By Mary O’KEEFE
Rockhaven will sit untouched by development for another year after the RFQs (request for qualifications) that were gathered by the city did not meet the vision the Rockhaven committee had for the landmark.
Last week the committee, made up of community members, the historical societies in the area and Crescenta Valley Community Association, reviewed the RFQs that had been submitted. The RFQs had been asked for by the City of Glendale from over 200 people and companies. Two open houses were conducted at the site in the 2700 block of Honolulu Avenue and were attended by representatives of 41 companies.
Companies and organizations, all of which proposed adaptive reuse of a majority of the buildings on site, submitted 10 RFQs. All but one proposed mixed-use development. Most included housing development.
The city presented the RFQs to the committee members, dividing them into three sections. The top group, in the city officials’ opinion, best complied with the original hopes of the committee.
“They (the committee members) were not comfortable enough with the submittals,” said Glendale city manager Scott Ochoa.
He added there was no extreme reaction by the members, just that the developments were not right for Rockhaven.
“[I think] they were appreciative for the discussion [with the city] and the time the developers took with the RFQs,” Ochoa said.
Joanna Linkchorst, a member of the Historical Society of Crescenta Valley and Friends of Rockhaven, echoed Ochoa that they did appreciate the work that had been done but they would like to see an open public park on the site and some development that would include an educational component.
After the discussion, Ochoa told the committee Rockhaven’s development would be tabled for a year, a decision that Linkchorst hopes to use to the committee’s advantage.
“We want time to be able to see what we can do to make [Rockhaven] a public park,” she said.
The committee and many community members feel a great responsibility to keep Rockhaven’s memory alive and to respect its heritage.
Founded in 1923, Rockhaven was a unique sanitarium in the area. Agnes Richards, a nurse, opened the facility that would treat women with mental issues with dignity in a safe, home-like setting. It began with six women, but soon more women were cared for requiring Richards to purchase nearby buildings. The rooms were more like dorm rooms than a cold clinical facility. Women who stayed there were given respect, something that, at the time, was not common with those with mental illness, especially women. It was a testament to Richards that she was able to purchase the original buildings and continued to grow. Women in the 1920s were not often business owners.
For 78 years Rockhaven was a safe haven for women who needed help, treatment and support for their mental illness. Richards’ granddaughter Pat Traviss helped run the facility but in 2001 she retired and sold the property to a company that had planned a development that would create a whole new facility. Neighbors fought to keep the historic, iconic Montrose facility. The city of Glendale saved the property by purchasing it in 2008. The plan then was to develop a park on the grounds and to house a new Montrose/La Crescenta library.
“The property was [acquired] in a different economy,” Ochoa said.
Rockhaven became a victim of the downturn in the economy. The city no longer had the funds to build a new library, so the facility sat dormant.
“We went to the city [about a year ago] and said we needed something to be done with Rockhaven,” Linkchorst said.
That is when the city sent out the RFQ request and, from the beginning, stated they would take the opinion and wishes of the historical community in any decision.
If the committee had agreed to an RFQ, then Ochoa’s next step would be to request an RFP (Request for Proposal) and eventually the information would be taken out to the public for comment.
With the year on hold, Linkchorst is hoping to reach out to the community for help in saving Rockhaven and to develop a park along with a mixed-use facility that could incorporate something like a hotel or bed and breakfast type use. All of this would be keeping the foundation of respect in what Agnes Richards and Pat Traviss had built.
The facility has yet to apply for historical building designation, something the city is not ready to do yet. According to Ochoa, once Rockhaven’s disposition is known the city will apply. The concern is if the facility is part of the historical registry, it limits the city’s flexibility to make minor changes.
“It is best to get the vision established,” he said.
Linkchorst is looking forward to Rockhaven receiving its historical registration as a way to continue to preserve the property.
Even though Rockhaven has been put on hold for a year that does not mean that discussion or work toward finding a solution will stop.
“The historical [society] and CVCA can still talk to me and to the [Glendale] city council members,” Ochoa said.
But the staff that had been working with the RFQs will move on to other projects.
Linkchorst and Friends of
Rockhaven are asking for the public’s input, help and support including financial support. The cost of replacing or fixing the sidewalks, updating the restrooms and other requirements that would move Rockhaven into a public park status need to be assessed. To do that research takes funding and time and community support.
“If we want to do anything [to help Rockhaven during this year] we will have to do it ourselves,” Linkchorst said.
Anyone who would like more information or would like to donate can contact FriendsofRockhaven@gmail.com or send donations to Friends of Rockhaven, c/o 3357 Burritt Way, La Crescenta, CA 91214.