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What should become of Rockhaven? The Glendale City Council is open to new ideas

Rockhaven Sanitarium, at 2713 Honolulu Ave. in Montrose on Nov. 27, 2013.

Rockhaven Sanitarium, at 2713 Honolulu Ave. in Montrose on Nov. 27, 2013.

(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

The City Council on Tuesday voted to open up the application process for rehabbing the former Rockhaven Sanitarium to anyone with a plan to restore the historic buildings on the site and possibly make part of the property a park.

Until recently, the only proposals accepted were restricted to establishing a boutique shopping center using the 15 small structures or converting the site back to a mental-health facility that would likely be closed to the public.

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But the Friends of Rockhaven and other supporters of the 1920s-era landmark have pushed for the 3.3-acre campus to be reopened as a park.

“Please search for the proposal that offers the most open space, the most historic preservation and the most public access, not the most financial return,” said Joanna Linkchorst, the group’s president.

Rockhaven was built in 1923 and closed in 2006. The city bought it two years later for $8.25 million in order to protect it from being razed to make way for a senior-housing project.

In February, the council voted to solicit plans that would allow Rockhaven to be restored as a boutique shopping center or a mental-health facility.

The latest discussion was spurred from an idea to allow a developer to build residences on a third of the western side of Rockhaven, while they also pay for the restoration of the small buildings on-site and use the remaining two-thirds of the easterly side as park land.

A scenario outlined by consultant Keyser Marston Associates in a staff report indicated that allowing construction of 38 market-rate town homes would cover the project’s costs, while the city would pay for upkeep and maintenance.

However, residents at the meeting said they didn’t want additional living units because of parking concerns, and they wanted to open the applicant pool to other possible uses.

But Councilman Ara Najarian said something does need to go on the property that makes money to pay for the park Rockhaven supporters are requesting.

“We need some sort of revenue source,” he said. “I want to develop that revenue source with the least impact to the open space, to the architecture of the buildings.”

The council already adopted a point system to be used later in selecting a project.

Thirty points — the highest amount possible — will be given to a plan that will do the best job at preservation and creating open space and another 30 points will be given for accessibility to the public.

Councilwoman Laura Friedman referred to the concept of “adaptive reuse,” which restores historic structures to the degree they are used again as office space, for example. There are many award-winning projects like that throughout Los Angeles, she added.

"[Rockhaven] will be preserved unless we delay repairs and delay doing something with the buildings to the point where they’d fall down,” she said.

The application period for Rockhaven proposals ends on July 14.

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Arin Mikailian, arin.mikailian@latimes.com

Twitter: @ArinMikailian

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