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City Council Plans for Wooden Rose Arbor

BACK FOR THE FUTURE: The San Marino City Council is considering a return to wood for the city’s rose arbor, as in this 2005 photo, courtesy of San Marino Parks and Public Works.

Despite initial city staff recommendations to rebuild the Lacy Park rose arbor out of steel, the San Marino City Council voted for plans to move ahead with a lumber option at its June 12 meeting at City Hall. The lumber reconstruction costs—with engineering and plans to faithfully resemble the previous arbor—is expected to cost $350,700. Council Member Ken Ude was the sole no vote, citing concerns on the price.

“I’m lukewarm on the project and financially more conservative,” said Ude. “So I think we should complete what the total plan looks like before we decide to spend that type of money.”

The decision by the City Council includes a directive to the city manager to prepare plans and specifications for a lumber rose arbor replacement, advertise for construction bids and return to the council “as soon as possible” with a recommendation for funding options and an award of a construction contract. The council previously designated $200,000 as a placeholder in the fiscal year 2019-20 budget for the rose arbor and established a rose arbor donation fund. At the meeting, the council also discussed creating an endowment to cover ongoing maintenance and care, to possibly be kicked off during the city’s 90th anniversary of its founding in September.

San Marino Director of Parks and Public Works and City Engineer Michael Throne shares detailed plan options for the Lacy Park rose arbor to the City Council at City Hall, June 12. Photo by Skye Hannah

“I have really no doubt that if we highly publicize this, we have nicely detailed plans, we make a big event, we get out there and volunteer, I think that we could really see a good showing from our community,” said Council Member Susan Jakubowski.

According to plans discussed at the meeting, the rose arbor reconstruction could be as early as next spring.

“I would like to see it built in the near future,” said Vice Mayor Gretchen Shepherd Romey. “That section of the park has been an eyesore for too long and it was a wrong act by the city, I think, that put it in that condition and we need to rectify that. That’s our responsibility.”

In sharing the reasoning behind the initial recommendation for steel construction, Director of Parks and Public Works and City Engineer Michael Throne noted that the original arbor was constructed out of 500-year-old wood.

“The creators of the arbor back in the 1920s had cheap and easy access to fabulous wood which today is very expensive to replace, so that is sort of the interesting conundrum of it,” said Throne.

The city staff considered four material options: lumber, composite, steel and aluminum. For lumber, the estimated life span was 20-30 years with a repainting cycle of five years and probable cost of $350,700. For composite, the estimated life span was 15-25 years with a repainting cycle of five years and probable cost of $421,590. For steel, the estimated life span was more than 50 years with a repainting cycle of 10 years and probable cost of $454,190. For aluminum, the estimated life span was 20 years with a repainting cycle of 10 years and probable cost of $486,370.

Throne shared that his department consulted with Descanso Gardens and The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens on what would work best for the roses to grow upon. Throne noted The Huntington utilizes steel, concrete, aluminum and timber in their own rose trellis constructions and his department felt that steel would be the best choice, with white-painted rosewood pieces as louvers on top to avoid scorching the rose canes.

“We felt that all factors considered and looking at the long length that it could survive with the least amount of economic impact over time,” said Throne. “Steel made sense to us from our perspective as we could get exactly what we wanted it to look like and the maintenance is not going to be something, over the next 20 years, put us back on that cycle that we’ve been in the past 15-20 years.”

To fully fund a 20- and 50-year lifecycle program of scheduled maintenance, repainting and replacement, the finance department noted the amount of funds today that would be necessary. Twenty-year endowments amount to $1,034,000 for lumber and $1,265,000 for steel. Fifty-year endowments include $2,467,000 for lumber and $1,696,000 for steel.

Shepherd Romey noted a caution about steel as a material despite the maintenance cost savings over time.

“Steel just packs a heat element in that area that I’m concerned about for the plants that we’re now trying to redo a rose arbor and maybe then our roses are going to fail,” said Shepherd Romey. “So that’s another issue that I think we need to take into account when we’re talking about the cost.”

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