A divided Oceanside City Council narrowly approved a $37-million redevelopment bond sale Wednesday that backers believe will give the city's struggling downtown an economic boost.
With Mayor Larry Bagley and Councilman Sam Williamson Sr. opposed, the council voted 3 to 2 in favor of the bond sale, following the recommendation of the city's redevelopment director.
The bonds are to be repaid over the next 35 years, with a portion of property taxes set aside for redevelopment, said Patricia Hightman, the redevelopment director. Besides allowing the agency to refinance its $17-million debt, the borrowing plan will permit the agency to repay the city $3.4 million.
More important, the bonds will provide an additional $17 million for several public and private projects over 375 acres set aside for redevelopment.
"Money can't solve everything," Hightman said, "but it certainly goes a long way."
Before the meeting, Bagley said he was opposed to the bond sale because he does not trust the council majority led by Melba Bishop, his longtime political enemy.
Since their November, 1990, elections, council members Nancy York and Don Rodee have aligned themselves with Bishop. Bagley and Williamson normally vote in the minority.
"Frankly, I just don't trust this council with that much money,' said Bagley, who has announced he will not seek a fourth term in November. Williamson is a candidate for the 73rd Assembly District seat.
Rodee, who is expected to run for mayor in November, said the bond issue is "the thing that will really get Oceanside moving in the right direction. Redevelopment will lead to tourism, and tourism is the industry that will bring money from outside sources into the city."
Bishop and York expressed similar sentiments.
"I feel it is time the promise of downtown is fulfilled, and redevelopment is the way to do it," York said.
Bagley and Williamson criticized the bond sale because there is no list of how the $17 million will be spent. Redevelopment bonds are not subject to a citywide vote.
"If they put a bond issue on the ballot, and I were a voter, I would want to know who is going to be spending it, what they are going to be spending it on and what it does to the total indebtedness of the city," Bagley said. "And I would vote 'no' based on what I know about it right now."
The redevelopment agency, which is run by the council, whose members serve as its board of directors, was formed in 1975 to clean up downtown. Since the creation of Camp Pendleton during World War II, the area had become a crowded glut of tattoo parlors, strip joints and bars catering to young Marines.
In the 17 years since its creation, the agency has bought and leveled two square blocks while generating about $300 million of public and private investment, including the new Civic Center, residential and commercial projects, parks and building renovations, Hightman said.
A list of target projects for the new bond money will be developed during the next three months as part of a redevelopment master plan, Hightman said.
The agency tentatively plans to buy up the Main Attraction striptease bar on North Hill Street and make the land available for the $100-million Seawalk Village residential and commercial project near Hill and the San Luis Rey River.
Other money may be used to buy and demolish a teen-age nude dance club and pornographic movie house near the Civic Center.
The agency also wants to assist developers of a $200-million hotel and condominium project flanking the city pier by buying some of the property they need.
Hightman said the agency also wants to expand the city's transportation center, build an ice-skating rink near the pier, and construct apartments for senior citizens.