening of the 23-acre estate off Cabrillo Boulevard that once belonged to reclusive mining heiress Huguette Clark.
In December 2018, local artist John De Herrera filed an amended petition asking Judge Anderle to compel the Bellosguardo Foundation to honor Ms. Clark’s will by opening the estate’s upper lawn to the public through an existing driveway. The proposed public access would be provided on a limited basis until public hearings on the status of the property could be held by the Mayor, City Council and the County Board of Supervisors.
On Nov. 22, 2018 Judge Anderle dismissed a similar petition filed by Mr. De Herrera for failure to properly serve Foundation president Jeremy Lindaman, and other local government defendants with the petition within the time limit required in state court.
Mr. Herrera says that Mr. Lindaman is mismanaging Bellosguardo by not taking the necessary steps to open the property to the public.
Ms. Clark was the daughter of Montana Sen. William Andrews Clark and heiress of a copper mining fortune. She died in 2011 at the age of 104.
In 2014, under the terms of Ms. Clark’s will, the Bellosguardo Foundation was created and registered in New York, where her main estate is located. Mr. Lindaman was elected by the foundation’s board to serve as president.
The foundation is charged with converting the estate at 407 E. Cabrillo Blvd. into a public museum for the visual arts.
According to a tentative ruling published ahead of Tuesday’s hearing, Judge Anderle determined Mr. De Herrera lacks standing to bring the petition and Mr. Herrera does not allege facts entitling him to relief. He dismissed the petition and declined to give Mr. De Herrera another opportunity to amend.
“Other than the Attorney General, only certain parties who have a special and definite interest in a charitable trust, such as a trustee, have standing to institute a legal action to enforce the assets of the trust,” wrote Judge Anderle. “Where a person has no standing, he or she cannot state a cause of action and a general demurrer will be sustained.”
Mr. De Herrera was also unable to show that he had a beneficial right to the foundation’s performance of the will.
“The requirement that the petitioner have a beneficial right to performance has been generally interpreted to mean that one may obtain writ relief “only if the person has some special interest to be served or some particular right to be preserved or protected over and above the interest held in common with the public at large,” wrote Judge Anderle.
Mr. De Herrera says Bellosguardo should be open to the public so community members can support the arts and appreciate its beauty. He argued that temporary access to the lawn would not be burdensome to the Foundation or damaging to the property.
“People aren’t going to be breaking windows,” scoffed Mr. Herrera during his oral arguments before Judge Anderle. He asked the judge to reconsider his decision on the grounds that he is an artist and therefore does have in interest different from that of the general public.
Mr. De Herrera explained that if Bellosguardo were turned into a museum or art complex he may have the opportunity to teach art there or have his art featured. Judge Anderle affirmed his decision. The case is set for a motion for judgment on the pleadings on Tuesday.