Being buried in Oceanside doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll always rest in peace.
“Look at what they did when they built the Hungry Hunter and the next-door gas station” says Shelley Hayes Caron. “They were throwing bodies over the side of the hill to bury the fuel tanks.”
The Hungry Hunter (now known as The Hunter Steakhouse) sits near the intersection of I-5 and Vista Way on top of a former cemetery. This is what Oceanside historian Kristi Hawthorne recorded about the two-acre graveyard that once overlooked the Buena Vista Lagoon.
“On Saturday, January 24, 1970, workers began removing graves from the Buena Vista Cemetery in South Oceanside,” wrote Hawthorne based on newspaper reports. She said the cemetery, which had been neglected for decades, had 47 known burials between 1888 and 1916. “It took six hours to locate and remove 17 remains of the dead.”
Hawthorne surmises that after all the reburials up through 1970, as many as 19 bodies may still be interred under the Hunter. Some employees have maintained their steakhouse is haunted.
Hayes Caron wants to keep alive Oceanside’s respect for its dead.
She says a planned 34-unit development called Breeze Luxury Townhomes is planned without giving proper historical consideration to the Oceanview Cemetery immediately to the west. The three-acre graveyard and mausoleum on Coast Highway contains the remains of Civil War, WWI, WWII, and Korean War veterans.
Hayes Caron is part of Oceanside’s history. Her great-grandfather John Chauncey Hayes is known as one of the co-founders of Oceanside. Hayes Caron now lives in the historic adobes in the Marron-Hayes historic district. “My family has been associated with property surrounding this site since 1884,” she says about the Oceanview cemetery.
Hayes Caron points out that while the Breeze Luxury Townhouse survey provided by Lou Lightfoot Engineering addressed the potential discovery of native American artifacts, it does not properly address the legacy of the non-native Oceansiders interred at the historic place of rest nearby. “I am asking for an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to consider its historic significance. In 1984 the city declared Oceanview an historical site.”
Hayes Caron says in 1932 her grandmother sold land to the cemetery for the development of the mausoleum and chapel. “Three of my three great-grandparents are interred in the mausoleum. The reason they wanted to be buried in the mausoleum instead of San Luis Rey, is so they would have an eternal view of their 160-acre homestead.”
The proposed three-story development, says Hayes Caron, “Would change the serene setting of the cemetery forever.”
Oceanview was incorporated in 1895 by the Independent Order of Oddfellows. Over the years the cemetery was tormented by tax liens and failed corporate owners which Hayes Caron says led to unclear boundaries and ownership rights by the time Oceanside’s much larger Eternal Hills Memorial Park took over in the 1950s. “There is a cloud on the title. I was told by someone from Eternal Hills that they don’t even know if they really own it.”
Hayes Caron wants to know where the bodies are buried. “I have been told by many that the original property line actually goes beyond the chain link fence that is there now.” She adds that she is requesting that the developer prove there are no bodies buried outside the current Oceanview fence before they proceed. “They can use ground-penetrating radar to prove that. Because the fencing and boundaries have changed over the years, an EIR would address the issue of non-native American burials they failed to address in their cultural report. They are alluding to the fact that there is no historic significance to the cemetery. There is not a voice for the people in the cemetery.”
Hayes Caron says her motivation is simple: “This is something my family would want me to do.”
“The project as it is proposed would not encroach in any way on the cemetery property,” says Jonathan Borrego, development services director for the city of Oceanside. He says if excavation during construction would uncover any artifacts or bodies, “We would stop, follow protocol, and investigate.”
“That’s all well and good for native Americans,” says Hayes Caron. “This does not cover non-native American people in a coffin. There is no assurance there aren’t people buried outside the boundary.”
Would Borrego make the developer X-ray his property for caskets? “That would be highly unusual. However, if some firm documentation appeared to the contrary, we would take that into consideration.”
“It needs an EIR, period, to mitigate and address all these issues,” says Caron.
Borrego says he expects the Breeze Luxury Townhouse project, which would be built on a highly-sloping hillside, to come before the planning commission in the fall.
Even though Hayes Caron says there are still spaces available, an employee of Eternal Hills says there will be no more burials taking place at Oceanview Cemetery and that Eternal Hills simply maintains the Oceanview property.
Hayes Caron says that three years ago Eternal Hills took care to re-stucco, re-paint and put a new roof on the Oceanview Mausoleum which now houses between 40 and 60 deceased.
A bike store called Amazon Bikes occupied the old gas station building just east of The Hunter for two decades. Two weeks ago the Amazon Bikes business gave up the ghost and left that building.