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Similar Move in 1982 : Oceanside Kills Pact for Downtown Office Project

October 15, 1987|ERIC BAILEY | Times Staff Writer

For the second time in five years, the Oceanside City Council has pulled the plug on a major office project planned for a grassy downtown block that has been called a cornerstone of the city's redevelopment efforts.

Sitting as the Community Development Commission, the council voted, 3-1, Wednesday to dash a development agreement with Oceanside Venture, the consortium planning the project.

The council terminated the agreement after the firm failed to provide adequate proof that financing for the 38,000-square-foot office building had been secured.

Although the project's developers said they could get the required documentation within 10 days, council members declared that the firm had already been given enough time.

Scuttling the Deal

Indeed, the council seemed to jump at the chance to scuttle the deal. With the seating of two new members in November, a solid majority of the council has gone on record in opposition to the office project, which was approved in August, 1986, by their predecessors.

"Yeah, maybe we're taking advantage of a technicality to kill the project," admitted Mayor Larry Bagley, who opposed the office deal when it first went before the council a year ago. "I just don't feel I can vote to continue this project if they're in technical default."

Bagley and other council members contend that the $3.5-million project, a three-story office structure with retail stores on the ground floor, does not represent the sort of large-scale development needed to fuel the city's downtown revitalization effort.

They favor having the parcel, the most prominent of two vacant blocks near the intersection of Mission Avenue and Hill Street in the heart of downtown Oceanside, remain undeveloped until the new City Hall is completed, which is expected to dramatically increase the value of the land.

Only Councilman Walter Gilbert expressed support for Oceanside Venture, saying the council seemed more intent on sinking the deal than on working to see the project completed.

'Should Be an Honest Partner'

"When we go into one of these things, we go into a partnership," Gilbert said. "We worked a lot to get this thing going . . . and we should be an honest partner in it."

Larry O'Harra, a local businessman who had formed Oceanside Venture to develop the project, expressed dismay over the council's decision, saying it would deprive the city of "a jewel for the downtown."

"I'm just very, very disappointed that the council acted the way they did," O'Harra said, noting that his firm was within a week of securing financing for the project.

In many ways, the council's decision on the key downtown block was little more than a legislative rerun.

In 1982, the council broke off negotiations with Office Buildings Inc., a San Francisco Bay Area firm planning twin 11-story office towers on the site, when similar financing problems sprouted.

Before that deal fell through, however, the city deployed the bulldozers on the parcel, clearing away the thicket of pawn shops and rundown bars that were contributing to the seaside city's bad reputation.

As the weeks gave way to months and then years, nothing was built on the site and grass was planted. To the dismay of redevelopment officials eager to see buildings sprouting from the soil, some residents began referring to the parcel as "the park."

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