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Treasures of the Valley » Mike lawler

Posted by on May 15th, 2014 and filed under Viewpoints. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Rockhaven Sanitarium Development Explained

Mike Lawler is the former

Mike Lawler is the former
president of the Historical Society
of the Crescenta Valley and loves local history. Reach him at

You’ve probably read about the proposal to develop Rockhaven into housing, retail sites or a “boutique hotel.” What happened to our new library, park and community center we’d been promised? This historic site, built in 1923 by women for the care of women with mental disabilities, had been much touted as a future public resource for the community. Here’s how this happened:

In 2006, Rockhaven Sanitarium went out of business. It was to be bulldozed and apartments would take its place. The community was outraged and then-Councilman John Drayman proposed a clear plan. Glendale would buy the site for a new library and community center and restore the historic buildings with the lease money being made from the city-owned Montrose Trader Joe’s property. Almost immediately after buying the site in 2008, the economy crashed. Soon after, state redevelopment funds, which Glendale relied on for large projects, were shut off. The Trader Joe’s money turned out to be a drop in a very empty bucket. All plans were shelved, and since then Rockhaven has been in mothballs, attended by city gardeners and a small band of volunteers.

Recently, City Manager Scott Ochoa proposed a bold new idea of public/private partnership to restore Rockhaven. He met with community members that had been involved with Rockhaven (including myself) and laid out the city’s financial state regarding building a new library, plus the millions it would take for restoration of the historic buildings. Realistically, it wasn’t gonna happen, particularly the new library. He proposed that with the new library off the table, the library site (nearly an acre of open land) could be used for some limited private development, which in turn could help pay for the restoration. Ochoa assured us that if we felt this development plan was not working, we could put the brakes on at any time. While many of us had huge reservations about this plan, we also realized that we may not have other options. The double whammy of Drayman’s demise, along with the sad fact that the Glendale section of CV doesn’t vote in great numbers, made our political pulling power almost nil. But at the same time, we trusted the City of Glendale to do the right thing. So we revised our attitudes to “cautiously optimistic,” and have agreed to support the exploration of this compromise.

The first step in this process is the issuance of a “Request for Qualifications” (RFQ) to 150 developers. This memo lays out what the project is about and asks the developers if they feel they are “qualified” to bid on a project like this. The RFQ states some ground rules for the project, including: 1) preserve all or most of the historically significant buildings through adaptive reuse; 2) maintain and preserve a significant portion of the historic landscape; and 3) allow for public access of all or portions of the historic campus. This is a quote from the RFQ.

It further states that the community involvement in the process is mandatory, and that creativity is encouraged. The RFQ is posted on the city’s website at: I urge you to look at it.

A few developers will hopefully come forward and state, “Yes, I am qualified in historic restoration, adaptive reuse, and community involvement. Here’s my cool idea for Rockhaven.” The city will select the best candidates, and then issue a “Request for Proposal” (RFP). Those select few candidates will then create a more detailed set of plans and financials, and a final selection will be made by Glendale City Council. Again, we are assured we can pull the plug if it starts to go south.

The fact is that I, and many others in the valley, are profoundly disappointed that what was purchased as a park is potentially being put on the auction block. I hope retail shops and offices in historic buildings, along with a park and community center, could be partially funded by low-impact development in Rockhaven’s open space (the area that should have been a library or park). I would love to see Rockhaven come back to life.

And I hope I’m not being naïve.

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