Glendale council candidates split on Rockhaven development

Five candidates vying for a seat on the City Council this June had differing opinions on the future of the city-owned Rockhaven Sanitarium, a historic site Glendale officials are considering for limited development, during a forum Monday night.

Most of the candidates, including retired teacher Paula Devine, small business manager Chahe Keuroghelian and retired businessman Mike Mohill, said they believed it was possible for a developer to build a limited project on a portion of the roughly 3.4-acre site, while preserving early-20th century historic structures.

The event, sponsored by the Montrose-Verdugo City Chamber of Commerce and held at the Sparr Heights Community Center, was moderated by Glendale News-Press Editor Dan Evans.

“This is an opportunity for the city to have something really exciting, maybe even fun at that site,” Devine said. “Yes, a developer can make a financial benefit out of that investment and yes the city can also gain.”

But Vartan Gharpetian, a business owner, and Rick Barnes, a Realtor, said the city should not strike a deal with a developer. Gharpetian was principally against the arrangement, while for Barnes it was about timing.

“We purchased it specifically for it not to be developed,” Gharpetian said. “It does not make any sense.”

Glendale bought Rockhaven, which is bounded by Pleasure Way and Honolulu, Hermosa and La Crescenta avenues in 2008 for $8.25 million to save it from development, but as the city’s finances shrink, officials worry Glendale can’t afford to support the decaying building.

The council last month called on developers to be imaginative and incorporate historic preservation when they submit proposals for the site, which could include residential or commercial uses.

The site has about 1.2 acres of vacant land ideal for development, according to city officials. The open space is bounded by historic structures and protected trees as well as a Glendale Water & Power well.

Historic preservationists and many North Glendale residents are closely following city proposals for the Rockhaven site.

Although the candidates split on development, several contended there should be arts and cultural elements at Rockhaven as well. Gharpetian, a member of the Historic Preservation Commission, envisioned a Crescenta Valley history museum.

In addition to a residential project, Devine, who sits on the Commission on the Status of Women, pitched a women’s history museum and Keuroghelian, a former Design Review Board member, proposed a convention center featuring art installations.

Rockhaven wasn’t the only issue that split the candidates. They also varied in their approach to outside campaign aid. All the candidates previously disavowed accepting contributions from city unions at an earlier forum and on Monday, all but one said they would ask outside committees to not spend money on their campaigns.

Devine, who has been endorsed by the Glendale Fire Fighters Assn. said she will ask the bargaining group to not make independent expenditures on her behalf. The union has spent thousands of dollars on mailers and advertisements for candidates they endorsed in the past.

Gharpetian, Keuroghelian and Mohill also said they would disavow independent expenditures, but Barnes said he would welcome it.

“I believe that is freedom of speech,” he said, referring to independent expenditures and adding that running an election in Glendale is expensive.

Last year, the National Assn. of Realtors Fund spent more than $50,000 on Barnes’ unsuccessful campaign. While monetary contributions for Glendale candidates are capped at $1,000, independent expenditures are not.

The candidate who wins the June 3 election will serve for 10 months as they are replacing an appointed council member, Frank Quintero. If council contenders want a full four-year term, they must run again in April 2015.


Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.


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