By Jason KUROSU
A psychiatry group interested in establishing a mental health facility on the grounds of the former Rockhaven Sanitarium discussed their vision with the Crescenta Valley community Thursday night, a concept that elicited some favorable opinions, while others soundly rejected the notion of developing the property.
San Marino based psychiatrist Timothy Pylko said his hope is to create a private facility akin to the former women’s sanctuary, which would serve around 60 regular residents and 60 others who would come on a semi-regular basis.
The plan involves restoring the buildings, while also adding extra structures, landscaping and subterranean parking. The site’s original buildings would also have to be brought up to compliance with ADA standards, which could cost upwards of $10 million.
Pylko said that while there are numerous Southern California facilities for treatment of addiction, there are few local facilities like the one his group is proposing.
“Southern California is the capital of rehab,” Pylko said, yet lacks “rehab from the point of view of rehabilitation of psychological issues.”
Pylko said the facility would provide help for “people who need propping up” and hoped that establishing such a facility would help combat the stigmas often associated with mental illnesses.
“There’s a tremendous repertoire of treatment modalities, psychologically primarily, that are extremely helpful at getting people back to a level of full functioning with good symptomatic control, but no environment really to provide these services. You need a place of asylum, what the word really means, to get away from the stresses of daily life.”
The Crescenta Valley Community Association’s Thursday night meeting focused on Rockhaven’s future, as discussions for development at the property have revived within the city of Glendale. An Oct. 6 closed session of the Glendale City Council concerned the price and terms for sale of the Rockhaven property, according to a city council agenda.
Along with the mental health proposal, plans for a commercial property have been proposed by developers Brooks Street and Lab Holdings, LLC.
Friends of Rockhaven member Jo Ann Stupakis said that a meeting with Brooks Street developers detailed plans for housing, retail and restaurants at Rockhaven, but with the intent of also maintaining the site’s original buildings.
“They’re interested in preserving the actual structures of Rockhaven,” said Stupakis, who noted Brooks Street and Lab Holding’s Anaheim Packing House, a former Sunkist packing plant turned marketplace and food hall.
Pylko’s proposal would retain the buildings for patient housing, while also possibly including a community room or museum in recognition of the site’s therapeutic history.
However, with patients receiving treatment on the property, the facility could not be made entirely public.
“We want people to feel like they’re living in an active community,” said Pylko, but admitted one of the challenges would be balancing the integration of patients back into everyday life with providing the proper treatment.
“How much can we integrate and allow people to use the whole property, but not compromise treatment?”
Since the city of Glendale purchased the Rockhaven property in 2008, various proposals for the use of the site have failed to come to fruition, while local residents have pushed for Rockhaven’s preservation as a public space that honors the former’s sanitarium’s history.
Local resident and Friends of Rockhaven member Bill Weisman said he felt the city was not standing by its original intent for purchasing Rockhaven: to keep it from being developed.
“We were promised one thing and then the situation changed and now we’re sort of in a position of having to pick the least worst development for that property,” said Weisman. “My opinion is still I don’t want to see that site developed. I want to see it preserved as a park.”
Others like Friends of Rockhaven President Joanna Linkchorst said the mental health idea came perhaps too late, after residents were assured the site wouldn’t be developed.
“I can say that if Dr Pylko and his partners purchased the property eight years ago and did this, that I might have thought it was nice. But it was purchased by the city to be a park and the parks department has been in charge of it for six years, so it should be opened as a park,” said Linkchorst in an email. “I have had a couple of people on tours say it should be reopened as a mental facility and I remind them there is a reason it was closed as a mental facility. It just may not work anymore in buildings from the 1920s-1930s.”
Crescenta Valley Town Council President Robbyn Battles said that mental health issues in the community, including those of children, are not being addressed and that such having a facility in Montrose would offer those resources, while also honoring Rockhaven’s past.
“If Dr. Pylko’s proposal were to be realized and later he and his partners decided to walk away, what would be left would be an intact, beautiful site used for what it was originally intended,” Battles said. “People didn’t originally walk in and out of those buildings, as is envisioned by either a community center or a commercial development. Rockhaven originally served a specific community need, and it would be wonderful if that service could continue.”
Karen Franchot, a six-year Crescenta Valley resident, said reliable mental health resources were not available for her mother in the 1940s and ‘50s.
She said the facility proposal “just seems like a total win-win” for the community.
“What really resonated was the use of the phrase ‘people who need propping up,’” said Franchot. “They don’t need locked wards. They don’t need guards. I’ve seen that in my family because that’s what was offered and it wasn’t what was needed.”