For $30 million, Oceanside’s leaders figured the city’s new civic center--so dazzling that it has been sarcastically called the “Taj Mahal"--better be more than just another pretty face, as buildings go.
So the designers made the government center not only a graceful monument of arches and brightly colored tiles, but a practical place where citizens can pay their water bills and parking fines faster and attend City Council meetings in greater numbers.
Paying lavish tribute, community leaders dedicated the 133,000-square-foot complex Friday, telling nearly 400 people who attended the hourlong ceremony that the civic center brings a new feeling to local government.
“The design is fun, not bureaucratic,” said City Councilwoman Melba Bishop, who boasted of the building’s “open, inviting, unimposing, just plain friendly” atmosphere.
Harold and Evelyn Getz of Oceanside, in the 19th row of the audience during the speechifying, were equally impressed with their city’s new possession, though wary about the cost.
“They should be pretty proud, but whether we can afford it, I don’t know,” Harold Getz said. Evenlyn, his wife, added, “It’s comfortable, I’d like to work here.”
The sale of bonds accounted for $27 million toward the project, situated on three blocks fronting Hill and 3rd streets. Another $3 million was taken from the city’s general fund.
After years of being scattered about town, Oceanside’s 300 employees are now in one place. The city long ago outgrew its circa 1920s and ‘30s facilities, so public employees took up residence wherever space was available.
Now, however, all city services will be housed at the civic center, offering what Janice Currier, a clerk in the engineering department, called “one-stop shopping.”
The complex, more than two years in the making, contains a library, offices for city personnel and new City Council chambers.
There are also 100 parking spaces and a palm-studded pond.
The council chambers will seat 128 people, contrasted with 80 in the previous facility. The public seating nearly surrounds the semi-circular council table.
Outside the ornate, 14-foot tall chamber doors--made of hand-cast glass--is a spacious lobby with two wall-mounted television sets for overflow crowds.
Offices of the council members aren’t large, but offer a view of the ocean. City officials began moving into the new quarters earlier this year, but some, like Mayor Larry Bagley, are still unpacking.
Designed by architect Charles Moore, the civic center is a symphony of graceful arches and lofty terraces decorated with 22 colors of tile and 23 colors of carpet.
“This is an unusual edifice, especially for this part of the nation,” said Nancy Cartwright, the interior designer.
The slightly Moorish exterior has caught the public’s eye.
“A lot of people have told me they come down on weekends just to roam around,” said city spokesman Larry Bauman.
Architect Moore, known to many Californians for having designed the Sea Ranch condominiums on the coast of Sonoma County, wanted the civic center to be “a friendly place to conduct the business of the city.”
Moore also created a structure to complement the designs of Irving Gill, who crafted the older city buildings that stand next to the civic center. City officials said they hope the civic center will help revitalize the blighted central business district.
“The investment here is not just for the City Hall, but for the downtown, to create the kind of quality we want to have,” Bauman said.