Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live


San Diego begins emergency repairs on Ocean Beach pier

It was a big storm almost a year ago that did serious damage to the Ocean Beach pier. A portion has been off-limits to visitors ever since. KPBS reporter Alexandra Rangel tells us about the repairs that are now getting started.

The city will begin emergency repairs on a section of the Ocean Beach Pier this week to fix damage caused by storm conditions in January 2021, it was announced Wednesday.

According to a city statement, repairs are expected to take around four months, depending on the weather and tidal conditions. Once repairs are complete, the pier will fully reopen for the first time in more than a year.

In January, the 55-year-old pier was damaged by high surf. City crews repaired broken railings along the pier before it partially reopened on May 28. The pier's west end has remained closed to the public after significant damage to two columns, also known as piles, which vertically support the structure.

Waves crash against the Ocean Beach Pier in San Diego County. Dec. 28, 2020.
Mike Damron
Waves crash against the Ocean Beach Pier in San Diego County. Dec. 28, 2020.

The pier, which has been closed since January, has had a ticking clock since the city completed an inspection in 2019 and found it had "reached the end of its service life." The emergency repairs are intended as a temporary fix.

"We look forward to completing these emergency repairs so San Diegans can once again enjoy everything this iconic landmark has to offer," Mayor Todd Gloria said. "We are also working on a long-term plan to keep the Ocean Beach Pier accessible and in good shape for generations to come."

The 2019 inspection found 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 at a cost of roughly $8 million. This 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 pier. This would run anywhere from $40 million to $60 million but the new pier would have a service life of 75 years or more.

"Our historic fishing pier in Ocean Beach has sustained significant damage over the years, temporarily limiting resident and visitor access to this coastal attraction," said Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell, who represents Ocean Beach. "Luckily, the emergency repairs being undertaken will help us regain full access as we continue to drive the discussion on the future of the entire pier."

In July, Gloria announced state funding of more than $200 million allocated for regional projects, including $8.4 million for the Ocean Beach Pier. The pier is the second-longest on the West Coast and attracts more than 500,000 visitors annually.

Future construction of the pier will likely include modern materials at higher elevations to withstand potential sea level rise and the effects of climate change.

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.