Unless There’s a Miracle, the Ocean Beach Pier Is History

by on April 13, 2021 · 95 comments

in Ocean Beach

OB Pier Crusher by Joe Ewing, Valentine’s Day, 2010

By Geoff Page

After three years of trying to obtain a copy, the city finally coughed up the engineering report on the Ocean Beach Pier.  As expected, the pier is in real trouble. The OCEAN BEACH FISHING PIER Draft Evaluation Report, dated September 3, 2019, was not shared with the public by former Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

The current District 2 councilmember Jen Campbell has not shared it either.

This report explains why the city is closing the pier every time the surf is even head high. The closings have been much more frequent than in the past when the pier was only closed when it was actually damaged. The city is worried about the pier.

The Executive Summary of the report stated:

“During the inspection, areas of significant deterioration of the primary structural elements was observed. Seven piles were found to have spalling, while 25% of the piles were cracked. There is also significant corrosion in the majority of the pile caps and the soffit of the deck panels.

The capacity of the damaged areas is explored. To ensure the continued use of the structure, these deficiencies must be addressed. Of primary concern is the damaged piles and locations where the deck panels are losing the prestressing strands in the soffit.”

Translated, this means that seven of the column-like structures, or piles, under the pier are in serious need of attention and the concrete at the tops of these pile structures is in trouble on most of the pier. The deck is failing in places too.

Location of worse section.

Briefly, the pier structure consists of the piles anchored in rock underwater running side by side and topped by a large cross member at the tops called a pile cap.  This combination of piles and caps are called “bents.”  Beams run from bent to bent to support the deck.  The deck consists mostly of prefabricated, pretensioned concrete slabs.

Deck underside.

Pretensioned concrete slabs have strands of strong wire running through them end to end. During manufacture, these strands are stretched to a certain tension and anchored on each end.  The strands add strength to the slab and allow for use of less concrete making them lightweight and flexible.  But, when strands break, as some have, the concrete is weakened.

The 364-page pier report was written by Moffatt & Nichol, a well-respected, experienced marine engineering firm. As explained in the previous OB Rag piece on the pier, this firm was paid almost $700,000 to provide an in-depth assessment of the pier above and below water, which they have done in great detail.

The report states that the city now has three options going forward, repair, rehabilitation, or replacement. The report describes the pros and cons of each option in detail. The engineers provided Rough Order of Magnitude, or ROM, estimates for each option. As the name implies, this is a rough estimate of an undetailed plan, but ROMs are usually good ballpark calls.


Plan graphic

Even the price tag for doing the very least effort, the repair option, is big.

“The rough order of magnitude (ROM) cost for repairing the existing damage to the pier and placing galvanic anodes to mitigate additional corrosion is estimated be $8,000,000.”

Understandably, the second and third options are expensive.

“The ROM for the rehabilitation option is $30,000,000 to $50,000,000.”

“The ROM for the replacement option is $40,000,000 to $60,000,000.”

Pile cap 3

It seems that all of these price tags were too much for the city and the report states:

“In order to reduce the risk of failure of the structure while the long-term solution is being designed, funded, and implemented, The City has requested an interim repair plan. There were two options that were investigated: a five million-dollar repair and a ten-million-dollar repair.”

That request sounds familiar.  “Um, well, what’s the most we need to do before my term expires?”

Pile cap 2

If the five-million-dollar option were chosen, Moffatt & Nichols wrote, “The highest priority repairs are the issues currently impacting the structural capacity of the pier.”

Pile cap

The five-million-dollar option would involve extensive repairs to five piles. The piles are the column-like structures anchored in rock underwater and supporting the pier.

Sixty bents would be repaired and 66 concrete beams would be added to reinforce the deck.  The ten-million-dollar option is more of the same.

Of the repair option, the report stated:

“If the repair option is chosen, the structure will continue to degrade, and the repair cost will escalate with time. There will be additional costs for the continued inspections every three years, repair design, and subsequent repairs. For example, the seven piles that need to be jacketed currently were cracks a decade ago. This implies that there will be dozens of piles requiring jackets in the next ten years. This represents significant capital investment and additional closures of the facility for repair activities. Additionally, the pier will continue to need to be closed in large storm events and is at greater risk in a seismic event. Over the 50-year life this would be the least cost-effective option.”

On the rehabilitation option, Moffatt & Nichol stated:

“The rehabilitation option would increase the service life of the structure but would not address the sea level rise vulnerability. If environmental constraints make the replacement option unfeasible, rehabilitation is the most cost-effective solution.”

The report provided an analysis of the effort needed for the three options including environmental and permitting considerations and how each option would deal with sea level rise.  Rehabilitation means basically a major fix of an existing structure in place, hence the remark that rehabilitation would not address sea level rise. But, the environmental restraints in place today, as opposed to 50 years ago, might make a new pier impossible.

The report stated this about the third option, a new pier:

“While this path forward includes the largest initial capital expenditure, it will likely be the most cost effective over the next 50 years.”

In addition to a physical examination, concrete cores were taken from the pier and analyzed in several ways to determine if the concrete had exceeded its service life. A chloride analysis and a petrographic examination were conducted.

The chloride test was to see if the concrete had exceeded the “corrosion initiation threshold of black steel.”  This basically means that the concrete can no longer protect the steel reinforcement within because the chloride concentrations are too high.

“Black steel,” the rebar within the concrete, is simple rebar with no protection.  Today, a type of rebar coated with epoxy is used in corrosive environments instead of plain, black steel.  All of the rebar being used in the new ADA ramp at Dog Beach is epoxy coated, which can be identified by the usual green color.

Petrographic testing is the use of microscopes to examine samples of rock or concrete to determine their mineralogical and chemical characteristics. These are predictors of concrete condition.

The Moffatt & Nichol report contains a copy of the original plans used to build the pier in 1965 and 1966. The report also contained a copy of the plans from 1989 when the pier underwent considerable repair work.  While much as been said about the 50-year service life of the pier, it required a lot of repair work after only 23 years.

One observation that stood out in the report was an additional illustration of the engineering mistakes in the original design.  The report stated:

“The maximum wave crest elevation used in the original pier design indicates that the assumed wave crest is below the pier deck soffit for the entire length of the pier by at least three feet.”

It is almost impossible to believe this statement while looking at the waves crashing under the bottom of the pier every year.

Understandably, some of the worst damage is to the area east and west of the low point.  This area has experienced a considerable amount of salt water immersion over the years and this is where the most deck damage and the worst pier problem is.

As mentioned in the previous OB Rag article, the pier was not built with the idea that any of it would experience so much contact with ocean water and the statement in the Moffatt & Nichols report confirmed that.

There was another curious comment in the report:

“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.”

As suspected, the pier closings have not been based on any actual damage but rather the potential for damage based on the pier studies. This “guidance” has never been revealed to the public.  A Public Record Request has ben filed to obtain it.

Unfortunately, it appears that the pier is doomed.  The money to maintain it properly has never been spent and the city now has no money to do anything.  Having seen this kind of thing on the East coast many times, this reporter expects there will be a condemned sign on the pier one day, and it will sit there unused.

Unless someone shows some real political will or the private sector steps up, the OB Pier is history.

{ 95 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie April 13, 2021 at 10:59 am

This is an incredible report on the OB Pier by Geoff. Ocean Beach is very lucky to have Geoff, a licensed engineer, on deck to sort through evaluation reports like this. The village is in trouble if it wants to keep its iconic pier, which has become a symbol of OB.


Geoff Page April 13, 2021 at 11:30 am

Slight correction, editor dude. I have both the California General Engineering and General Building contractor licenses. I was also an Operating Engineer earlier in my career. But, I am not a professional engineer and I do not have a degree in engineering. I certainly do know enough to be dangerous.


Giovanni Ingolia April 15, 2021 at 5:49 pm

So what you are saying Kevin Faulconer who is running for Governor opens the pier and 3 months later finds out how how dangerous and in direr straits our poor pier is in and does nothing except cover it up? Looks like our leader(s) put a lot of lives (including mine) in danger just to score political points. If I understand this correctly they are lucky no one died by their negligence. This article makes me sad for this beloved pier, our community and disgusted with the elected leadership.


Geoff Page April 15, 2021 at 6:01 pm

Oh, Faulconer knew long before that the pier was in seriously bad shape. That re-opening was a political show by people who knew the pier behind them in that ceremony was falling apart. I would not, however, go so far as to say anyone’s life was put in danger.


Giovanni Ingolia April 15, 2021 at 6:09 pm

Its good to hear no lives were in danger with that said I’m still disgusted with the cover-up and lack of leadership on this issue. Thank you for that clarification.


Geoff Page April 15, 2021 at 6:13 pm

I fully agree with you on that.


Geoff Page April 13, 2021 at 11:32 am

Also, anyone who would like a copy of the report, I’d be happy to provide it.


Rick April 13, 2021 at 2:53 pm

Great reporting Geoff. Please send me a digital copy of the report. Appreciate it


Geoff Page April 13, 2021 at 3:35 pm

Be happy to, Rick. Are you Drew’s dad? If not, I’ll need an email.


Frank Gormlie April 13, 2021 at 3:50 pm

Anyone wishing to get their personal email to Geoff, send it to us at:
and we will forward it to Geoff.


Susan Booth April 15, 2021 at 10:12 am

Hi Geoff,

I’d love to get a copy of the Moffatt & Nichols report. Thank you so much for your excellent article.

Susan Booth, PG
Ocean Beach


Geoff Page April 15, 2021 at 10:57 am
Bob April 15, 2021 at 3:30 pm

Great article Engineering dude!


Richard Denny January 14, 2023 at 1:10 pm

Can i get a copy of the OB Pier report please? I’ve been going fishing at that pier for since i was a kid. When the 2003 fires were going on we evacuated to that pier. It’s sad to know political people would want to neglect such an iconic piece of San Diegos history.


Geoff Page January 16, 2023 at 10:21 am

Richard, send your email address to The OB Rag email and Frank will send it to me. I’d be happy to provide the report.


Peter from South O April 13, 2021 at 12:31 pm

Perhaps the solution is to replace the pier with a wooden structure. Works well up here as long as the iron braces and wooden decking are maintained/replaced as needed (at the cost of “hundreds of thousands of dollars”) each year. The approach bridge was just repaired (made of concrete), but TRANSNET funds were used for that purpose.
The present pier was built in 1987 and cost $5 million at the time (the concrete bridge dates from 1929).
What does our resident engineer have to say about that concept?


Geoff Page April 13, 2021 at 3:59 pm

I like wooden piers myself but I tend to like all things made of wood. The thing to do is pencil in the costs of both, including maintenance costs and see what works best for 50 years. I’m not optimistic abut any TRANSNET funds since SANDAG is broke. And bridges and piers are very different. IS the bridge over salt water there?


Peter from South O April 14, 2021 at 10:51 am

No. The concrete portion is over the beach.


Stu April 13, 2021 at 12:43 pm

The City no doubt will step up in due time, But OBMA and other community groups will have to apply pressure 10 or 20 Mil is not really a great amount of cash for a city of this size, The worth of the pier in City advertising alone far exceeds that, but pressure will have to be applied. Letters to Jen with the Mayor cc’d would be a good start. Present the question it to the OB and Pt Loma planning groups. Since the Engineering firm was hired to study it I feel sure that the project is in the pipeline but pressure needs to be applied. Offshore construction is difficult and expensive. I can’t remember to cost of the last one I was involved in but upward to 200mil. It does appear the the pier is beyond its original design life so to upgrade for another50 yrs so $60mil repair and improvement sounds reasonable. It would be an interesting and fun project that I would love to be involved in if I was still working.
Retired P.E.


David Swanson April 13, 2021 at 6:36 pm

As an active professional civil and structural engineer with extensive experience in marine construction, I wholeheartedly agree with your comments.

It is a well written article. Some added thoughts that relate to other comments a that I read. Wood is not a suitable enough and durable material for a replacement of the 50+ year old OB pier. There are issues durability (preservatives, saltwater marine borers, etc.), strength, stiffness and connections. The OB pier is a historic and iconic structure that needs replacement as it has exceeded its initial design life. It has served admirably in a very harsh marine environment, but now it is time for its replacement.

Replacement should be with similar durable prestressed concrete materials within the original footprint to maintain its historical character, but elevated to avoid immersion of pile caps and the deck at extreme high tide and storm surge. Hopefully, our political and community leaders recognize the iconic nature of the historic OB pier and the value that it provides not only Ocean Beach, but the surrounding communities that use it as well. It is a well-used and highly regarded public asset and treasure and it should be cared for as such.

Access to our oceans need to be maintained and enhanced whenever possible. It is time to replace the OB pier.

David Swanson, P.E, S.E


Geoff Page April 13, 2021 at 7:27 pm

I agree with you, David, replacement is the smartest option. With the advances in materials and construction techniques, I’m sure a pier with an even longer life could be built. And yes, also include raising the low section. It’s too bad they did not have the will to take the steps that were needed to correct this problem during construction.


Peter from South O April 14, 2021 at 10:55 am

If a wooden pier was unsuitable there wouldn’t be one in Oceanside that is NOT in such desperate shape that only takes a few hundred thousand $$$ to maintain each year. Come visit the Oceanside Fishing Pier and have lunch at the restaurant at the end (was a Ruby’s Diner until they closed recently).


allen April 14, 2021 at 1:44 pm

The pier should be included/added into the Mission Bay Park giving it priority to a large source of funding.


Judy Swink April 18, 2021 at 3:48 pm

Not going to happen, however. Except for Robb Field (which is part of Mission Bay Park), Ocean Beach is far outside of the Mission Bay Improvement Fund footprint.


hOBie April 13, 2021 at 1:13 pm

Wow. Thanks for this Geoff.

Seems like the options, if you can even call them that, are bad (band-aid), worse (tourniquet), and impossible ($60M+ re-build).

Hard to imagine anyone in City leadership advocating that City spend $60M+ on anything OB-related. Meaning the best we can hope for is a band-aid. Though given that the pier has remain closed for months now, I wonder if the tourniquet is our only real option?

The 4th option not offered is to do nothing. I would guess the Cafe would have to fall into the ocean before the City would consider taking real action. Though if it remains closed, that may happen sooner rather than later.


STU April 13, 2021 at 6:44 pm

I would disagree the city does care about the pier and more than that the business the pier creates. It is a major draw to OB and tourist dollars for the city. The pier is an attraction to the city and I am guessing here but that many of the users don’t come from OB. Again the community leaders, OBMA, OB town council and other groups even hOBie write a letter to councilwoman Jen and copy the mayor. You will get a response


Steven April 13, 2021 at 9:42 pm

Judging by the deteriorating state of the infrastructure south of the pier, to the tide pools and Santa Cruz beach, the city has a history of doing nothing for OB.

Maybe the new infrastructure bill Congress is discussing right now might help?


Clarke April 14, 2021 at 1:16 pm

Steven, I was actually thinking about the Infrastructure bill too. I know earmarks are not specifically allowed anymore (but might be again?), but this is literally one of those where an earmark would make a ton of sense.


Paul Webb April 13, 2021 at 1:40 pm

Geoff, if a copy is available electronically, I would love to see it.

This need not be city money only, if the city decides to either repair or replace the pier. The state Division of Boating and Waterways offers grants for construction and rehabilitation of water recreation activity structures. They probably wouldn’t pay for all of it, but possibly a nice chunk. If I remember correctly (it has been a few years) I used boating and waterways grant funds at the Manhattan Beach pier.


Geoff Page April 13, 2021 at 4:04 pm

Good positive ideas there, Paul. Why wouldn’t any politician want to champion the pier? Everyone loves the pier except for some in the surfing community that would have preferred it be built farther south.


kh April 13, 2021 at 3:22 pm

So the city has been following the most expensive path for the past 20 years – doing nothing. Unless of course they intend to abandon it. $10M or $30M though… that’s only the cost of a couple concrete bathrooms and ramps to nowhere, and a sidewalk lawsuit or two.

I imagine we’ll see an abandoned, closed, half collapsed pier decorating our coastline within the next 10 years, and even demolition will be too expensive. It’ll blend right in with silverspray.


Frank Gormlie April 13, 2021 at 3:59 pm

chuckle, chuckle … but maybe Paul is right. The private sector or larger gov’t entity would need to step up. Hey, we could sell the pier’s naming rights to raise the funds. How’s the OB McMillan Pier sound? Or the Toyota OB Pier? Or, a local … the OB Ballast Point Brewery Pier. Maybe a community-based effort to raise money? Charge $$ to take a walk on the wild OB Pier as an extreme sport. The OB Hodads Pier? But seriously, how could the village raise the dough, if not local gov’t? The pier is so iconic – it’s on every group and local business logo – losing it will have consequences. The fear of those could spur some to figure out where private money could come from.


stu April 13, 2021 at 6:54 pm

That actually not a bad idea. The pier serves the whole area of San Diego. I remember my parents talking about it it in the early 70s after visit here for a convention. long before I even thought about moving to So Cal. The city would place limits on it for sure but if it could happen a great fund raiser


Geoff Page April 13, 2021 at 7:32 pm

That is exactly true, the pier does serve the whole city. I have always made the pier part of my weekly runs and it is easy to see that folks come from all over San Diego to use the pier. Some are serious fishermen and women and some are people who fish but their main reason for being there is to just enjoy being there with their families and friends. While we call it our pier, because it is here, it is really everybody’s pier.


Mike Blackfish April 14, 2021 at 12:25 pm

Naming rights and a local sales tax. Federal grants. There is always a way. They (the city leaders) can build playgrounds for millionaires and billionaires, why not piers for fishers, bums, stoners, tweekers and beach goers.


Clarke April 14, 2021 at 1:25 pm

I really like some of the ideas here. If the city can have a stadium and sports arena named….why not a pier. Not that I love the idea of corporate branding all the time, but with the right company and name, it could lend to a pretty cool opportunity.

Also of note, is the pier not a record holder as the longest concrete structure on the west cast at 1,971 feet? The ability to promote that as a tourism draw and sense of pride should be factored in if we can keep it and maintain that record.


Geoff Page April 14, 2021 at 1:33 pm

I’m not a fan of naming rights myself, but I doubt seriously that anyone would care what the pier is called as long as it was there for them to use and use for free. It has to remain a free attraction for the public. The only concern might be how the naming company would want to display it’s name and what else they might want to place on the pier. You are right, it is a very big tourism draw, where else can you walk so far out over the ocean and watch waves break from above. A new pier would be great.


Peter from South O April 22, 2021 at 12:32 pm

It does indeed hold the record for concrete piers. Also of note is the fact that the longest pier as well as six others out of the top ten are built on wooden piles. There is a reason for that: no matter what you do, reinforced concrete and salt water do not mix well.



Jess April 13, 2021 at 3:32 pm

Why aren’t any of the news outlets or Tribune reporting on this topic?


Geoff Page April 13, 2021 at 4:02 pm

They just aren’t as good as The OB Rag, Jess.


Frank Gormlie April 13, 2021 at 4:06 pm

For those following this commentary, also check out comments at the OB Rag facebook (I know Geoff doesn’t do facebook) but they’re there: https://www.facebook.com/OB.Rag.blog


Valerie Gilhooly April 13, 2021 at 5:18 pm

Jim & I would love a copy of the report on the Pier. Thanks, Great job as usual. Val


Geoff Page April 13, 2021 at 6:17 pm

Great to hear from the Gilhoolys! I emailed a link to the email I have for you, let me know if you get it.


Sha Rose April 13, 2021 at 7:19 pm

How about we named a delicious beer after the pier and the proceeds to to fixing the pier. I wonder how much $$ could be collected in one summer. We would like a pier! Please


Chris April 14, 2021 at 1:23 pm

The slogan could be Have A Beer, Save The Pier!

Seriously, it could work, perhaps have a beer tasting challenge among local brewers, kind of like the Chili Cookoff.


Derek April 15, 2021 at 8:31 am

As a guy who used to run beer festivals for a living, this would never come close to making enough money. You can make maybe 100k on a sponsored festival after expenses. I don’t think we have the time to throw 300 beer festivals.


Barb April 13, 2021 at 7:30 pm

I’d like a copy of the report also. Thank you!


Geoff Page April 13, 2021 at 7:34 pm

Here is a link that should work to get the report.



Michelle April 14, 2021 at 1:44 pm

Geoff, thanks so much for this!! I tried calling Moffatt and they wouldn’t release anything. I worked for a real estate development company in risk management and development departments and reviewed these reports on a weekly basis. The ES and recommendations are great, but I’m kinda a dork and am going to read through this report.


Geoff Page April 14, 2021 at 2:54 pm


Moffatt & Nichol are not obligated to release anything but anything they did for the city is public work and can be obtained with a Public Record Request. The city will then have to provide what you want.


Michelle April 14, 2021 at 3:26 pm

Thanks, Geoff. I read through most of the 364 page link you posted, however it is just the draft…And that is NOT anything negative towards your amazing work, as the final drafts are rarely edited for integral content.

I think that Criterion F would be a good start to halting any permanent demolishment and possibly getting funds through municipal bonds. Voting turnout will be big for 2022 with the House and Senate seats, however getting signatures and legislation written up by then is not pragmatic. 2024, more likely, for the ballot.

I’m wondering if the City purposefully provided you with a draft? I used my last job title and knowledge of environmental reports to talk to the person at Moffatt. I’m just inquisitive if the final report has been received? There’s a lot to unpack here, but if it were up to me, you’d receive a Pulitzer!


Geoff Page April 14, 2021 at 4:59 pm

Thanks for the comments, Michelle.

I’ve worked as an expert consultant for the past 20 years and our reports always had draft on them. I asked about this when I first started and was told that a report was never a final report until there had been a result. So, in out case, that meant the eventual result of a claim that would be written up and put into the report to make it a final. Never made sense to me because no one ever wanted to pay us to do more on a report after there had been settlement or the end of a lawsuit. Who would?

I’m not sure if engineering firms like Moffat & Nichol do the same thing. If you know someone there, maybe you could ask or maybe you already know that answer from your own experience. If Moffat & Nichol did issue a report marked “final,” , I will go back to the city. I will say that I don’t see what more would be added or changed, it tells a very complete story as is. Let us know if you find anything out.


Paul Webb April 15, 2021 at 11:02 am

Geoff, the reason reports are marked “draft” then subsequently never final is that draft reports are exempt from public records act and freedom of information act requests as they are technically part of the deliberative process – just one way that public agencies can keep reports such as this from the public.

Another way is to cc the agency’s legal staff and claim attorney client privilege. I’ve always thought this was bogus but as far as I know no one has ever challenged it.


Geoff Page April 15, 2021 at 11:21 am

That may work with some documents, Paul, I agree. That was what they told me when I tried to get the reasons why the city rejected two of the four proposals for the Sports Arena development proposals. I think they would have a hard time using that in regards to this information, not that they would not try.

I’m also familiar with the attorney-client privilege mechanism and it is hard to get around. I’ve had to use it in communications with attorneys during 20 years of construction claims work.


Frances O'Neill Zimmerman April 13, 2021 at 8:53 pm

Everyone loves the OB Pier, excepting Former Mayor Kevin Faulconer and present Council representative Jen Campbell who have kept its deterioration a closely-held secret. I hope a campaign to restore the pier catches on and succeeds.
Meanwhile, I hope San Diego Lifeguards will re-evaluate their annual rite of passage white- knuckle Pier Jump for children in the Junior Lifeguard program until the structure is repaired and made secure. That macho pier-jumping exercise has always felt more Navy Seal than Summer Fun to me, so this might be the perfect moment to pause it.


Clarke April 14, 2021 at 1:30 pm

Frances, that tradition may not be for everyone, but it certainly was special to those who did it. As well as a great fundraiser for the JLG children’s program. Don’t try and take something good and healthy and legal away which has been a special rite of passage, and to my knowledge, not had any injuries (because doing it safely is part of the training after all).
Respectfully, Clarke


Frances O'Neill Zimmerman April 16, 2021 at 3:47 pm

Clarke, I know pier-jumping is a local tradition, but I believe it’s only legal if it’s part of the Junior Lifeguard summer program; it uses kids to raise money, as you mention; and whether it’s “good and healthy” seems debatable. Jumping off the (very tall) OB Pier creates anticipatory dread in most kids who have to end their otherwise-wonderful Junior Lifeguard summer program with this exploit. To me, it’s always looked like an extreme exercise in classic peer pressure disguised as an officially “optional” culminating activity.


Clarke April 16, 2021 at 8:35 pm

You may be right, and it is not something they want to do, but my kid, who was in the first year grom last summer in the program, is 5 years away and all she said when we first signed her up was, “When do I get to jump off the pier?” No joke. When she found out a parent can donate and make the jump with their kid, she immediately told me she wanted to do it together, which as you can imagine, made me feel like a million bucks.

So, you may be right, and kids don’t all want to do it…but from the dozens I have heard from over the years, and myself wishing I had done JR lifeguards as a kid for that experience alone, everyone really considered it a special rite of passage. An optional one but one done in the most safe and controlled environment imaginable for those who chose to do it.


sealintheSelkirks April 18, 2021 at 3:00 am

FOZ: It’s really not that long a drop and us Southside surfers have been doing it on big surf mornings for decades regardless of the illegality of it. Landing on a jellyfish is about the worst accident that I knew of back in the day. Of course how far the fall is depends on what tide it is! Most people do it feet first but I’ve known those who did dives, too.

But being relaxed when jumping isn’t for those with a phobia for heights, and lifeguards have had call to launch off the Cliffs going after people so it can be a valid reason to test a candidate…



Guy April 13, 2021 at 10:58 pm

Prediction: the city will use this as an opportunity to redevelop the ob shoreline


Geoff Page April 14, 2021 at 10:33 am

Guy, I cannot imagine anyone attempting anything stupider than trying that in OB.


Guy April 14, 2021 at 7:42 pm

Either that or the pier rots away for the next 20 years. What do you think they will choose?


Guy April 14, 2021 at 7:52 pm

If they tear down the old pier, build a new one, at $100 million plus – the entirety of ob shoreline will be redeveloped.


Tyler April 14, 2021 at 7:45 am

Option 4: take it down and enjoy those long lefts that haven’t been ridden in decades :)

Great report, Geoff.


Geoff Page April 14, 2021 at 10:35 am

Thanks, Tyler and I agree wholeheartedly. Take it down, build a new one south of the outer edge of the reef where that left starts. Wouldn’t it be great to have all that open again?


Gs3464 April 15, 2021 at 5:48 pm

Would it be technically possible to engineer significantly greater distance between the piles — just in the area where the surf breaks —- to allow surfers to comfortably go under the (non-relocated) pier? This would make it a surf-friendly pier & make walking the pier that much more fun – like Poohsticks.

Also, do the bents have to be perpendicular to the waves? If the pier can’t be raised above eventual winter storm waves, parallel bents wouldn’t be so battered by winter storms.


Geoff Page April 15, 2021 at 5:54 pm

Interesting ideas. They could engineer something like that.


Clarke April 14, 2021 at 1:31 pm

who says they aren’t ridden? :)


Guy April 14, 2021 at 7:43 pm

Amen – those lefts still pump just gotta shoot the pier!


Pete R April 14, 2021 at 9:58 am

Geoff, this is a great summary. Thanks to you and the Rag for digging. Is there any way to share the Moffatt & Nichol report itself?


Geoff Page April 14, 2021 at 10:31 am
sealintheSelkirks April 14, 2021 at 12:55 pm

Wow. Really good info and article, Geoff. You did some serious digging. And it’s no surprise that there are politicians hiding reality from everyone; don’t they always? Such narrow focus and at the moment it seems it’s all about throwing money at Midway so a few can become wealthier. OB not so much…but the Pier IS a big attraction for the entire city and they really need to understand that. Get their heads out of their…ummm…back pockets so they can get a breath of fresher air perhaps?

I loved Southside lefts being a goofyfoot, years of dodging through on big days throwing bottom turns in between pilings to avoid being swatted with a concrete flyswatter. I hated the Dip. Got dang close avoiding serious hurt a couple times, and jumping off way out to avoid the paddle through the inside shorebreak was so fun. But I remember what the first Cliffs reef looked like before the Pier went in as a little gremmie so I’m partial to the idea of taking it down and building a new one to the north away from the reef and of course elevated to avoid making the same mistake again! I can’t help it, I’m still chuckling that the original assessments was done during the summer in that earlier RAG article. I mean, were they from Kansas or something and knew nothing about the difference between ocean summer and winter?

I’m assuming the reef got trashed by the construction though, yes? All that drilling and blasting holes and pile driving? I wonder what the bottom contour is or if the big lefts I remember from early 1960s would still line up way the hell outside on the south the way they used to. Even on small days in the early ’80s a head-high wave, if the swell was the right direction, still linked up right through to in front of the parking lot (I have an old camcorder video of me doing so) so maybe there’s hope…but that was the inside reef set-up. It’s the outside reef I worry about. Just how much damage did they do to that part of the reef? Anybody know?

Of course there is a down side for some surfers…Northside rights would disappear because all the sand bars would shift and change rather dramatically I would think. But if a new pier was high enough maybe that freight train left would reappear. Wouldn’t that be a treat! I wonder what the dynamic of sand shifting with a new pier would end up being like down by Stub Jetty and Dog Beach? Definitely different…



Geoff Page April 14, 2021 at 1:45 pm

That left is still there, seal. Interesting point about how much they changed the bottom. I’m assuming is was just drilling to place the piles but I don’t really know. It’s possible that the engineering firm has a bunch of photos taken by the divers that did not make it into the report. That might be worth asking for.

You say go north with a replacement? Where were you thinking? I think it could be moved south off the end of Narragansett or Del Monte, both of which would be south of where the left towards OB starts.


Michelle April 14, 2021 at 3:31 pm

Some of the apartment and condominium complexes are responsible for the Cliffside structural integrity. The CCRs for some of the Bermuda Beach properties show that. Although I’m not privy to the specs of the structures at Del Monte and Narragansett, I’m sure it’s not as easy as just moving the pier. Not to mention that erosion South of Niagara has been exponential the last decade.


Mitchell P April 14, 2021 at 4:41 pm

Great article. I’m probably in the minority, but the surfer in me says tear the pier down and restore the beach to its natural state!


Bob April 16, 2021 at 12:47 pm

Agree. A natural coast is best!


G Richardson April 14, 2021 at 4:59 pm

Does this project seem like it falls under the definition of ‘infrastructure’ and as such be addressed in Biden’s bill? Might the Feds pay for it?


Geoff Page April 14, 2021 at 5:07 pm

I agree with you partly, Michell. If I hadn’t spent so much time over the years running the pier, I might agree fully. But, I’ve seen so many people enjoy the pier that I think if it comes down, they need to rebuild it, just not in this spot. There are lots of surf breaks but only one pier. It would be nice to have that left wide open.


Frank Gormlie April 14, 2021 at 9:46 pm

Here’s the first mainstream report on the pier in response to Geoff’s article ( of course no mention of Geoff or the OB Rag):


Geoff Page April 15, 2021 at 9:24 am

This is why I no longer watch local news. Not only did they rip off The Rag, they got it all wrong in only 426 words. The errors are:

“That prospect is outlined in a 2019 pier inspection the city released this month.” The city did not “release” the report, that implies they provided it to the public on their own. We had to pry it out of their hands with a Public Records Request and that effort took three years and repeated requests.

“The city commissioned the report after a January 2019 storm damaged the pier, leading to pieces washing ashore.” Absolutely wrong, if they had even looked at the report or The Rag story, they would have seen this investigation started years before the 2019 storm.

“The 364-page inspection says seven of the pier’s pilings have significant breakage, while 25 percent of them have vertical cracks. Plus, there is severe damage to the piling caps.” What the hell is significant “breakage?’ Apparently, they did not bother to look up “spalling” as the report stated. That is when concrete deteriorates and pieces fall off. The pilings aren’t broken, they need repair.

Taking The Rag story with no credit at all is really underhanded “journalism.”


Geoff Page April 15, 2021 at 9:37 am

At least KUSI credited The Rag in their report, which was a much better report. But, the link they provided just went to The Rag, not to the story on the pier. You have to scroll down through several stories to get to it. The interviewed Mark Winkie, the head of the OB Town Council, The Cafe owner, and some random San Diego resident. None of these folks knew anything about this until The Rag story but no call to The Rag.



Frank Gormlie April 15, 2021 at 9:51 am

I tried contacting local mainstream media yesterday to get them interested in Geoff’s piece and what it all means. I got recordings, endless phone rings – and not one human, and no one called back. Try it sometime; call the news departments of local TV stations – you cannot get through. Absurd, unfathomable, crazy.


Scott Hopkins April 15, 2021 at 1:06 am

Looks like we can add the OB Pier to the former Qualcomm Stadium as a structure that was allowed to decay due to “deferred maintenance” by San Diego government. What a shame it was to lose the stadium and what a disappointment it would be to lose the pier.


sealintheSelkirks April 15, 2021 at 10:35 am

Hey Geoff, what was I thinking? HA!

I was thinking that leaving the Cliffs alone might be a good idea! Move the damn pier NORTH, run the access to it up off Abbot Street past the lifeguard tower perhaps, more parking area there for visitors, maybe expand the current one? Or perhaps all the way down to the big parking lots on the north end of OB. It doesn’t destroy more of the reefs off Del Monte that was happening 80 years ago, and another big ugly concrete monstrosity sticking out into the ocean with blinding lights on it would (in my mind) be a good thing for the natural world under the sea… Where are the crowds of people going to park on the end of Del Monte if a new pier was there, and I’m sure the residents aren’t going to like dealing with the other problems that will come, either…

Have you looked through the 2014 OB Historical Society book Ocean Beach? My partner DP sent me a copy for my birthday that year along with the MB one and the historical Surfing in San Diego book, and on pg. 76 it has two 1941 pictures of the 2,000 ft. railroad tie steel fishing pier they were building before WWII going out to the kelp beds. No environmental consciousness then! I remember seeing the concrete foundations that were embedded in the cliff face sticking out alongside the old wooden stairway when I was carrying my board down heading to the Pier from my granny’s in the 60s… On pg. 81 it shows a positively gigantic stretch of pre-pier beach which obviously the current tidepools weren’t even in existence then being buried since the sand stretched west past the old swimming pool! Mussel beds were much farther out to sea in those days. But then the ocean has risen some since then…

The caption on that picture hinted that it was the pier that screwed that normal sand flow up and shrunk the beach…

So…my suggestion was to not make the same mistakes of 1941 & the 1960s! Imagine the damage that putting in another pier off Del Monte, wrecking the kelp bed and reefs out there, And look how far out the waves were breaking in both pics while they were building it. The top picture had to have been huge surf due to the hazy distance shown, and the bottom photo with 300 feet of pier done was a big mushy left breaking still way off the end!

So that’s my two cents. Move the pier north, leave the Cliffs and reefs alone! Makes sense to me.

And sorry they didn’t credit you with all the legwork you did, or the RAG for publishing it. But what do you RAG folk expect not being part of the neoliberal conservatives-owned corporate MSM that rules San Diego media?? You don’t follow the rules and do what you’re told by the wealthy…and KEEP IT UP! There’s enough butt kissers in that town that certainly needs more doses of reality handed to it!



Frank Gormlie April 15, 2021 at 1:15 pm

Just watched the Fox5News report on the pier; mainly an interview with Denny Knox, head of OBMA; we understand KPBS will be having a report also. Okay, so that’s 4 stations or media outlets on the story: NOT ONE HAS CALLED GEOFF PAGE or the OB RAG for info. I did speak with 3 people at Channel 10 – including the news director – and complained about their inaccuracies in yesterday’s vid report.


Jan Michael Sauer April 15, 2021 at 8:54 pm

I am super bummed by this . I was planning a San Diego/Ocean Beach vacation sometime later this year and was looking forward to checking out the pier . Oh well , at least I can still check out the surfing , fish tacos and the legal cannabis . I really hope that it is at least repaired .


nostalgic April 16, 2021 at 7:21 am

We must be careful what we wish for. The Ocean Beach Redevelopment Agency (OBRA) may be in our future. Drive through Little Italy or downtown to see what may be the vision of what OB could be. I can remember when Broadway was full of tattoo parlors instead of high-rises. San Diego used to be considered a Navy town. OB used to be considered as full of hippies. What future do others envision for this beachfront paradise?


Chris April 16, 2021 at 7:53 pm

Whether or not OB will remain OB over time remains to be seen, but San Diego is still considered a “Navy town” and that’s not likely to change. Unless all the bases close up, there will always be a heavy Navy presence and to a lesser degree The Marines. Pretty much every single resident of the city personally knows at least a couple people on active duty and more so quite a few veterans when factoring in family members, friends, neighbors and colleagues.


Douglas Blackwood April 20, 2021 at 11:05 pm

Aloha to the OB Rag, & all those doing the research & reporting.
Many respondents are very passionate about “The Pier”, and I am too: from the long lefts, to rip tides rights. Please: no branding on “The Pier”!
Having worked as a political fundraiser for 8+ years, my conclusion is: they are all pigs at the trough; not all, but a very large%. As soon as an election is won; they are raising $ for reelection.
Maybe if Donna Fry


Douglas Blackwood April 20, 2021 at 11:10 pm

Maybe if Donna Fry had become Mayor, SD wouldn’t have suffered all this neglect. She was too honest, and competent to be elected.
Just another retired surf dude. Mahalo to all!


Ken Jones April 22, 2021 at 10:59 am

Mr. Page, A great article even if a very sad one for me to read. I grew up in San Diego and the OB Pier (along with the Crystal Pier and Shelter Island Pier) was a home away from home. I first fished it in August of 1966 and have fished it almost every year since. In addition, I have written several article about the pier including that on my main website Pier Fishing In California (pierfishing.com).

The article — https://www.pierfishing.com/ocean-beach-pier/ — is primarily about the fishing but also, I think, shows my affection for the pier. I agree that the pier is iconic and it means a lot to me.

I have downloaded a copy of the report and plan to spread the word about the piers endangered status. If there is any way I, or my site, can help in the fight to keep the pier alive (because it is a living thing in many ways) just let me know.

Thanks again for the great article, Ken Jones


Geoff Page April 22, 2021 at 1:35 pm

Ken, thank you for the kind words. What you can do is spread the word as you have said. The more people who know about the problems the better. The pier appeals to lots of people who are not aware of the its condition, even people who enjoy it regularly because the problems are not immediately apparent. We need to let the politicians realize how much public opinion is for the pier, maybe that will cause some real action.


joe imbriano May 5, 2021 at 4:09 pm

Geoff, very nice research and work. Thank you for putting the light of day on this and hopefully enough light to keep this on the radar. If this goes it will never be replaced. We cannot let that happen. I fished that pier back in the 70s and 80s when we would go camping at Campland. I am an avid fisherman and I remember catching yellowtail on a splasher rig off the west end corner back in the day. They really let that pier decline.


Geoff Page May 6, 2021 at 10:09 am

Thanks, Joe. At the moment, it seems this is on a lot of radars and the more we all keep talking about it the better. It really is clear to see that the pier is near and dear to lots of people.


p_wilson May 7, 2021 at 9:24 pm

This is so typical of San Diego. There’s money in the budget for maintenance, but the maintenance never gets done. Pretty soon, the item needs to be replaced. It gets done, at twice the cost of what the maintenance would have been. And the contractors clean up. Again.


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