Room for Development in California Coastal Community

Written by Posted On Sunday, 13 November 2005 16:00

If you build it, they will come. That's what developers and the city of Oceanside, California, are banking on.

The coastal community is on the verge of major redevelopment that is drawing the attention of businesses and investors to the beach community that stretches over 3.5 miles of coastline as well as several miles east.

At one time it was thought of as a city that was basically all military. When major deployments at Camp Pendleton occurred, local businesses suffered. Today, however, there is a population of more than 170,000 residents. Businesses thrive not just from the support of the military, but also from a growing community.

"We still have a lot of military-serving businesses down here, but we also have a lot of other types of businesses and even the military-serving businesses are beginning to learn to expand their scope some and serve others than just the military," says Rick Wright co-owner of Oceanside Beach Photo.

Wright has had his business in Oceanside for 11 years, but he has been a resident of the city for 30 years.

"The [military] can still come down here and get their haircuts and dry cleaning done, but they can also go to a nice restaurant for a meal, go to the movies and participate in some other activities as well," says Wright.

It's all part of a major redevelopment effort going on that's aimed at revitalizing the city.

"We have kind of the opposite problem that most cities have. We have a core nine-block area in our core downtown that is currently vacant lots. A lot of times in a redevelopment area you'll have existing buildings that you have to take down. Luckily we've already cleared these sites; they're vacant," says Kathy Baker, Oceanside Redevelopment Manager.

The city calls it the Nine Block Master Plan that runs west of Cleveland Street, south of Civic Center, east of Pacific Street and north of Seagaze Drive. The hope is that as this area is developed Oceanside will boom with business and tourism. This core master plan development is part of a bigger redevelopment area within Oceanside.

"A lot of our businesses in town right now are the smaller more local businesses. I know that the movie theater property has several people who they are negotiating leases within their building because people are starting to get wind of the fact that Oceanside is on the cusp of going crazy," says Baker.

You can feel the excitement building as city employees such as Baker describe the dozens of projects that are either under construction or on the books to be constructed.

"In the next, for example, five years, the downtown court area, those nine blocks, should be either built out or close to built out," says Baker.

Oceanside's prized land along the Strand near the pier, will soon have timeshares, hotel rooms and visitor-serving retail businesses that will bring tourists and locals to the area.

At the northwest corner of Civic Center and Pacific Street there will be a Fairfield Timeshare Resort consisting of 168 timeshare and hotel rooms with ground floor retail.

"That one started grading a few weeks ago and it's underway and that's on a real fast track completion of about 18 months. So what we envision is that once some of these larger projects are constructed and built that's when we will see the larger commercial- oriented businesses coming into town," says Baker.

Residents and business owners such as Wright have waited a long time for these developments. He remembers a period when Oceanside was not the place to be.

"It was just kind of seedy and scary. We wouldn't leave the store after dark by ourselves," says Wright.

Today, he's eager to see how the changing face of Oceanside will bring new opportunities. Already in the redevelopment meetings new issues are taking center stage. "At the monthly meetings we used to talk about crimes and graffiti and now we talk about parking problems. That's how far we've come," says Wright.

The city knows that with big development, parking is a concern. So in the north-east corner of the nine-block master plan at Civic Center and Cleveland Street, one of two future parking garages is being built. The other parking garage is the Oceanside Transit Center Parking Structure a few blocks south, near the Transit Station. That one is slated to be completed in January. Eventually a SPRINTER rail line will connect Oceanside to Escondido.

Also in the core nine-block area S.D. Malkin Properties Inc. will be putting in a Westin Hotel, a boutique-style hotel and timeshares along the two west blocks of Pacific Street and Seagaze Drive. That project is still a few years away from completion. There are still 5 more lots within the master plan, owned by CityMark Development, that don't have specific plans identified for them yet.

Just east of that and outside the nine-block master plan, Oceanside Terraces will house 38 condos with views and retail shops in a mixed-use project. Pricing for the condos is expected to be in the $800,000 range.

"We're one of the few coastal cities that can go taller than three to four stories; with the exception of San Diego, most other coastal cities don't have the ability to go that high," says Baker.

Several live/work loft projects are also part of the greater redevelopment plan for Oceanside as well as row housing that is quickly becoming popular with both young, entrepreneurial types who are seeking urban living and transplanted retirees who want to move away from the harsh seasons they face in other parts of the country.

"On Cleveland and Surfrider, we have a number of what we call row homes. A standard residential lot is typically 50 x 100 and we have zoning in the redevelopment area that allows you to subdivide those lots into 25 x 100 lots and build, detached row homes," explains Baker.

"I doubt that there is another California coastal town that has the potential that Oceanside has because, by some quirk of fate, we ended up with nine square blocks of developable land adjacent to the ocean.

So the opportunity is just unheard of in this century," says Wright.

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Phoebe Chongchua

Phoebe Chongchua is an award-winning journalist, an author, customer service trainer/speaker, and founder of Setting the Service Standard, a customer service training and consulting program offered by Live Fit Enterprises (LFE) based in San Diego, California. She is the publisher of Live Fit Magazine, an online publication that features information on real estate/finance, physical fitness, travel, and philanthropy. Her company, LFE, specializes in media services including marketing, PR, writing, commercials, corporate videos, customer service training, and keynotes & seminars. Visit her magazine website:

Phoebe's articles, feature stories, and columns appear in various publications including The Coast News, Del Mar Village Voice, Rancho Santa Fe Review, and Today's Local News in San Diego, as well as numerous Internet sites. She holds a California real estate license. Phoebe worked for KGTV/10News in San Diego as a Newscaster, Reporter and Community Affairs Specialist for more than a decade. Phoebe's writing is also featured in Donald Trump's book: The Best Real Estate Advice I Ever Received and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Buying Foreclosures. She is the author of If the Trash Stinks, TAKE IT OUT! 14 Worriless Principles for Your Success.

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