On New Year's Day, a visitor stops outside gate of closed Ocean Beach Pier.
A visitor stops outside gate of closed Ocean Beach Pier in January 2020. Photo by Chris Stone

San Diego will reopen the Ocean Beach Pier after repairs to damage caused by storms earlier this year are completed, it was announced Wednesday.

City engineers say a portion of the pier can safely reopen after railing and other parts are fixed.

“I am grateful that a large portion of the Ocean Beach Pier can be safely reopened for the enjoyment of residents and visitors,” City Council President Jennifer Campbell said. “Much more work will need to be done to address the damage to other parts of the pier and find a long-term solution moving forward.”

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.”

A specific timeline for the reopening cannot be guaranteed but engineers believe it could open by summer, Campbell said.

When it reopens, the following restrictions will be implemented:

  • The part of the pier beyond the Cafe but before the expansion joint will remain closed for safety reasons;
  • No vehicle traffic will be allowed on the pier except emergency vehicles and only when necessary.
  • And the pier will close during very high tides.

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, amounting to $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 one. This would run anywhere from $40 million to $60 million but have a service life of 75 years or more.

Campbell’s office is working with Mayor Todd Gloria’s team, the city engineering department and local leaders and community groups to make sure future proposals are aligned with the community’s interests. Those details are still to be developed and meetings with community groups are being planned.

“The OB Pier is a beloved local landmark that we want to maintain and keep safe for future generations of San Diegans and visitors to enjoy,” Gloria said.

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 Ocean Beach Pier is a treasure to our community and has served the city for over 50 years and I am determined to look at all options with members of this community to plot out what the next 50 years will look like,” 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.

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