Oceanside Council OKs Plans for Civic Center

Times Staff Writer

Plans to build a $15-million to $20-million civic center complex at the site of the current City Hall were endorsed Wednesday by the City Council, without a single word of discussion or debate.

By a 5-0 vote, the council said the new civic center should be constructed on two city blocks bounded by 3rd, 4th, Nevada and Hill streets, and be financed by redevelopment funds that will be reimbursed in part with city funds.

The council also elected to have the design of the new civic center be determined by an architectural competition--the same process used last year by the City of Escondido in designing its new City Hall, which is now on the planning boards.

According to a staff report adopted by the City Council, the design contest will be held between July and January, with actual construction beginning in January, 1987, and occupancy scheduled by January, 1989.

The fact that the vote endorsing the new civic center came without discussion brought laughter from the council, as some city staff members in the audience thought the council members were only kidding and were going to return to the report for serious discussion. But the council moved on to the next agenda item, and that was that.

In fact, however, the City Council has discussed the idea of building a new city hall for years; Wednesday's action simply authorized the staff to initiate the long process of formalizing the plans, including how the civic center should be financed.

"The city's present Civic Center facilities are woefully inadequate to carry out the city's mission to provide effective and responsive governmental service to the public," the staff report said.

It noted that city government departments are located in more than half a dozen offices around the city, which "proves confusing and frustrating to the public."

The report also noted that the existing City Hall is too small for current needs, not to mention future needs. The overcrowding of offices and the lack of parking "causes inefficiencies and (lessens) employee productivity in providing public services," said the report, submitted by City Manager Suzanne Foucault.

Furthermore, current municipal operations are being conducted in facilities not functionally designed for those purposes, and some of the buildings do not meet the city's own building codes, Foucault noted.

"A new Civic Center for the City of Oceanside could consolidate most of the city's governmental activities to the benefit of the general public, business community, visitors and the employees serving the public," Foucault's report said. "Depending upon the scope of the civic center project, it could also be a venue for the educational, social and cultural functions of the community."

City staff members were instructed by the council to determine whether the Oceanside Small Craft Harbor and the Oceanside Unified School District would be interested in participating in the project.

The City Council opted for the existing civic site over two other options: a vacant parcel at Mission Avenue and Hill Street, and an unidentified location outside downtown.

Foucault noted, and the council apparently agreed, that it would be too expensive for the city to buy land for a civic center complex outside the downtown area, and that the Mission Avenue-Hill Street parcel was too important for commercial use to be taken by the city.

By expanding the existing City Hall site westward to Hill Street by purchasing several private parcels, the civic center could have prime Hill Street visibility and access, Foucault said.

The next step is for the city staff to determine the size and scope of the proposed Civic Center, and then--perhaps with the help of the National Endowment of the Arts--conduct the architectural design competition during the second half of 1985.

The City Council also agreed to spend $5,000 to update a 2-year-old study on just how large a new city hall should be.

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