Treasures of the Valley » Mike lawler

Updates on Twelve Oaks and Rockhaven

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

I’ve been asked by several readers to give an update on what’s happening at Twelve Oaks now that everyone has been kicked out. As most of you remember, the Twelve Oaks Lodge, an old-folks home that had been part of CV for 80 years, was suddenly closed by its parent organization, Southern California Presbyterian Homes (AKA “”). The resident seniors, most of who hoped to live out the rest of their lives at Twelve Oaks, were given 60 days notice (the legal minimum) to get out. The reason? Southern California Presbyterian Homes (SCPH) was selling the property to a developer.

The community went through a period of outrage, which SCPH handled pretty coldly. They made sure not to engage the community at all, ignored community meetings about the closure, and when a protest was organized in front of their corporate offices, they closed up and sent their employees home.

What has come to light since then is a pretty shocking example of a greedy corporation flouting its status as a non-profit organization. See, it appears the SCPH didn’t actually own the property they were trying to sell at a huge profit.

Here’s how that worked as I understand it: In the early ’30s a wealthy CV family donated their home and property for free to the community to be used as an old folks’ home for the needy. It was operated by volunteer groups including the National Charity League. In 2003, the Charity League, feeling overwhelmed, asked SCPH to help them operate Twelve Oaks. Apparently the SCPH thought that the Charity League wouldn’t notice 10 years later when they sold the property and pocketed the money.

This is where SCPH miscalculated because the Charity League did notice – in a big way! It turns out the leader of the Charity League is a highly respected lawyer specializing in the field of non-profit organizations. She has filed a lawsuit against the SCPH that effectively blocks the sale of the property. I’m not a fan of lawsuits, but here is one that I think is justified.

The suit states that when the SCPH was asked to help operate Twelve Oaks in 2003, the property was to be controlled by a board consisting of members of both the Charity League and the SCPH. The suit alleges that the SCPH apparently neglected to invite the Charity League to the board meetings. With the Charity League out of the loop, the SCPH changed Twelve Oaks’ bylaws to imply that if Twelve Oaks were sold, the profits and the $4.5 million dollar endowment that Twelve Oaks had stashed in the bank could go to the SCPH. This is apparently what the SCPH had in mind when they put Twelve Oaks up for sale.

The Charity League’s lawsuit is simply asking that the control of Twelve Oaks, and its $4.5 million endowment, be returned to the Charity League so they can reopen it as an old folks home. Again, this is only my interpretation of the legalese written in the lawsuit.

I hope the Charity League prevails and reopens Twelve Oaks, but sadly it will probably be years before the suit is settled. In the meantime, the property sits empty. We have no idea if SCPH will maintain it or if it will become weed-choked and vandalized.

On a happier note, as the economy improves, the City of Glendale is beginning to think about the transformation of Rockhaven Sanitarium into a community center. Rockhaven was the last intact sanitarium in the Crescenta Valley, an area once known for its sanitariums. Rockhaven was significant in that it was owned and operated by women as a high-end facility for ladies with mild mental issues. It was sold for development in 2006, and thankfully the City stepped in and bought it. Glendale has recently had two meetings with the Glendale Historical Society, the Historical Society of CV, and the Friends of Rockhaven group, and will soon be soliciting ideas on just how to go about opening Rockhaven, and what function it will have for our community.

I’m hopeful this beautiful oak-covered site can be brought back to life.