By Mary O’KEEFE
In 2008, the Glendale City Council purchased Rockhaven Sanitarium from Ararat Home of Los Angeles, Inc. for $8.25 million.
At the time it was thought the property would be used as the new site for the Montrose Library. Once vacated, Glendale Fire Station 29 would then expand to the library location that was next door.
That was the proposed plan prior to the economy taking a hit and every city scrambling for funds to keep the fire stations open and police on duty. The Rockhaven property gates shut and all waited for the economy to turn around.
Since the purchase, the Historical Society of Crescenta Valley and the Glendale Historical Society have kept a watchful eye on the property. Then Friends of Rockhaven formed and tours began.
However, except for the tours, today Rockhaven remains a silent reminder of a woman who was an innovator in mental health treatment and housing for women.
The city of Glendale is dealing with the issue of what to do with Rockhaven. City manager Scott Ochoa leads the continuing discussion, which includes representatives from the CV and Glendale historical societies and Friends of Rockhaven.
“If we don’t have money to rehabilitate the facility, it will continue to deteriorate,” Ochoa said.
The city does not have any more to money to go toward Rockhaven and over the years the buildings on the property have shown the signs of aging.
The city is reaching out to developers and companies to find options of what they would do if they were to develop the area while maintaining its historic character. During this request for quotation (RFQ) process, the city will be looking at the proposals and, said Ochoa, working with the local historical representatives.
Rockhaven is a historical property that has yet to be registered.
“We don’t want to designate [Rockhaven] until we know what a future adaptive reuse might look like,” Ochoa said.
It is easier for companies to approach the city with ideas without the strict restrictions of a historical designation.
The city owns the property outright and, according to Ochoa, is not looking to recoup the money, which should be attractive to future businesses.
“We talked and met with the [stakeholders] and came to the [decision] if we are willing to trade on the west side [of the property then those funds would be invested into the rehabilitation of the remaining property],” Ochoa said.
The west side of the property would include a building that has been red tagged due to dangerous structural conditions.
There have been some reports of the city looking to build a large apartment complex on the western part of the property.
Ochoa strongly disagrees with that possibility stating “we are not putting a five story apartment building on the site.”
He did, however, state that possible bungalows could fit the west area and there had been mention of a boutique hotel. All of this is speculation while the city waits for the RFQ results, expected in July.
Another option Ochoa entertained was renting the buildings out for office space.
“A doctor’s or lawyer’s office,” he said. “Or a meeting space for the historical society.”
The city and the stakeholders agree that something has to be done to maintain the buildings and that money must be generated; however, some are still concerned about what “development” actually means to the property.
Joanna Linkchorst, member of the Friends of Rockhaven, had heard things that concerned her during some of the meetings with the city including the comment concerning an apartment complex with 80 to 120 units.
Ochoa said a 20-unit courtyard on the west end, he thought, would be acceptable.
“My concern is losing the park space, ” she said. “What we really want is community park space and would like the property to remain in the city’s hands.”
Ochoa agrees with the park space.
“[We could] open the southeast corner of the property for a community garden, like Descanso Garden … a quiet and meditative [area],” he said.
Although the stakeholders are working with the city, there are still trust issues concerning development. In Montrose that comes naturally as the memory of Twelve Oaks Retirement home is still fresh in everyone’s minds. The area was transferred from the Glendale National Charity League to the non-profit company be.group. The be.group recently closed the assisted living facility down, evacuating the residents and attempted to sell the property to a developer. This went against what neighbors and the NCL had thought was an agreement with the be.group.
Linkchorst does not want the same thing to happen to Rockhaven. If a developer owns the property and promises to keep the historical integrity or works with the stakeholders, the developer could creatively work around an agreement and Rockhaven would not be protected.
Ochoa said with the historical designation that would come after an agreement with a developer/company, it would be difficult to radically change Rockhaven.
Ochoa added the city is moving slowly on any future decision and will respect and listen to the comments from the stakeholders.
“The first phase is the RFQ [which] is due back in July. If we get tone deaf developers, the process stops,” he said.
The process will then begin again later with the city continuing to look for the right developer with the right ideas and the stakeholders’ blessing.
The advantage is the property is owned outright by the city and there is no rush for a sale or decision.
For Linkchorst, she is happy the city is working with the stakeholders and hopes the lines of communications stay open and in a timely manner.
“We are trusting the city to do what is right by our community,” she said.