San Diego

Facelift or Replacement: Damage Report Details Long-Term Options for Future of OB Pier

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A damage report released this week indicates the iconic Ocean Beach pier may be nearing the end of its life, and the city of San Diego can't say when the pier will reopen to the public prior to the city starting a multi-million-dollar renovation project.

The pier, which has been closed since January due to major damage suffered during winter storms, has had a ticking clock since the city completed an inspection in 2019 and found it had "reached the end of its service life.''

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Deck and railing damage from the 2019 storm were repaired, and the pier was deemed structurally sound enough for public use even though inspections found pier columns and other parts of the structure needed future repair, according to city spokesperson Alec Phillipp.

But other storms since forced the pier to close again, most recently in January 2021.

Deck and railing repairs from land to the bait shop are expected in the coming weeks, but damage beyond the bait shop is still being assessed and may need that part of the structure may need repairs before the pier opens to the public.

Phillipp was unable to provide a timetable for reopening in the short term and said the city is already working on the long-term plan.

"The City continues to move forward with the design of a future capital improvements program project that will repair and replace much of the structural components that have or soon will exceed their useful life while addressing rising sea levels caused by climate change."

The damage report detailed cracked pilings and erosion along the pier's 1,971-foot length -- but particularly at the junction where the downward-sloping pier from the land meets the slightly upward-sloping pier heading out above the water.

The 364-page report written by Moffatt & Nichol, at a taxpayer expense of close to $700,000, found three options going forward.

First and cheapest is repairing existing damage, amounting to $8 million but will essentially kick the issue down the road. The 55-year-old structure will continue to crumble and degrade, necessitating more expensive repairs in the future.

Second, the city could rehabilitate the pier for somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 million to $50 million, which would increase service life but "would not address the sea level rise vulnerability,'' the report said.

Last, and most expensively, the city could tear it down and build a new one. This would run anywhere from $40 million to $60 million but have a service life of 75 years or more.

"I am committed to finding a long-term solution and plan to establish a working group involving our local, state and federal partners, community groups, private sector and nonprofits to find the best path forward for the OB Pier, our historic city landmark,'' Campbell said.

The city repaired the pier from winter storm damage and reopened it in June 2020, only to close it again in January after another storm.

City Council President Jennifer Campbell, who represents the city's Council District 2 -- which includes Ocean Beach -- said Friday she had not even heard of the report until an OB Rag reporter brought it to her attention earlier this week.

"The Ocean Beach Pier has been a treasured part of our city since it was opened in 1966,'' Campbell said. "But the pier has sustained significant damage through the years. My office has asked for updates on the extent of the latest damage since it was first closed earlier this year. Unfortunately, the recently released assessment report was not made available to my office. I thank Geoff Page at the OB Rag for bringing this 2019 report to light which gives us a realistic look at the condition of the pier.''

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