OCEANSIDE — After a few more design adjustments, the Oceanside City Council is moving forward with its plans for a new fire station next to City Hall.
Last week, the Planning Commission approved the project’s conditional use permit and development plan to replace the nearly 100-year old Fire Station 1 with a roughly 20,000-square-foot, two-story firehouse at 602 Civic Center Drive in downtown Oceanside, right across the street from the Civic Center, City Hall and library campus.
The new station, expected to be completed in the next two years, will include a five-bay apparatus space that will house a fire engine, fire truck ladder company, ambulance, battalion chief vehicle and additional firefighting equipment. The building’s ground floor will include a front entrance and lobby for the public through its Freeman Street entrance, as well as conference rooms, fitness area and training rooms.
The second floor will house living accommodations for up to 12 personnel, including individual bedrooms, shared bathrooms, kitchen and dining area and a recreation room. The station house will be complete with an emergency generator, a diesel fuel tank and rooftop solar panels.
The new Fire Station 1 will replace the existing station at 714 Pier View Way. Constructed in 1929, the current station is considered seismically insufficient and does not meet the needs of the fire department. Plans to replace the station were presented to the City Council in 2006, but the project was put on hold due to a lack of funding at the time.
In 2019, the council directed staff to once again start working on the design and construction plans for a new Fire Station 1 to be built just around the corner.
The project’s team is currently working with the Arts Commission to procure a large, public art piece on the new station’s south-facing wall on Civic Center Drive. A community mural is also planned for the east-facing wall along the alley next to the site.
The historic bell and fire hydrant currently located at the existing Fire Station 1 will be moved to the new site and placed in the front yard area adjacent to Civic Center Drive. The property also includes additional landscaped areas and several trees planted on-site and around the property.
The project is expected to cost the city about $18 million, most of which will be paid by Measure X funds. Earlier this year, the city received a $3.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to help pay for the station’s construction.
The new firehouse will follow the Irving Gill-style of City Hall, using white stucco and applying arches and recessed rectangular windows into the building’s design.
Commissioner Louise Balma, who is an architect, was fine with the functionality of the building but wanted to see some improvements made to its exterior to better match its neighboring city buildings. She noted the tower on the station’s design could better align with the tower on city hall, as well as other adjustments to accents and adding the same tile from city hall to give it more color.
“This is Irving Gill-ish, but it’s not really Irving Gill,” Balma said about the station’s plans at the Nov. 8 meeting.
City Engineer Brian Thomas said tile could be added at the front entrance to help match the buildings more, though he noted finding the exact same tile is becoming harder for the city when replacement pieces are needed.
While the overall design is final, staff and architects can still make some tweaks.
“It’s not too late to make some minor adjustments to it,” Thomas said.
Construction bidding for the project will start in December. Staff expects to bring a contract to Council for approval in January, and construction would follow shortly after some time in mid-to-late February. Construction will take approximately 18 months, wrapping up sometime in late 2023.
Code enforcement services and storage space are currently housed in the site’s two existing buildings, which will be demolished to make way for the new station. According to a historical analysis of the two buildings, both are quite old.
One of the buildings was originally built in 1888 and served as a church, library, theater, mortuary and YMCA before code enforcement services, while the other was built in 1937 as a single-family residence associated with the previous church. Both structures have been significantly altered to the point that they no longer have their original design or functions, which means they aren’t considered historically significant or a loss to historic resources if demolished.
The city plans to keep the current fire station, which is one of two buildings that still remain from Gill’s 1929 city hall complex. The building will likely become part of the Oceanside Museum of Art.