Glendale officials are opening the door to possibly developing a historic sanitarium, known as Rockhaven, about six years after the city bought the $8.25-million site to save it from development.
But this time around, preservationists are onboard with testing the development waters, partially because over time, Glendale’s cash struggles have increased and city officials have assured stakeholders that they will be involved every step of the way.
“We’ve been told that if the developers don’t come up with something the community likes, they’ll go back to square one,” said Mike Lawler, board member of the Crescenta Valley Historical Society.
The Glendale Historical Society is also open to hearing development proposals, said President Greg Grammer, noting that partnering with a developer with experience in restoration and rehabilitation could “give Rockhaven a new lease on life.”
City officials reported their development plans for the 3.5-acre site to the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission this week, describing the potential for the sanitarium built in 1923 as wide open.
The report followed a similar one made to the Historic Preservation Commission last week, which was positively received, said Community Development Director Hassan Haghani.
“The vision is to make the site viable, to preserve the historically significant structures and the grounds and to open it to the extent possible to the public,” Haghani said. “We want developers to come in with ideas we have not thought about.”
Options for the Montrose site in the 2700 block of Honolulu Avenue could range from residential multifamily, a mixed-use project or a boutique hotel.
The sanitarium, one of many that dotted the Crescenta and San Gabriel valleys in the early 1900s, had some famous Hollywood clientele, including Billie Burke, who played Glinda the Good Witch in the “The Wizard of Oz,” and Marilyn Monroe’s mother, Gladys Pearl Baker.
Rodney Khan, president of the Parks, Recreation, and Community Services Commission, said after the meeting on Monday that he would like public open space incorporated into future proposals.
Commissioner Ara Kalfayan said he envisions affordable housing, while Commissioner Dottie Sharkey said she’s keeping an open mind.
When Glendale bought the land in 2008, historic preservationists rallied behind City Hall, preferring a proposed library and open space, rather than potential commercial or multifamily developments.
Those initial plans dissipated, though. Glendale shovels about $30,000 to $40,000 annually to maintain the grounds, but officials worry the site will fall into continual decline as financial resources remain tight.
The City Council must approve the proposed development strategy before it moves forward. The council is expected to review the development process next Tuesday, Community Services & Parks Director Jess Duran said.
The first step would be to ask developers to submit a statement of qualifications. The council would then develop a short list and invite those who made the cut to pitch proposals.
If all goes according to plan, officials expect to receive statements of qualifications by July 2.