As Oceanside embarked on its second century, 1988 brought a new wave of optimism and excitement as the downtown area was being transformed through redevelopment. There was a new interest in the history of the city and a renewed sense of pride. Mayor Larry Bagley wrote, “I am excited and optimistic about the future of our city. God has given us the land and the water and the climate, and I have confidence that the people of Oceanside are able and willing to fulfill the promise of our city.”
Oceanside geared up to celebrate its Centennial on July 3, 1988 with several events being planned throughout the year. A "Centennial House" designed by Ken Chriss, was built on a vacant lot on Pacific Street and raffled off. (After the winner was announced it was moved to location on South Clementine Street where it remains.) Commemorative plates, buttons, and coins were sold with the official Centennial logo. For $25 residents could have their name engraved on the new pier, with funds going to the Centennial Foundation.
During the Centennial year in 1988 the slogan widely used was "Oceanside: The Wave of Tomorrow." That year Oceanside citizens built a float which was entered in the famous Rose Bowl Parade. It was a bottle filled with depictions of Oceanside landmarks, including the Mission San Luis Rey, riding a wave. A three day celebration full of galas and a parade commemorated Oceanside's 100th birthday.
Along with celebrations in the Centennial year came development and change. Sterling Homes, a military housing project built in the 1940s, was torn down to make way for a new housing development. Located on he south side of Mission Avenue and Canyon Drive, the dilapidated housing had become an eyesore. Under an agreement, Hunt Building Corporation built a new $35 million civilian project on the property which included apartments and condominiums. In turn, Hunt built 632 new apartments on Camp Pendleton for military families in exchange for the Sterling Homes property along with$14 million.
The Buena Vista Nature Center opened on September 24, 1988 on the Buena Vista Lagoon due in large part to efforts and support of David Rorick, Jr. who was also a founder of the Buena Vista Lagoon Foundation in 1981.
A new entrance to the Mira Costa College campus from Rancho Del Oro was opened in 1988. Named after Elm Glaser, who was chairman of the Mira Costa Community College Foundation for over eleven years. Glaser was a civic-minded businessman and after his passing, his good friend Bob Gleason remarked: "The city has lost one of its finest civic supporters. Anything that was good for Oceanside, Elm was first in line."
The cornerstone of redevelopment and true change for downtown came in 1990 when the new Oceanside Civic Center and new Public Library was completed. It took several years to accomplish and the casualties included the historic Palomar Theater. But the Civic Center complex designed by Charles Moore emulated the styling of Irving Gill and the white arches and simple architecture gleam in the blue skies. Moore remarked about Gill's legacy: "We use his plain white walls, his unadorned concrete arcades, disciplined fenestration and flat roofs as our architectural vocabulary, and then allow ourselves the exuberance of bright colors with tiles in niches at the entrances, in the jambs and soffits of deep set openings, and through the contrast of palms and broad-leafed plants surrounding our structure."
In 1994 Silica Sand Mining Company gave property bounded by El Camino Real and Oceanside Boulevard to the City of Oceanside. The 554 acre property was named El Corazon, “the heart” of geographical Oceanside. The following year a program to initiate development of the property was established and a green waste recycling facility opened in the northeast portion of the site where the City's green waste is recycled. A planning process began to develop the site for a mixture of land uses to include parks and recreation, civic space, and natural habitat.
Deemed as a “cultural jewel” the Oceanside Museum of Art began public exhibitions and programs in 1995. With the support of the Oceanside City Council, the former Oceanside City Hall was approved as a home for the museum. After renovation of the interior of building, the Museum of Art opened to the public on October 6, 1997. In 2008, a new addition to the Oceanside Museum of Art was dedicated in 2008. The contemporary, three-level 15,000 square foot addition designed by architect Fredrick Fisher sits alongside the historic building designed by architect Irving Gill, who redefined the architectural landscape of Southern California. The Oceanside Museum of Art is lauded for its modern and contemporary art exhibitions and offers programming that includes concerts, films, culinary events, and tours. Its presence has been a positive influence in downtown Oceanside and has helped to provide culture, style and refinement.
Coaster train service began taking passengers from Oceanside to San Diego and back in 1995. San Diego Northern Railway purchased the tracks used by the Coaster from the AT&SF Railway the previous year. In its first the Coaster carried 700,000 passengers and doubled its ridership by 2005. The train, so important to the early development of Oceanside, is now used an alternative transportation to ease highway gridlock.
The idea of changing the street names is not something new, as early as the 1950’s, new street names have been suggested. In fact, Second Street was changed to Mission Avenue back in the 1950s and many felt this was confusing so in 1996 the “numbered” street names were finally changed. First Street was change to Seagaze, Third to Pier View Way, Fourth to Civic Center Drive; Fifth to Sportfisher; Sixth to Surfrider; Seventh to Windward, Eighth to Nepute and Ninth to Breakwater Way. The big change however, was changing Hill Street to Coast Highway. Most locals still call it Hill Street but as it was part of the coast highway or the original 101 the change is fitting. The highway was officially named a historic site in 1998 by the California State Legislature. Avid car culture enthusiasts are interested in traveling the old Highway 101, much like the famed Route 66.
Since the 1990s, increased commercial and industrial development have diversified Oceanside's economic base. In 1999 a master-planned business park was established and with the opening of the beautiful new Ocean Ranch Corporate Center, Oceanside has welcomed national and world-wide corporations.
Pacific Coast Plaza Shopping Center just north of Highway 78 opened in 1999 and Regal Cinema opened a new 16-screen movie theater in downtown Oceanside. The 22,000-square-foot Ocean Place plaza includes restaurants and retail shops and has become a focal point of activity. Families, shoppers, visitors all have a reason to visit downtown again and microbreweries such as Breakwater and Stone bring avid beer enthusiasts.
MainStreet Oceanside (MSO) was certified by the State of California as an official Main Street organization in 2000. It operated for several decades prior to 2000, first as the Downtown Business Watch and later as the Downtown Business Association. MainStreet Oceanside has been a catalyst for economic revitalization and promotion of Oceanside’s downtown area as a destination for locals and visitors alike. Summer attendance attracts 3500 people to the popular Farmers Market which runs every Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 6000 people to the Sunset Market on Thursdays from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Both outdoor markets operate all year round in Downtown Oceanside and bring thousands of people to enjoy the many food, fresh produce and vendor booths.
Biogen Idec established a biotechnology manufacturing plant in Oceanside in 2003 and in June of 2005 Genentech Inc. purchased $408 million the plant which is located on 60 acres in Ocean Ranch. Along with providing hundreds of professional jobs, the company sponsors a program called “Genentech Goes to Town” and provides its employees with scrip to spend in Oceanside to benefit the community and to help stimulate the local economy.
In August of 2007 the new Louise Foussat Elementary School was opened on Pala Road in Oceanside. The school was named after Louise Munoa Foussat who was born here in 1908 and was part Luiseno Indian. She was proud of her heritage and was an historian in her own right, sharing stories with many school children over the decades. Although Louise did not live to see the school that bears her name, the city recognizes her birthday, August 25th as Louise Foussat Day.
The Oceanside Wyndham Pier Resort opened in January of 2008 with its 168 time-share units already sold out. The resort is situated on North Pacific Street at Pier View Way, reminiscent of the South Pacific and El San Luis Rey Hotels which preceded it. Providing 180-degree view of the Pacific Ocean, the seven-story project included 32 hotel rooms and two levels of underground parking. Much to the delight of the dining public, the resort also houses the 333 Pacific Restaurant, run by the San Diego-based Cohn Restaurant Group.
In 2008 a new bridge to the harbor was built. For decades the paved road over the mouth of the San Luis Rey River would wash out with heavy storms, blocking access from Pacific Street to the Oceanside Harbor. At a cost of $25 million, the bridge includes a bike lane, raised sidewalks and a mural by Jun Blanco. The Pacific Street Bridge is not without its controversy as the bridge blocks the view of the harbor village.
On July 9, 2008 Oceanside’s Fire Station No. 7 opened. The $8 million state-of-the-the facility was designed by architect Jeff Katz. The 18,000 square foot station is a beautiful structure situated in the San Luis Rey Valley and its architecture styling is reminiscent of the historic San Luis Rey Mission.
One hundred and twenty years after the Oceanside-Escondido railroad first began, the Sprinter line opened from Oceanside to Escondido in 2008. In 1888 there were two trains a day between Oceanside and Escondido. Today the Sprinter runs every 30 minutes in each direction on a 22-mile long rail system which serves 15 stations.
Oceanside dedicated Mance Buchanon Park in 2008. Mance Buchanon was a beloved resident, pastor, school bus driver and father of Willie Buchanon. While Willie Buchanon played 11 years in the NFL, his parents Mance and Ethel continued to call Oceanside their home. Former Mayor Terry Johnson remembered, “Through his work in his church, and as a bus driver always picking up and dropping off children, he touched thousands of children's lives in Oceanside," Johnson said. It was fitting that a park and playground be named in Buchanon’s honor.
With the opening of the new California Surf Museum on Pier View Way, Oceanside welcomed the change that the museum brought to its newest location. Previously located at the corner of Coast Highway and Pier View Way, the museum moved in 2009 to 312 Pier View Way. Most residents and city officials were pleased with the transformation of a seedy nudie bar, the notorious Playgirl, into a beautiful renovation celebrating surf history and the lifestyle associated with it. The Surf Museum is dedicated to archiving and displaying surfboards from the early 1900s to today's modern boards. With rotating exhibits the museum is visited by an estimated 20,000 people each year and brings the quintessential feel of SoCal that visitors expect and that locals live and appreciate.
On June 6, 2009 the El Corazon Senior Center was opened on seven acres in the southeast area of El Corazon, the first development on property that was once a sand mine. The U-shaped building was designed by San Diego architects Roesling Nakamura Terrada, Inc. in the renowned style of renowned architect Irving Gill. The 15,000-square-foot, $10 million facility provides meeting and classroom space and is available for functions such as weddings and other events.
Just across from El Corazon Senior Center a new VA Center opened in 2010 on Rancho Del Oro. The $4 million two-story building is in Oceanside's Seagate business park. The center staffs over 100 doctors, dentists, nurses and other medical workers which offers primary care, mental health care, optometry, dentistry, orthopedics, gynecology and physical therapy along with full laboratory services.
The Seagate business park also welcomed the opening of the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel In 2010. City officials, community leaders and corporate executives joined R.D. Olson Development to celebrate the start of construction of the $25 million project. The 82,000-square-foot four-story Courtyard by Marriott features 140 guest rooms and suites with a large conference room for meetings and events and is the newest prototype design of the Courtyard by Marriott. This is the second hotel Irvine-based R.D. Olson Development has built in Oceanside--the first being the Residence Inn by Marriott, which was completed in September of 2007.
On August 31, 2011, the City Council unanimously approved the selection of Sudberry Properties/Soccer Field of Dreams as the developer for El Corazon. The San Diego company will convert the former sand mine into a huge public park and commercial complex. The North County Times reported that Sudberry “would commit to spending $50 million on the project, not including money spent on stores and other structures by those who would own or lease the buildings. Sudberry would develop the commercial property and lease it to tenants, such as department stores, supermarkets and other retail companies. Field of Dreams would build the soccer fields.”
The City of Oceanside celebrated the 25th anniversary of the release of the blockbuster movie “Top Gun” over the Memorial Day weekend in 2012. Oceanside Redevelopment, Parks and Recreation along with Visit Oceanside, MainStreet Oceanside and the 101 Cafe helped to put on the event. The First Marine Division Marine Corps Band performed at the Pier amphitheater and the Top Gun movie was shown to packed crowds. A Beach Volleyball Tournament featuring Karch Kiraly, Sinjin Smith, Gary Sato and other volley pros played with military and locals for an exhibition in honor of the famous volleyball scenes in the movie. An F18 jet fly over was provided by VMFAT-101 Sharpshooters out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, piloted by Major Daniel Berzack.
As another downtown hotel project begins construction, and another on the horizon, Oceanside continues to beckon tourists and offers itself as a resort city with amenities most cities cannot offer: namely a municipal fishing pier, small craft harbor, a National Landmark, paved strand, 3 ½ miles of beach with public access along the Pacific Ocean, a variety of museums, affordable housing and more.
Whether Oceanside is still California’s best kept secret, few can cast a shadow on the city’s bright future as more people discover its beauty and benefits. With a name that says it all, Oceanside still captures the imagination of tourists and provides a livable, attractive and diverse community for its residents.
By Kristi Hawthorne, President of the Oceanside Historical Society