City to buy Rockhaven

GLENDALE — City officials on Tuesday announced an agreement with the owners of the Rockhaven Sanitarium to purchase the 3.5-acre site for $8.25 million, more than six months after Councilman John Drayman broached the idea during a capital improvement study session.

The purchase agreement was confirmed Tuesday when property owner Ararat Home of Los Angeles, Inc., signed off on the terms, sending both parties into a 30-day escrow. The official announcement was made later at the City Council meeting.

“Obviously, I’m absolutely thrilled,” Drayman said. “It is a unique opportunity to preserve a piece of our city’s history.”

The purchase price falls well within the city’s own appraisal of the land, which was valued between $6 million and $11 million, Mayor Ara Najarian said.

“I think it was a favorable price for the size of the lot,” he said.

Ararat Home officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

In purchasing the site, the city secures a home for a potential replacement of the Montrose library on Honolulu Avenue, which in turn would free up space for an expansion of Fire Station 29, which adjoins the library. Those moves would free up a city-owned parking lot across the street — which had been considered for a future fire station replacement — for a retail anchor such as Trader Joe’s, city officials said.

The land-use shuffle, in addition to the open space and historical preservation elements, makes the parcel a major addition to the city’s landscape, they added.

“We can talk about the details in the coming months; the important thing is that we’ve secured the property,” Najarian said.

Community concerns surfaced over the potential use of the land early last year after Ararat Home advertised its availability. Zoning for the land splits it into two possible uses — medium-density commercial on the Honolulu Avenue side, and low-density multifamily development on the Hermosa Avenue side.

Neighbors and historical preservationists were concerned the historic, 85-year-old sanitarium — famous for some of its old-time Hollywood clients — would be lost, as would dozens of mature oak trees.

With the land all but locked down, attention will now turn to its future use.

“The site is really much bigger than just a site for a library,” City Manager Jim Starbird said. “It’s a very large investment for the city with a lot of potential that has yet to be defined.”

In determining how to move forward with a site plan, city planners will likely hold several public input meetings, he added.

That would be a welcome step for a neighboring community that has several facility and cultural needs, said Mike Lawler, president of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley.

A library, meeting rooms, art space, a museum and open space are all needs that could be addressed on the site, he said, adding that tours of the property would help the public better conceptualize what they might want there.

“It’s really more than just Montrose, it serves the whole Crescenta Valley,” Councilman Frank Quintero said. “It really will be a tremendous spot.”

Most of the funding for the purchase was set aside during the months-long capital improvement budget talks, Najarian said.

Ararat Home will retain ownership of the site until escrow closes.


 JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at jason.wells@latimes.com.

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