Inside Oceanside: City has seen its fair share of sharks over the years

The moment you “Jump the Shark” is when you pull a mistake so drastic that your project takes a noticeable turn for the worse. 

The phrase was created when “The Fonz” went water skiing in an episode of “Happy Days.” That pathetically silly turn signaled the beginning of the end of that once popular sitcom.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the completion of the Oceanside Harbor, one of our crowning civic achievements. As we honor that landmark, and as we relish the good news that our water department is on the right track, that our police force is extraordinarily effective, that Genentech is hiring many new high-tech workers, and that the Marriott SpringHill Suites portends a huge boost to both our local economy and our image.

I would like to take a look back and recall some of those Oceanside jump-the-shark moments…times when prominent Oceansiders made a few hare-brained errors in judgment over the years.

It’s good to learn from our mistakes so we won’t repeat them.

Some of these faux paus moments aren’t so serious. Some are downright funny. At least one could have had catastrophic consequences.

Here, for your consideration, is our Oceanside Jump The Shark Hall of Fame.

Follow the baby blue line — If memory serves, it was a city councilman in the ‘70s who came up with this doozy: Just in case visitors from out of town may have trouble finding the Pacific Ocean, one civic leader convinced the city fathers be to paint a baby blue line down the middle of Third Street (Piew View Way), Pacific Street, The Strand, and other streets so that tourists could find their way to the beach. Follow the blue line to the beautiful blue sea, see? Cooler heads prevailed and the blue line was removed.

Cell block Mesa Drive — In 1990 there were a few outspoken members from a group called Neighborhood Block Captains Association. who proposed with a straight face that Oceanside homeowners should paint their street number address on their roof in three-foot tall bright orange or yellow numerals. In this way, they argued, cops in helicopters could more easily identify the homes and help them deal with “rape, children drowning, heart attacks.” One homeowner who successfully spoke up suggested that the numerals would indicate that we thought had a huge crime problem. “Essentially what it’s asking us to do is paint cell block numbers on our houses,” he told the L.A. Times. “It’ll look like we’re all in prison.” Cooler heads prevailed.

Goat Hill Stadium — There are many of us who think the best thing to do with the “golf course” known to locals Goat Hill because of its impossible terrain is to turn it into a park. But somehow the Center City Golf Course between Mission Avenue and Oceanside Boulevard manages to stay open. About five years ago more than a few nearby business owners swore that the place was going to be the new home of the Chargers. That’s right! Goat Hill was replacing Qualcomm! The preposterous claim soon evaporated.

You want to pave what? — The Pfleger Institute wanted to open a big aquarium near the harbor. Sounds good, except that Pfleger folks said they needed acres of precious public beach to pave over for parking. The Coastal Commission said OK to the aquarium, but they had to make it smaller because the usurping of the beaches for a private business wasn’t going to happen. Pfleger said they couldn’t make it smaller and gave up.

Romantic Slough ride — Sometime after World War II, an enterprising local businessman had the idea that the Buena Vista Lagoon, which touches our southern border, would be a great place to build a boat house where you could moor rowboats for rent. He built the boathouse in the lagoon, west of Interstate 5 and east of Coast Highway. The idea was that a guy could take his date out for a nice romantic canoe ride in this brackish, mosquito-infested slough. The business model maybe wasn’t that well thought out. It stayed there abandoned throughout the ‘60s until it eventually deteriorated and slipped into the lagoon.

$100 million? No problem — Rosemary Jones was elected five times as the city of Oceanside’s Treasurer. When she died in office at the age of 88 in 2009, her obituary prominently honored her as the person who literally saved our butt. She admitted she was pressured by Mayor Dick Lyon to sign over power of attorney granting access to $100 million worth of our city’s portfolio to be invested by an L.A.-based company called Alamin Inc., which promised an unheard of 130 percent a month return on investment. Jones and city employee Carol Gierhart stepped up and refused to play along. Jones called the Alamin deal “an out right scam.” Federal prosecutors got involved and the Alamin folks never got their hands on our $100 million.

Doug takes a powder — “You give me precious public parkland and I’ll give you a $200 million luxury beachfront resort.” Paraphrasing, that’s what developer Doug Manchester essentially said to the city of Oceanside to get his hands on beaches and parkland surrounding the pier. Thanks to the Coastal Commission and the efforts of two local activists, Manchester’s takeover died an embarrassing death.

But don’t let anybody say Papa Doug isn’t a pro-business big daddy here in these parts. After all, he bought the Daily Californian newspaper in southwest Riverside County and the North County Times that served some 15 cities and communities. Both papers don’t exist any more. That’s pro business isn’t it?

Oceanside born and raised, Ken Leighton is an Oceanside business owner. He may be reached at oogumboogum@earthlink.net

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  1. SeniorRights says:

    You missed a BIG one, Ken. How about last November when Mayor Jim Wood was re-elected by Oceanside voters 2 to 1, only to have ALL of his mayoral powers stolen by Kern, Feller & Felien when they passed an ordinance transferring the Mayor’s powers to themselves?! Isn’t that basically the same thing as telling the voters their votes count for nothing?

  2. Uncle Mike says:

    Some of these Oside ‘jump the shark” moments are accurate and quite cleverly reported by our dear Ken the historian, but as to which one you think were humorous vs catastrophic, I’ll bet you assume the Alamin shakedown was the potentially catastrophic one. Only problem is that the Mayor nor our beloved Ms Jones did not have the twin powers to grant Power of Attorney to these un-vetted rascals. Only a majority vote of the City Council could have granted that, and that was by far a longer shot than probably landing the Spruce Goose!…
    The Baby Blue hued line on the street was a bit of a reach, but remember there are still those in the City’s hinterlands that claim they don’t know where our harbor actually is! Where does civic responsibility of our citizens begin to demand a little huzpah and ones own initiative to find out what’s really going on?
    And you forgot the biggest shark though successfully jumped thus far by dedicated city staffers and by the community thus far is that “pig in a poke El Corazon”….
    And finally Goat Hill Stadium was a masterful counter bluff the City tosssed back into Mark Fabiani and the Spanos’s Charger regional boosterism calamity that showed that Oceanside could step up to the plate with a credible, if not perfect, counter proposal in about 3 weeks to their challenge of feasibly siting a football stadium in the only spot in Oceanside potentially feasible. Remember we lost Car Country cause Goat Hill could not be used (as our only parkland site big enough along Hiway 5 as demanded by the Big 3 Automakers in Detroit in the 1970′s). And we lost what became the Carlsbad Costco at GoatHill for,the same reasons! Every Picture tells a story don’t it (Rod Stewart), but some of the back story is always left in the rhubarb left behind!!

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