Meeting to detail conditions at Rockhaven

MONTROSE — City officials will share information with residents about the conditions at the Rockhaven Sanitarium property today during a community meeting in La Crescenta.

People will be able to hear about the general maintenance and cleanup work that needs to take place before master planning for the site gets underway.

“The overall goal is to just kind of give the community an update on what we’ve done so far in terms of the assessment of the property,” said George Chapjian, director of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department.

The city purchased the 3.3-acre property, at 2713 Honolulu Ave. in Montrose, in April for $8.25 million with an eye toward using it as a future site of the Montrose library, among other things. The site houses 15 buildings, including one that is red-tagged for demolition. The City Council has allocated $500,000 to study potential uses for the property.

Rockhaven opened in 1923 as a treatment center for mentally ill women. To historic preservationists, it is valued as one of the last remaining 20th-century sanitariums in the Crescenta Valley.

The property is still closed to the public, but city officials have been on the site multiple times to assess the conditions of buildings and the need for basic maintenance work like clearing brush.

City employees from departments like parks, planing and public works will update the public on some of the information gleaned from those visits to Rockhaven.

Koko Panossian, an administrative analyst with the parks department, anticipates that parks officials will share information on landscaping demands at the site. Trees, shrubs, stumps and vines need to be removed, and debris such as bricks need to be hauled away, he said.

“There’s a lot of dead vegetation on the facility,” he said.

Jay Platt, a city historic preservation planner, will present information on the historical significance of the site, and discuss why the Crescenta Valley was viewed as a good location for the sanitarium.

The meeting will also offer community members a chance to ask questions and express their ideas for the property, said John Hickman, facilities services superintendent for the city’s Public Works Department.

“We have been very intentional about not making any plans until we do have any input from the community,” he said.

City officials will also discuss plans to begin offering small tours of the property, Chapjian said.

“I know there’s a lot of interest in the property,” he said. “I know people are eager to get inside.”

Mike Lawler, president of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley, who plans to attend the Saturday meeting, said he would be interested to learn about a timeline of when the site might be ready for concrete planning if the city knows that.

Lawler anticipates that people from multiple groups with various interests in the property — such as the Burbank-based Southern California Genealogical Society, which has expressed an interest in using the site for its library — will attend the meeting.

“There’s going to be people there that want a piece of this facility,” Lawler said.

The Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley would also like to see a small museum about the Crescenta Valley at Rockhaven, he said. Lawler also said he supports creating a space for having a new Montrose library there.

“I think that there’s room for everybody in this facility,” he said.

The historical society has also organized a separate meeting on Monday night that will look at the site’s history and potential future uses, Lawler said.

“We’re going to discuss some of the initial assessments of the facility,” he said.

“It’s going to be across the board,” Panossian said. “It’s been a multi-departmental effort to get this project going.”

Today’s meeting will be a precursor to any formal movement toward determining a use for the property, city officials said.

“It’s going to be a long, interesting process,” Platt said.

Rockhaven Sanitarium may be the last remaining facility of its kind in the area, Platt said.

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