HomeCity Government NewsCouncil Pushes for Rockhaven Repairs

Council Pushes for Rockhaven Repairs

First published in the May 7 print issue of the Glendale News Press.

The City Council told officials this week to proceed in determining what will be necessary to stabilize existing buildings and improve the grounds at the Rockhaven Sanitarium property in order to prepare it for whatever development is next considered.
That future development will almost certainly include some type of museum, which is necessary for the city to make use of $8 million in state funding secured last year. Since the city acquired the historic property in 2008, any number of ideas have entered the discourse — various commercial uses, affordable housing and relocating a nearby library — but have yet to materialize. Meanwhile, the site has been varyingly mothballed by city crews while also being opened for tours by the nonprofit Friends of Rockhaven group.
The $8 million state grant, which came through the advocacy of state Sen. Anthony Portantino, serves as a “kick in the pants” to get something done, Mayor Ardy Kassakhian said during Tuesday’s special meeting.
“I do believe we should not waste any more time in terms of moving forward with future plans of a museum,” he said. “I do think if we can communicate with the Friends of the Rockhaven and other interested parties … about a potential site that they could use, how they would be able to use it, what that would look like and identify the buildings where they could have such uses, as well as the museum, let’s do that because that helps us get the ball moving before there’s any further deterioration.”
Bradley Calvert, the assistant director of community development, said he expected all roof repairs and structure stabilization at the site, which contains multiple buildings of which most are deemed historic, to cost around $4 million — a figure double previous estimates, based on what bids have been submitted for the work. Other work will need to be done to the Pines Cottage building, which the city and the Friends of Rockhaven have identified as the best location for a museum.
“We’re expecting kind of a moderate-sized museum that can be well-integrated into the site,” Calvert said. “There will be extensive improvements that will need to occur.”
Though the $8 million does not need to go exclusively toward the museum, its creation is necessary for the city to tap into the funding, which is to be awarded on a reimbursement basis. Still, it’s likely that the repairs and preparation will ultimately absorb most of those dollars.
“We do see most of that $8 million being consumed by the stabilization of the site and then the creation of the museum,” Calvert said.
In the meantime, council members and officials remain unsure with what else they might want to do with the property. Broadly, there have been suggestions of putting in a mix of boutique commercial locations, such as a wine garden or tearoom, alongside civic uses such as community rooms or Scout buildings.
Calvert had prepared some information on another dream, which is to relocate the nearby Montrose Library to the property in order to facilitate updates to the fire station with which it shares a building. The city could take the simple route of constructing a new 10,000-square-foot facility for the library, Calvert said, which likely would face Honolulu Avenue and cost an estimated $13.5 million. Another option is to install the library in several of the existing buildings, which would cover an estimated 11.700 square feet and cost around $11.86 million to rehabilitate.
“There are some challenges to this,” Calvert noted. “That would take the library and spread it to multiple facilities, so looking at things like safety, security, making sure there’s visibility from one facility to another that would either require additional staffing or security systems. Not things that we can’t overcome, but just something to keep in mind that might influence that overall number at the end of the day.”
Councilman Dan Brotman, though remaining open to all options, wondered whether the library move was feasible enough to continue debating it, given the work that would need to be done to address land grading and Americans With Disabilities Act compliance, in addition to the price tag unlikely to benefit from the state grant. City Manager Roubik Golanian, in response, noted that the city will ultimately have to expand the fire station in question, likely at the expense of that library.
“From what I’ve been told, the size of the station as it stands today is not able to accommodate the new engine sizes. Eventually it has to be expanded,” Golanian said. “It’s not an imminent need, but do we have to do it eventually? Yes.”
Councilman Vrej Agajanian questioned the wisdom in even debating potential uses for the site while its buildings remained in the condition they were in and the city was still unsure what it would take to fix them. Calvert countered that having an idea on future use will influence what is done to rehabilitate those structures.
“For us to be able to fully, accurately, estimate what it would take to improve all of these buildings, we do need to get a bit of a handle on what kind of uses would go in there,” he said. “A restaurant or coffee shop is going to have very, very different requirements than, say, a gift shop, reading room or community facility. Being able to get a handle on what these opportunities are will help us hone better into that estimate.”
Ultimately, the council was motivated to finally get the ball rolling on prep work and inclined to revisit other decisions later. It voted unanimously to have the site more thoroughly evaluated for the scope of damage and what repairs will be necessary to pay for.
“This is going to be a project that’s done in phases, but we have to start somewhere,” Councilwoman Paula Devine said, “and I think that this is the time to start.”

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