Economy delays Rockhaven

CITY HALL — A historical evaluation of the Rockhaven Sanitarium, which the city bought for $8.25 million in 2008, should be completed early next year, but any immediate renovation to the buildings appears unlikely due to the city's financial crunch, officials said.

In April 2008, the City Council unanimously approved the acquisition and appropriated an additional $500,000 for initial site exploration and maintenance, including renovations to the caretaker's house, which were completed last year. The purchase was a political success for then-Mayor John Drayman, who championed the acquisition.

City officials have since incorporated limited funds for continued maintenance and upgrades into the city's capital improvement program for the next five years, but they say the millions required for major work — including renovations to the historic buildings and the construction of a new Montrose library — are simply not available in the economic climate.

Once completed, the evaluation, which was started late last year, will provide city officials with information on the historical relevance of the buildings as well as give recommendations for future renovations to the grounds and how to preserve the site in the meantime, said Community Services and Parks Director George Chapjian.

The recommendations, he said, will be in phases so the upgrades can take place as funds become available.

The purchase has been heralded by many Crescenta Valley residents as the “last link” to the area's early history.

“It's important because that was the main initial industry of the Crescenta Valley: sanitariums,” said Mike Lawler, president of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley.

“At some point, there were probably 20 different sanitariums.”

While city officials acknowledged the economy has slowed the progress of upgrades to the site, they said the major upgrades and new library were never intended for the immediate future.

“The residents understand that is in the distant future, probably a decade or so down the line,” Drayman said.

Lawler said he is not discouraged by the economic delays.

“Yes, it's definitely been delayed by the economy, but I am pretty patient,” he said. “I am just happy it got purchased.”

In the meantime, Drayman said, the site will be properly preserved “so it does not continue to deteriorate while we wait for the funds.”

Chapjian said he plans to use the $250,000 budgeted for this fiscal year to restore the landscaping in order to provide at least limited public access to the site's gardens in about a year.

Daily public access is probably about five years away from becoming a reality, Drayman said.

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