San Diego public works crews have begun $430,000 in emergency repairs on the Ocean Beach Pier, which has been closed since Jan. 19 because of major damage suffered during a winter storm that featured large waves and high tides.
The repairs to railings, and sewer and electrical lines, which are scheduled for completion by Memorial Day, are only a short-term fix for the 53-year-old pier, City officials said.
The City is planning more aggressive, long-term upgrades to the pier that will be based on a comprehensive assessment recently launched by structural engineers Moffatt & Nichol, who specialize in piers.
"They will provide us some recommendations, which will include a financial assessment of the costs," said Johnnie Perkins, the City's deputy chief operating officer. "We expect to have something from them in a couple months, and then we will need a couple months ourselves internally to kind of assess and evaluate what their recommendations are."
Meanwhile, City officials are focused on making sure the pier is open by Memorial Day weekend, so it's available to residents and tourists throughout the busy summer season.
"We know how much San Diegans love the OB Pier so we're moving quickly to make the repairs necessary to get it open again," Mayor Kevin Faulconer said. "The pier has been standing strong for a half-century, but it took a tremendous beating during the recent storms."
The waves from the January storm, which reached as high as 12 feet, damaged 2,200 feet of railings and rendered dysfunctional the pier's electrical, sewer and water lines. Those utilities are necessary for the restaurant and the bait shop that operates at the far end of the 1,971-foot pier, the second longest ocean pier in California and the longest concrete pier in the world.
The electrical lines also are needed for the pier's lights and foghorn, which have been powered by generators since the pier's closure six weeks ago. "We can't have a generator running permanently, so we need to lay an electrical conduit," Perkins said. "We need to remove the damaged lines and repair them so we can make sure the restaurant and bait shop are re-opened."
The repairs will include replacing 2,200 feet of railings, about 1,100 feet on the north and south sides of the pier, which were blown away by the storm.
The final element of the repairs will be fixing the pier's fish-cleaning sinks, which are closer to shore.
The pier, which opened in 1966, gets an estimated 500,000 visitors per year. Fishing is legal the entire length of the pier but is most popular on two extensions off the main pier that jut north and south.
Storms and damage have forced many previous closures of the pier, but most of them haven't been nearly as long as this year's closure. In 1991, stormy weather required $2 million in repairs. And during winter storms in 2002, gigantic waves shoved the restaurant's kitchen wall 3 feet into the galley.
Moffatt & Nichol, the firm hired for comprehensive assessment, recently completed similar work on the Oceanside Pier that determined a retrofit is needed that would cost an estimated $26.5 million. That assessment provided the City of Oceanside with several options for upgrading its pier, each with different price tags. Perkins said he is unsure whether San Diego would receive a similar set of choices.