By Mary O’KEEFE
Rockhaven has been a rollercoaster ride for both city officials and the nonprofit organization Friends of Rockhaven since the city purchased the site in 2008. At that time there were talks of the property becoming a library and park, but those plans gave way when the economy began to suffer.
In 2014 the city established a committee composed of community members, the historical societies in the area and the Crescenta Valley Community Association. The committee’s function was to review the RFQs (request for quotation) that had been submitted by over 200 people and companies to the city. The city held two open houses at the location that were attended by representatives of 41 companies. The companies and organizations proposed adaptive reuse of a majority of the buildings on the site, submitted 10 RFQs and all but one proposed a mixed-used development. Most of those proposals included a housing development of some sort.
The committee did not approve any of the proposals citing the original agreement to incorporate an open public park and a component that would include an educational aspect.
In August 2014 Glendale City Manager Scott Ochoa said the city would step back and wait a year before looking into the matter again. The issue was difficult because the city purchased the property when the economy was strong but after the economic downturn the city did not have the funds to complete the original proposed library.
The committee and Friends of Rockhaven are invested in the future of the property not only for the community but also for what it represents. Nurse Agnes Richards established Rockhaven in the 1920s as a safe haven for women with mental illness. In this day and age, a woman owned/woman run business is still unusual but in the 1920s it was unheard of, especially in the medical field. Richards not only witnessed the unjust and, at times terrifying, treatment of women in asylums but did something about it. To those who support Rockhaven, this is a legacy that needs to be protected as Richards protected the women she gave a safe home to.
In the past few weeks the city has been conducting closed sessions to discuss Rockhaven. According to committee members who have contacted CVW, the closed sessions are a concern with several members worried that the expansive growth in downtown Glendale may reach the community of Montrose.
“The idea is that, in maximizing the public’s interest (financial and non-financial), the [Glendale City] Council must be able to discuss their options in private,” said Ochoa in an email.
The city council may not meet with the interested parties; therefore, the closed sessions, which consisted only of city officials/negotiators – not developers – were a way to bring all information to the table and ready it for a city council presentation if need be.
Whether the committee or community will be involved with any decision depends on what the council decides to do.
“If the Council decides not to move forward with any action, [there probably would not be community meetings],” Ochoa said. “If the Council gives some direction to proceed, I fully expect that there would be some appropriate degree of outreach/engagement.”
The RFQ process has been stopped, according to Ochoa.
Another issue concerning the financial side of the property includes an understanding by community members that revenue from Trader Joe’s was intended to go toward Rockhaven; however, according to Ochoa, those discussions occurred during the purchase of the property regarding the revenue but no action had ever been taken by council to secure that funding.
It appears Rockhaven’s fate lies in the hands of the council. Whether councilmembers decide to take action or to leave the facility alone, thereby allowing interested community members to continue work to save it, the community will be watching.
“We as a community are hoping [the council] realizes the forethought the previous council had when they bought Rockhaven to benefit Glendale and will be willing to think outside the current box and know that we as a community can make this a remarkable historic park,” said Joanna Linkchorst, Friends of Rockhaven.