The Claremont School of Theology must offer to sell a portion of its campus in Southern California to the Claremont Colleges for far less than current market value, Los Angeles Superior Court ruled last week.
The seven-college consortium and the neighboring theology school have been in court over the land for nearly six years—bitterly divided about a decades-old agreement between the two institutions that stipulates the School of Theology must sell its land back to the Claremont Colleges for only $4 million. In 1957, after the School of Theology left the University of Southern California, it purchased its 16.4-acre plot of land from the Claremont Colleges. The buy-back clause was part of the deal at the time.
Both parties disagree on the current value of the land—the Claremont Colleges say it’s worth about $14 million, while School of Theology officials had it appraised for nearly $40 million—but either way, a $4 million price tag is well under market value.
Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan, president of the School of Theology, said in November that the institution would likely close if it wasn’t able to sell its property for close to the appraised value.
School of Theology officials are considering an appeal to the recent superior court ruling and “will continue to use every avenue available, including arbitration, to receive a fair, reasonable, and equitable price for its property,” the school said in a statement.
The court ruling does not impact the theology school’s accreditation.
“Our goal is to continue to carry out our mission to serve current and future theological students who are looking for world-class education that we have provided for more than 135 years,” Kuan said in a statement. “We prefer to carry out that mission in Claremont, on our current property. We hope to find a way, working with The Claremont Colleges Inc., to receive a fair price and remain on our present property, perhaps on a smaller footprint.”
The Claremont Colleges were pleased with the court’s decision, officials wrote in a statement Thursday. The ruling says that the School of Theology “must promptly make an offer of sale” of the property to the Claremont Colleges in accordance with the terms and conditions of the 1957 agreement.
“We remain steadfast in our commitment to protect the legacy of the Scripps family and ensuring that the land donated to TCC and provided to CST in 1957 is used in a manner consistent with the higher education mission of The Claremont Colleges,” the colleges’ statement said. “As invested members of the Claremont community for 135 years and firmly committed to our home, The Claremont Colleges are duty bound to protect the property entrusted to us for the benefit of our students, faculty and staff as well as the community.”
Officials have not decided exactly how the consortium will use the land, but they noted that options include additional student housing, additional office and classroom spaces, or new initiatives and programs. Neither institution disclosed how much money they spent on the litigation process.
The School of Theology recently leased the property to an organization called Yalong to develop and operate the land, according to the Claremont Colleges. Yalong paid $10 million to the theology school as part of that lease agreement. The recent court ruling prohibits Yalong from “using, occupying, or purchasing” the land.