City Continues to Deny How Seriously Damaged the Ocean Beach Pier Is

by on April 16, 2021 · 7 comments

in Ocean Beach

Councilwoman Campbell speaking at the reopening of the OB Pier, June 2019, standing next to Mayor Kevin Faulconer. Photo from “The Campbell Chronicles”

By Geoff Page

The OB Rag story about the condition of the OB Pier has generated a good deal of reaction.  It shows how much everyone values the pier. So, how has the city reacted?

The Rag received the following statement from Alec Phillipp, Senior Public Information Officer for the City of San Diego.  It appears that this was not sent only to The Rag as it was quoted in today’s Union Tribune article.

The first paragraph was misleading and wrong.

“The 2019 draft report (attached) is an assessment of the pier conditions just after the significant 2019 storm and high surf events.  In 2019, damage to the pier’s deck and railing was repaired.  The columns and other structural elements were determined to need future repair and replacement but were structurally sound to allow public access under operational guidelines.

It is misleading because the statement makes it appear that the city is now “releasing” the report officially. Perhaps it is just a coincidence that they did this just four days after The OB Rag provided it to the public. Clearly, the pressure was felt.

This first paragraph is also misleading and wrong at the same time. The report is an assessment of the pier that has been in progress for several years, it was not only an assessment of the 2019 damage that the media has focused on.

The involvement of Moffatt & Nichols began in 2016. Invoices from February to March of 2017 and April to May of 2017 that totaled $155,434 for detailed inspections of the pier above and below water.

The attempt to tie this report to the 2019 storms may be a deliberate effort to muddy the waters so the public does not realize that the city has known about the problems for years.

The last part of the first paragraph was very carefully written.  It is an attempt to absolve the city of any criticism or, more importantly, liability from reopening the pier after the 2019 repairs.

The “operational guidelines” for public access were apparently from Moffatt & Nichols.  In the pier report was this statement:

“The guidance on closing the pier to the public during significant wave events is unchanged from the previous recommendation of the bottom of the pile caps.”

It has been observed that the pier was closed may times more often in the last few years than it used to be.  It was often closed during surf conditions that were not considered big and when it had sustained no damage. Clearly, the engineering firm’s recommendations were the reason.

This “guidance” is the subject of a new Public Records Request.

The next paragraph of the City’s public statement was interesting.

“Since then, the pier has been damaged again multiple times by high surf which has necessitated the closure of the pier and further investigation and assessment to understand the current pier conditions. Once this assessment is completed, the report will be updated to reflect the findings.  In the upcoming few weeks, City Crews will be making repairs to the railing on the deck of the pier up to the bait facility. Columns and other structural elements under the pier from the shore to the bait shop have been determined to need future repair and replacement but are structurally sound to allow public access under operational guidelines.  Damage to the structure beyond the bait shop is still being assessed and may require repair before the public access is allowed.”

The city is saying there is an assessment on-going and the results will be in an updated report.  No details of course.

The Public Records Request submitted in January 2021 was identical to the one submitted in April 2018, in another attempt to get the report.  This was a very detailed request and nothing was provided showing any on-going assessment, at least by Moffatt & Nichol. The city needs to provide details if that claim is to be believed.

And, as the report already shows the pier is in really bad shape, any new assessment will just add to the bad news. It is not as if everyone needs to withhold judgment until these claimed on-going assessments are done.

The effort to distance the city from liability for reopening the pier after the 2019 repairs can be seen in the words they repeated from the first paragraph.  They repeated word for word “were structurally sound to allow public access under operational guidelines.”

The City’s last paragraph in its official statement was:

“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.”

It is amazing how so many words can be used to say nothing. What is actually happening?

The City of San Diego’s Fiscal Year 2021 Budget for “Ocean Beach Pier Improvements” stated the “Design will begin in Fiscal Year 2021 with the construction schedule dependent on the completion of design and the identification of funding.”  The project has a “Priority Category” of “Low” with a score of 47.  Apparently, there was nothing to say.

As for District 2 Councilmember Campbell, here is her statement:

“The assessment report that was recently released will provide needed guidance for next steps,” Campbell said in a statement. “The pier is a true San Diego landmark and has seen significant damage through the years. I will be advocating for a long-term solution and will continue to work with city staff and the mayor’s office to determine the best path forward for this beloved San Diego icon.”

Once again, lots of words to say nothing.

Campbell and Faulconer did not hesitate to use the re-opening of the pier in May 2019, after the last shutdown as a political moment for them.

Faulconer stated at the re-opening, “It’s safe and open for the summer but this pier has been here for 50 years and so we’re really going to take a look at it to say what do we need to do to keep it open for another 50,” Faulconer said.  All the while knowing that almost all of the work to assess the pier was already done.

Those two politicians knew that the pier was in dire straits and never said, or did, anything.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Gravitas April 17, 2021 at 8:40 am

Anyone believe Campbell’ s claim amid RECALL that she knew nothing about the report?!!!
Just saying.

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Avatar Debbie April 18, 2021 at 11:09 am

You can sign the recall petition for Campbell:

“There is a permanent signature-gathering location inside Meditation Supply Store on Voltaire Ave next to PEOPLE’S MARKET IN OCEAN BEACH.”

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie April 17, 2021 at 8:46 am

Campbell Promises Path Forward After OB Pier Damage Report Comes to Light ; Campbell did thank Geoff Page and the OB Rag for bringing this bad news to light. See Times of SD: https://timesofsandiego.com/politics/2021/04/16/campbell-promises-path-forward-after-ob-pier-damage-report-comes-to-light/

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Avatar Chris April 17, 2021 at 11:33 am

I saw that . I kind of find it hard to believe she didn’t know about the extensive damage before Geoff’s article but who knows? Maybe she’ll do the right thing.

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Avatar D Mahoney April 17, 2021 at 1:13 pm

Campbell’s statement seems carefully worded. It doesn’t say she didn’t know about the report, but only that the report wasn’t made available to her office. If she didn’t know anything about it until now, she likely would have made a more definitive statement.

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie April 17, 2021 at 9:57 pm

“The LA city council saved the Santa Monica and Venice piers ( which were deemed too damaged and were going to be torn down) by getting the city to apply to the State Coastal Conservancy in Oakland for a grant (from state funds) to pay for the pier repair engineering and cost estimates, then repairs we’re paid through a bond issue. Get SD city council to do this!!!!” – a reader writes to our email.

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie April 19, 2021 at 2:56 pm

Reader article by Delinda Lombardo at least asks the right question: “Why was the OB Pier report held back?” https://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2021/apr/19/stringers-why-was-ob-pier-report-held-back/

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