Escondido, CA
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City Hall celebrates 30 years

Monday the Escondido City Hall celebrated 30 years. Ever since the civic building with its iconic gazebo was completed it has been the most recognizable landmark in the city.

The design of the city hall was chosen from 108 submissions and 1,500 residents of the city reviewed the drawings.

The five finalists were provided with copies of public comments and an extensive briefing on the jury’s comments. From this process, the five finalists were allowed to revise and improve their submittals. The firm of Pacific Associates Planners Architects out of San Diego was selected as the winner.

The City Hall final design also involved extensive input. The City staff was heavily involved in the final design. Every employee in the City was interviewed at least twice by the architects. Numerous staff committees were involved throughout the process. As a result, the building is not only beautiful, but is extremely functional.

The building uses different but subtle architectural styles as you transition from the plaza to the interior. The interior captures a graceful and elegant setting in its use of 1920’s art deco.

The building has a gross floor area of 105,000 sq. ft. It houses thirteen City operations: The City Council, City Clerk, City Treasurer, City Manager, City Attorney, Community Development Commission, Management Services, Information Systems, City Planning, Engineering and Public Works, Building, Community Services, and the City’s Credit Union.

Each department includes an eight-to-twelve-person conference room. There are also eight larger and more flexible meeting rooms for City and public use ranging from 15 to 140 people. The high public use departments; Planning, Engineering, Building, Community Services, Business License, Utilities and the Cashier are located along one continuous counter on the ground floor for greater public convenience.

The building was constructed for $9,677,654 or $91,30 per square foot. The total project cost was $15.7 million which included design and engineering, land cost, equipment, fixtures, furnishings, landscaping, and parking.  The design involved creative uses of fiberglass material. All of the detailed plaster relief and virtually all of the wood trim and lattice were actually fiberglass. This reduced the cost about $2 million, and over the years reduced maintenance, and provided a durable material which maintains a like-new appearance.

The Times-Advocate asked City Manager Jeff Epp, who has been in the city employ even longer than the City Hall’s existence, to give us a few recollections from “back then.”  Thanks for the memories, Mr. Epp.

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City Hall has been around 30 years, the City, I think, 130 years.   I remember when we moved into this building and had a huge community celebration—the first and second floors were filled with a capacity crowd, as well as out around the fountain.  The old City Hall, which was in front of what is now the old hospital, had some interesting features.   The Finance Officer had an office in a converted jail cell, and my office was two maintenance closets with the wall torn out.  Smoking was allowed in the building back then, and I remember my predecessor, City Attorney David Chapman smoking his pipe in the late afternoons.  Public Works was over on Washington and Ash, where there is a 7-11 now.  The public works yard was across the street in a Quonset Hut constructed sometime around World War II.

The Center for the Arts opened in 1994—they celebrate 25 years this spring as well.

 When we moved into this building, the Auto Park was brand new—and in fact, the auto dealers in the park had sued to keep Mercedes Benz from opening, since the Mercedes Benz dealership had decided not to join the auto park folks.  The Village Mall on East Valley Parkway was going under, with the new North County Fair (Westfield Mall) opening. 

The Village Mall would later be demolished and a Fedco appear, then the Fedco was demolished and gave way to the present-day Home Depot and Albertsons.  Only an old-timer would remember the “Vineyard” which was a small shopping center with a great bakery where we would meet for coffee.  There were movie theaters on East Valley that were eventually replaced with what is now Charter High School.  The current movie theater on Escondido Blvd. used to be  Montgomery Ward’s store, with the auto center out on the corner where Starbucks is now. 

Speaking of Starbucks, I remember the excitement with the first one—over in the Target Center . . . and now we have, what, seven or eight? 

We didn’t buy Daley Ranch until 1996—and Logan Jenkins gave us a hard time because we talked about it (entirely properly) in closed session for the better part of year before we finally closed the deal. 

Some things don’t change—the Wrangler Barbecue, Grape Day Park, Charlie’s Restaurant, Del’s Barber Shop.  Escondido has become a city of 150,000 with modern, high tech businesses, but we still have all the comfort and charm of an older, gracious City with rich agricultural roots.   —Jeffrey Epp, Escondido City Manager.

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Some further notes on Escondido City Hall, courtesy of City of Escondido website:

Completed in 1988, City Hall was the first phase of the Escondido Civic Center. The building won many prestigious awards, including the Urban Land Institute Award for Excellence in 1989. City Hall represents innovative, functional, state-of-the-art, cost-effective solutions to many specific City needs. City Hall was designed with an anticipation of the future, as well as an appreciation of the past, and is a superb example of how architecture can reflect the heart of the community and inspire civic pride.

City Hall provides one-stop shopping for most municipal services. All of the high public use departments are located along a single service counter on the ground floor for greater public convenience. This arrangement allows people to conduct their business quickly, reduces confusion in trying to find departments, and enables departments to coordinate activities.

Public Tours: Tours of City Hall are available by appointment by contacting Michael Thorne at 760-839-4009.  Please meet in the City Hall lobby.  The tour lasts approximately 45 minutes.

School Group Tours: Weekday tours for school groups may be arranged by contacting Michael Thorne at 760-839-4009.

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