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Biting the Hand That Feeds You

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
September 23, 1999


Communication is everything, and last week the Oceanside City Council communicated their nouveau rich aspirations in away that came across as class warfare. By placing a 45-day ban on businesses the cater to military personal, this council has, for all general purposes, given the finger to a large percentage of Oceanside residents. The four council members who voted for this should read up on French history, starting with Marie Antoinette.

Military business has been the bread and butter for Oceanside for decades, and to cavalierly shrug it off is not a wise move. Instead of using inflammatory language by singling out the military, this council could just have easily called for a ban on redundant business, or asked for a more diverse business community in the 375-acre redevelopment district.

Not content with alienating beach going residents, now the council has targeted military families as well, in their attempts to rid downtown of those they see as demographically unappealing. Perhaps if the City Council spent the money it is planning to give to Manchester, on the renovation and upgrade of existing downtown buildings, other businesses would want to locate in downtown Oceanside.

Another thing that would encourage business in the redevelopment district is to allow existing business owners to provide services the Council is hoping to attract to Oceanside. A case in point is the Caribbean Grill on Tremont, currently seeking to expand services. When asked if military personal patronized his restaurant, Owner Mark Cameron said that "Yes, members of the military do make up a part of my diverse clientele". He went on to say that a bigger threat to his business is the council's attitude toward small business in general. "Because average citizens are busy working 9 to 5, with no time to lobby council members, we get no help from the City Council."

Mr. Cameron then shared a growing concern of downtown business owners not connected to the tourist trade. Development supported by city subsidies, such as the Manchester Resorts and the Ocean Crest theater complex are designed to be self-contained oases of concrete and steel. Proponents of such projects say these large projects promote the renaissance of downtown. What I don't understand is how a fast food court is any different than the established eateries currently downtown. If I am not mistaken Angelo's cornered that market long ago. Talk about redundant.

Speaking of redundant business downtown, how will the new movie multiplex effect the historic Star Theater? What are the chances of it winding up in a state similar to that of the old Crest Theater. If council members and city staff had a sincere desire to reinvigorate downtown they would be going out of their way to see that historic buildings such as these theaters were restored, and thriving, before the McMovie people are allowed to turn downtown into yet another stripmall.

Recently Councilmember Betty Harding gave an abundance of similar businesses downtown, as reason for denying Omni Loan Co. a business license. This is a direct contradiction to her vote allowing a movieplex downtown, especially since the area could not support the two theaters already in existence.

Writing this column I am stuck by how consistent this issue is with the city council's agenda. Please note that the root word of redevelopment is development. Obviously renovation is not in their vocabulary. I'm sure if the voters of Oceanside would have known their elected officials had planned to erase historic downtown, and replace it with a second rate tourist destination, they would not have elected these individuals.

Oceanside needs a vision other than the ones supporting the interests of developers, relators, and career politicians. As things stand now, this council seems to be systematically pushing business not to their personal liking, out of town, or at least away from the Manchester zone of influence.

Do I think downtown Oceanside needs 20 barbershops in a 6 block radius? Of course not. Nor do the established barbershops. If downtown was truly a diverse business community they would make room for all types of business, letting the market decide which ones will survive.

This is not what is happening in Oceanside. What is happening is Oceanside City Council's subsidizing of big money development interests, while ignoring the small business owners who have survived despite council policy. The greedy boys and girls in city hall must be voted out, before Oceanside is bankrupted by their machinations. Much like the city of Vista and it's redevelopment efforts, the politics of blight enable them to give the downtown area to business interests supporting their campaigns.

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