Vista Builds Two New Fire Stations

August 28, 2008

Just two years after devastating fires swept through San Diego County in 2004, Vista residents narrowly approved Proposition L, a 30-year, half-cent sales tax increase to finance $100 million in community projects, including two new fire stations.

Four full-time Vista fire stations currently service a 36.5 square mile area that includes unincorporated portions of San Diego County. A 2005 report commissioned by the city and prepared by CityGate Associates Inc. stated emergency personnel arrived on scene within five minutes only 50 percent of the time, largely due to high call volume and simultaneous service calls in the center city area. The industry benchmark is 90 percent. Lowering response time and better coverage were sited as the major factors for building two new stations.

The first projects being built with Proposition L revenues got under way in January, and are being built concurrently by Erickson-Hall Construction Co. Jeff Katz of Jeff Katz Architecture designed the stations.

"I'm very happy these stations are coming online," said Vista Fire Chief Gary Fisher, who checks construction progress daily. "Hopefully we'll be able to provide a better level of service and get our response times down."

Fire Station No. 5 (also known as S. Melrose Fire Station), located on S. Melrose Drive and Green Oak Road, will service areas in south Vista. The four-bay, 13,600-square-foot station will cost about $6.3 million and is designed to house nine personnel in individual bunkrooms. The station will have a fully equipped fitness room, a spacious kitchen and a day/living room big enough to accommodate all personnel. A large training room will also serve as a place to hold public meetings.

Fire Station No. 6 (also known as Wildwood Fire Station), located on East Vista Way between Escondido Avenue and Franklin Lane, will serve communities in central and north Vista. The three-bay station's Spanish architecture complements the older, more traditional style of buildings in the area. At a cost of approximately $5.9 million, the station will also house nine personnel and have amenities similar to those at Station No. 5. On-site parking will be shared with Wildwood Park.

According to Fisher, sites for the new stations were selected because those areas receive the highest concentration of calls.

Katz said both stations are designed to be LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certified. LEED-certified buildings use key resources more efficiently compared to conventional buildings and provide healthier work and living environments.

"To my knowledge, there are only one or two LEED certified fire stations in San Diego County," Katz said.

To achieve LEED certification, Katz said, the stations will use high-efficiency HVAC and lighting systems and low-VOC paints, sealants and carpeting. Additional components include recycling 75 percent of construction waste. While Station No. 5 will utilize on-site water retention for drainage, water at Station No. 6 will drain down through the park and percolate into turf areas. Both features will eliminate runoff into storm drains. Fire resistant and drought tolerant landscaping is also planned.

According to city spokeswoman Aly Zimmermann, actual construction costs are on target and the stations should be complete by spring 2009.

Proposition L increased the city's sales tax from 7.75 percent to 8.25 percent and went into effect April 1, 2007. According to information obtained from Community Projects Director Robin Putnam, first-year revenues came in at approximately $5.7 million, only slightly lower than the annual projections of $6 million. The city has allocated $100 million, including $94 million in revenue bonds, to finance the projects. After reviewing the first-year revenues, Putnam said the city feels comfortable that it will be able to service the debt.

In addition to the new fire stations, the half-cent sales tax revenue will pay the salaries of 15 new fire personnel and for the seismic retrofit and renovation of Fire Station No. 1 as well as a new civic center, sports park and stage house for the Moonlight Amphitheater at Brengle Terrace Park.