Uncertain Future for Rockhaven – Again

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An announcement was made by the City of Glendale that the negotiating agreement for the development of the Rockhaven property has ended leaving the future of the property in limbo.


“The Exclusive Negotiating Agreement between the City of Glendale and Avalon Investment LP (‘Avalon’) for the Rockhaven site has ended. Avalon had proposed an adaptive rehabilitation of the buildings and grounds for use as a boutique hotel. During the Exclusive Negotiating Agreement time frame, Avalon completed a thorough due diligence process which included a review of the site’s topography, on-site structures, accessibility, parking and financial feasibility. After a comprehensive review, Avalon concluded that the site’s use as a boutique hotel was not financially feasible.

“Rockhaven remains an important asset to the City. There are no current plans for disposition of the property. Currently, City staff is following up on inquires and letters of interest for the site,” according to Glendale city spokesperson Eliza Papazian.

Friends of Rockhaven heard this news from Councilmember Daniel Brotman after the Council met in closed session.

“The Friends of Rockhaven continue to hope that this unique and beautiful historic spot can be restored and opened for the enjoyment of the community and we will still advocate for it as best we can,” said Joanna Linkchorst, founder of Friends of Rockhaven. “The original plans for a historic park and a larger local library still make sense. The plans for a passive park with appropriate commercial and retail opportunities still make sense. And we will even hold out hope that Glendale would have a state historic park! Whatever preserves this place with appropriate interpretation and public access is what we are working toward. We just hope the city uses this moment to be creative and visionary and re-engages with the community regarding the future of the Rockhaven Historic District.”

At a Council meeting in December 2019, local historian Elise Jordan, author of the book “Rockhaven Sanitarium: The Legacy of Agnes Richards,” summarized the history.

“This property was opened in 1923 by a nurse named Agnes Richards. This was just three years after women won the right to vote, so that’s pretty extraordinary that a woman was able to open a business like this in our own community. Agnes was a pioneering businesswoman, a part of our community; she was active in local clubs and sat on the board of a bank. She hired women to take care of women, allowing local women a career path, decades before the women’s movement. She believed in investing in both the inside and outside of the property, making the inside comforting and healing and investing in beautifying the landscaping outside for the community looking in, while providing cutting-edge mental healthcare no one else was doing. This is Hollywood history and women’s history.”

In 2008, the City of Glendale purchased the 3.5-acre property for $8.25 million to prevent its demolition. At the time, the discussion focused on making Rockhaven a park; however, due to the economic downturn, there were no funds available for that. Since 2008, Friends of Rockhaven continued its watch over the property, which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The buildings have been untouched with few, if any, repairs, but the Friends of Rockhaven continue to promote the property and work to get the story out on the historic parcel.

In 2014. the City issued a request for qualifications soliciting proposals for the development of Rockhaven. It received 10 submissions in response. In 2016 the City entered into an agreement with Gangi Development to “develop Rockhaven as a boutique lifestyle commercial center and park.” That proposal called for the rehabilitation of all of the property’s historic buildings, walls and gates “except for Building L.” Ultimately, negotiations with Gangi were unsuccessful.

In 2019 the City re-initiated discussions with Avalon, which proposed the creation of a 30-room boutique hotel and community garden called The Retreat at Rockhaven.

In February, Councilmember Paula Devine questioned the city manager about current maintenance on the property and its buildings.

“Is the city taking adequate precautions to protect the buildings at Rockhaven from these storms?” she asked.

City Manager Yasmin Beers attempted to assure the council that roofs had been patched and tarps deployed “each season, before the ‘rainy’ season.” Later in the meeting Beers reported that the roofs are “patched throughout the year.”

As reported by the Crescenta Valley Weekly on Feb. 27, the city has failed to maintain the property.

“Preventing ‘demolition by neglect’ is one of the key elements of the Historic Preservation Ordinance that the Council passed last week,” local historian Mike Lawler observed. “And they are guilty of that at Rockhaven.”

Recently elected to the council, former city clerk Ardashes “Ardy” Kassakhian wants the future of Rockhaven to center around its potential public benefit.

“From its first day of the acquisition and ownership of Rockhaven [it] has been a political football,” he said. “We need to carry this ball into the end zone and have a clear vision of what we want to do with that property once and for all. My preferred plans for that property would include a significant public use and preservation and restoration of structures or adapted reuse.”

Councilmember Ara Najarian was reluctant to share details from the Council’s closed sessions but expressed a small measure of optimism about the future of Rockhaven, hinting that there may be “fitting suitors,” commending the community’s organizing as productive and inclusive, seeking to preserve public access and local history.

“But Father Time is not our friend,” he acknowledged. “And we have been a little schizophrenic, issuing RFPs [request for proposal], awarding RFPs, pulling RFPs.”

Sounding hopeful, Najarian noted that “the group” understands that the community needs to be “at the table.”

The city has failed to respond to repeated requests for Rockhaven maintenance records.