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Oceanside pier bandshell set for changes – but which ones?

Wheelchairs, height limits part of the mix

Present bandshell
Present bandshell

Oceanside’s most recognized yet most neglected building is about to get its first major upgrade since it was built in 1950.

Place

Junior Seau Oceanside Pier Amphitheatre

200 North of the Strand, Oceanside

The beachfront “bandshell” immediately south of the Oceanside pier has hosted high school graduation ceremonies, Easter Sunday church services, community dance groups and sold-out concerts by John Fogerty, Crosby Stills & Nash, and the Black Keys. The Oceanside city council is set to decide on some major changes to the “pier plaza” area in September after some ten public meetings.

New look to the stage complex includes see-through sea views.

Public feedback has been crucial, says Steve Johnson of design company Johnson Favaro. That Culver City firm was brought in to advise Oceanside on what is best for the Pier Plaza area that includes the bandshell, the Junior Seau Beach Community Center, and Bertty's parking lot. The bandshell was renamed as the Junior Seau amphitheater soon after the 2013 death of the homegrown NFL star

“There is no way to spruce up this existing facility,” Johnson said about the bandshell at a July 12 Parks and Recreation Commission meeting. He said that even if the council decides to keep the bandshell with its exact same look, it still must be rebuilt.

“It is a stuccoed-over wood structure,” said Johnson about the seaside stage that has endured 72 years of Pacific Ocean weathering. He says that a rebuilt band shell must be made of a more permanent material. “No matter what you do, this is going to be a significant investment.”

Johnson advocates the installation of a large elevator on Pacific Street.

But the Johnson Favaro team and Oceanside assistant engineer Darra Woods who has overseen the Beachfront Improvement Feasibility Study have settled on their Plan A which proposes a dramatic new look to the stage complex that includes see-through sea views.

Johnson says the inspiration for this concept came from, “...lovely bandshells across the country.” He says the Redlands Bowl is a great example of an attractive, flexible public facility that can host “spectacular summertime concert series, symphonies, and theatrical events.”

He says the plans call for a 625-square-foot backstage area, crawlspace under the stage, and restrooms to be built under the new seating.

Its potential as a concert venue has already been established. In the ‘90s and early 2000s a group of dedicated locals hosted the Seagaze Concert Series, which brought in Joan Jett, Barbara Mandrell, Eddie Money, the Temptations, the Coasters, and the Drifters.

From 2009 to 2017 San Diego modern rock station FM-94/9 and its sister country station KSON 2500 hosted concerts by Portugal, The Man, Franz Ferdinand, Silversun Pickups, the Cold War Kids, and Dirty Heads.

Those ticketed events were made possible after the bandshell was turned into a secure venue by installing temporary fencing.

As a venue, the bandshell has a capacity of 2500. Some 1500 guests can sit in the sloped, bench-style seats built in the 1930s. Another 1000 can stand in the area between the stage and the seats. Its total capacity is about double that of Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay.

The current bandshell is 24 feet high. Johnson says the ideal “volume” of a new stage would be 30 feet tall, 30 feet deep and and 40 feet wide. But that creates a problem unique to Oceanside. The city must abide by Prop A, an initiative passed by voters in 1982 that says that nothing built at beach level can exceed the height of Pacific Street which is roughly 24 feet above. If the council were to embrace the idea of a taller bandshell, Prop A would have to be overturned by a vote of the people.

Woods says she is certain that her final presentation to the city council in September will not advocate for the taller bandshell configuration and that the new one will stay at 24 feet thereby avoiding a vote.

Johnson says that one of the few absolutes about a remodeled bandshell facility is that it must be wheelchair accessible. He says the new facility will accommodate 24 or so wheelchair-using guests at a time. He says they must all be able to enjoy the same sight-lines as anybody else. He says those guests must be able to watch a show at the top of the facility along Pacific Street, in the middle of the seating area or on the beach level.

Johnson notes that installing 250 feet of wheelchair ramps would eliminate 300 seats, so he advocates instead the installation of a large elevator on Pacific Street which would be recessed in the ground so it would not stick out above the street grade.

The city council must eventually sort out touchy issues – whether the city should even rent out the facility to concert promoters like Live Nation or AEG. Johnson and Woods have indicated that a new and improved bandshell would still be available for all the community groups that have used the facility in the past.

Locals have their last chance to provide ideas about the new Oceanside amphitheater/bandshell at an evening meeting August 17.at the adjacent Junior Seau Beach Community Center.

After that meeting Woods and Johnson Favaro will formulate their final, ranked recommendations to the city’s Parks and Recreation commission September 13 who will then forward their recommendations to a special city council study session meeting tentatively set for September 21. The council will have the final say and could decide to accept all, some, or none of the recommendations forwarded to them.

The gym-like Junior Seau Beach Community Center on the other side of the pier will undergo a much less rigorous overhaul. Johnson says it should be “Lovingly restored” with no major structural changes. He says the kitchen, bathrooms, and classrooms should all be upgraded. He added that sea-level changes predicted to be as high as seven feet in coming years may force future Oceanside leaders to reevaluate the building’s viability.

Finally, Johnson offers an idea for the so-called Betty’s parking lot south of the bandshell. He says a new two-story structure would maintain the same parking at the street level but would afford a second level of meeting rooms and a “park above parking” roof area that could accommodate open air activities like pickleball or volleyball. He acknowledges the city may ultimately decide to leave the Betty’s lot just as it is. “It’s one of the last open parking lots for surfers, and to them that’s as important as open space.”

Nancy Craig was the last public speaker at that July 12 Parks and Recreation commission meeting. She thinks the 72-year-old bandshell should stay the same. “The tax money is coming, you’ve got the tourists. By the way I’m 82. I have a balance problem and I forgot my front tooth. Why change it? The tourists don’t seem to mind. They like it the way it is. Why waste our taxpayer’s money? It’s been great to us all this time, why change it now?”

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Present bandshell
Present bandshell

Oceanside’s most recognized yet most neglected building is about to get its first major upgrade since it was built in 1950.

Place

Junior Seau Oceanside Pier Amphitheatre

200 North of the Strand, Oceanside

The beachfront “bandshell” immediately south of the Oceanside pier has hosted high school graduation ceremonies, Easter Sunday church services, community dance groups and sold-out concerts by John Fogerty, Crosby Stills & Nash, and the Black Keys. The Oceanside city council is set to decide on some major changes to the “pier plaza” area in September after some ten public meetings.

New look to the stage complex includes see-through sea views.

Public feedback has been crucial, says Steve Johnson of design company Johnson Favaro. That Culver City firm was brought in to advise Oceanside on what is best for the Pier Plaza area that includes the bandshell, the Junior Seau Beach Community Center, and Bertty's parking lot. The bandshell was renamed as the Junior Seau amphitheater soon after the 2013 death of the homegrown NFL star

“There is no way to spruce up this existing facility,” Johnson said about the bandshell at a July 12 Parks and Recreation Commission meeting. He said that even if the council decides to keep the bandshell with its exact same look, it still must be rebuilt.

“It is a stuccoed-over wood structure,” said Johnson about the seaside stage that has endured 72 years of Pacific Ocean weathering. He says that a rebuilt band shell must be made of a more permanent material. “No matter what you do, this is going to be a significant investment.”

Johnson advocates the installation of a large elevator on Pacific Street.

But the Johnson Favaro team and Oceanside assistant engineer Darra Woods who has overseen the Beachfront Improvement Feasibility Study have settled on their Plan A which proposes a dramatic new look to the stage complex that includes see-through sea views.

Johnson says the inspiration for this concept came from, “...lovely bandshells across the country.” He says the Redlands Bowl is a great example of an attractive, flexible public facility that can host “spectacular summertime concert series, symphonies, and theatrical events.”

He says the plans call for a 625-square-foot backstage area, crawlspace under the stage, and restrooms to be built under the new seating.

Its potential as a concert venue has already been established. In the ‘90s and early 2000s a group of dedicated locals hosted the Seagaze Concert Series, which brought in Joan Jett, Barbara Mandrell, Eddie Money, the Temptations, the Coasters, and the Drifters.

From 2009 to 2017 San Diego modern rock station FM-94/9 and its sister country station KSON 2500 hosted concerts by Portugal, The Man, Franz Ferdinand, Silversun Pickups, the Cold War Kids, and Dirty Heads.

Those ticketed events were made possible after the bandshell was turned into a secure venue by installing temporary fencing.

As a venue, the bandshell has a capacity of 2500. Some 1500 guests can sit in the sloped, bench-style seats built in the 1930s. Another 1000 can stand in the area between the stage and the seats. Its total capacity is about double that of Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay.

The current bandshell is 24 feet high. Johnson says the ideal “volume” of a new stage would be 30 feet tall, 30 feet deep and and 40 feet wide. But that creates a problem unique to Oceanside. The city must abide by Prop A, an initiative passed by voters in 1982 that says that nothing built at beach level can exceed the height of Pacific Street which is roughly 24 feet above. If the council were to embrace the idea of a taller bandshell, Prop A would have to be overturned by a vote of the people.

Woods says she is certain that her final presentation to the city council in September will not advocate for the taller bandshell configuration and that the new one will stay at 24 feet thereby avoiding a vote.

Johnson says that one of the few absolutes about a remodeled bandshell facility is that it must be wheelchair accessible. He says the new facility will accommodate 24 or so wheelchair-using guests at a time. He says they must all be able to enjoy the same sight-lines as anybody else. He says those guests must be able to watch a show at the top of the facility along Pacific Street, in the middle of the seating area or on the beach level.

Johnson notes that installing 250 feet of wheelchair ramps would eliminate 300 seats, so he advocates instead the installation of a large elevator on Pacific Street which would be recessed in the ground so it would not stick out above the street grade.

The city council must eventually sort out touchy issues – whether the city should even rent out the facility to concert promoters like Live Nation or AEG. Johnson and Woods have indicated that a new and improved bandshell would still be available for all the community groups that have used the facility in the past.

Locals have their last chance to provide ideas about the new Oceanside amphitheater/bandshell at an evening meeting August 17.at the adjacent Junior Seau Beach Community Center.

After that meeting Woods and Johnson Favaro will formulate their final, ranked recommendations to the city’s Parks and Recreation commission September 13 who will then forward their recommendations to a special city council study session meeting tentatively set for September 21. The council will have the final say and could decide to accept all, some, or none of the recommendations forwarded to them.

The gym-like Junior Seau Beach Community Center on the other side of the pier will undergo a much less rigorous overhaul. Johnson says it should be “Lovingly restored” with no major structural changes. He says the kitchen, bathrooms, and classrooms should all be upgraded. He added that sea-level changes predicted to be as high as seven feet in coming years may force future Oceanside leaders to reevaluate the building’s viability.

Finally, Johnson offers an idea for the so-called Betty’s parking lot south of the bandshell. He says a new two-story structure would maintain the same parking at the street level but would afford a second level of meeting rooms and a “park above parking” roof area that could accommodate open air activities like pickleball or volleyball. He acknowledges the city may ultimately decide to leave the Betty’s lot just as it is. “It’s one of the last open parking lots for surfers, and to them that’s as important as open space.”

Nancy Craig was the last public speaker at that July 12 Parks and Recreation commission meeting. She thinks the 72-year-old bandshell should stay the same. “The tax money is coming, you’ve got the tourists. By the way I’m 82. I have a balance problem and I forgot my front tooth. Why change it? The tourists don’t seem to mind. They like it the way it is. Why waste our taxpayer’s money? It’s been great to us all this time, why change it now?”

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