City Wants Lacy Park Rose Arbor to Rise Anew

Lacy Park’s beloved Rose Arbor not only will return to its spot adorning the western entrance to the San Marino haven, but it will even have the same design as the structure torn down in 2016.
The question to be answered — tentatively in March — will be how to pay for it.
“The general consensus of the City Council seems pretty clearly to rebuild,” City Manager Marcella Marlowe said during Friday’s council meeting. “The first question is, do you want to put city funds forward to do it, or do we want to rely on donations?”
In addition to the usual method of simply appropriating money from city coffers to design and construct the project, the idea of essentially outsourcing a fundraising campaign to an experienced nonprofit was put forward, given San Marino’s historical enthusiasm for donating to city or school capital projects.
The city plans to retain responsibility for procuring the design of the arbor — which formerly loomed above walkways that borders a garden — and overseeing its construction, but as a rebuild has already attracted at least one large pledged donation, officials thought it might be worthwhile to explore ways of promoting continued fundraising efforts.
Lacy Park has had some version of its arbor for the bulk of San Marino’s incorporation, with the most recent built sometime in the ’90s (and refreshed in 2005). Its teardown in 2016 drew swift, continuous criticism from heritage-minded residents, who felt reports of the wood structure’s rapid deterioration because of rot were exaggerated.
“We need to restore the city’s trust — the public’s trust — and we need to rebuild this beautiful Rose Arbor,” said Shirley Jagels, who through her organization, San Marino Heritage, has long advocated for the landmark. “It was not a teardown; it was a demolition-by-neglect campaign, and it was so upsetting to so many people who love Lacy Park in the community.”
Jagels and other residents actually had a better card to play than the city did last week, as their own research produced better documentation of the arbor’s existence than city records did. Indeed, when Dr. Steven Huang, the mayor, asked Parks and Public Works Director Michael Throne why he had yet to locate blueprints for the arbor’s most recent design, Throne candidly replied, “You would be surprised at what we don’t have copies of.”
City officials collected copies of those documents and plan to put together a comprehensive history of the landmark and return with a presentation by the Friday meeting in March with input from the Huntington Library and Descanso Gardens (whose executive director, Juliann Rooke, is a San Marino resident) on whether the institutions would collaborate in bringing the arbor back to life.
Council members indicated that they will aim to make decisions that would respect the efforts of donors who contributed to past arbors’ construction and maintenance. Throne said a heavy box of bronze plaques recognizing those donors remains in city hands after the 2016 teardown.
“We had multiple, multiple mess-ups in the history of this,” Councilwoman Susan Jakubowski said. “It is a complex project in that we have the building; we have to look at future maintenance; we have to look at irrigation and trellising. It’s crucial that we move forward in a methodical way so that we don’t have the disaster that we had in the past. I would like this to be a carefully executed project that is well documented and maintained.”
Some felt the city should take charge of rectifying the teardown, considering the previous generosity.
“It’s incumbent upon me to recognize our past donors, who were surprised by its demolition at the city’s direction,” Vice Mayor Gretchen Shepherd Romey said. “It’s our responsibility to make that right before we go out and ask more people for money to help us pay for it. That part of this makes me really uncomfortable.”

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