Looks Like OB and San Diego Have Decided to Replace the Pier, Not Just Rehab It – OB Planners Meeting

by on June 8, 2022 · 4 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

The centerpiece of the Ocean Beach Planning Board’s regularly monthly meeting on June 1 was a city presentation on the Pier, it’s current condition and the future.

The meeting was held at the New Break Church. Attendance was not outstanding. One District 2 candidate, Lori Saldaña, attended.

Note: The Pier is referred to as the OB Pier because it is in OB. But, in the interest of inclusion, the Pier belongs to all the cities in the region and the county because it is used by people from everywhere. Not to mention the tourists. Because the future of the Pier may be very expensive, it needs to be seen as much more than just the OB Pier. From now on, this writer will refer to it only as the Pier.

James Nagelvoort presented for the city’s new Strategic Capital Projects Department.  Nagelvoort explained that this new department was formed by the city to oversee large and complex projects like the Pier. This by itself was news.

This new group was researched because it was the first time this writer had heard of it. Basically, the city’s Engineering & Capital Projects Department is splitting into two departments. The new group is the Strategic Capital Projects Department, or the SCP. From the city:

The department will be splitting into two departments: The Engineering & Capital Projects Department (E&CP) and the Strategic Capital Projects Department (SCP). While the primary duties of E&CP will remain the same, SCP will focus on more specialized, large, and complicated projects such as the Pure Water program, dams and reservoir projects, the potential convention center expansion project, and others.

Sometimes, even the most mundane wording contains something that gets immediate attention. The words “potential convention center expansion project” jumped out of this paragraph. Not much chance the city will be building any dams or reservoirs any time soon but this administration is pushing the expansion project.

Here are more specifics:

The department provides project management expertise including, but not limited to, the direct management of City capital projects and the oversight of capital projects led by other organizations via an agreement. This includes a full range of services such as planning, designing, engineering, project and construction management, quality assurance and inspection, contract management (contractors & consultants), Project Labor Agreement oversight, and funds management.

These services are targeted to support the delivery of larger, complex capital projects that are beyond the capabilities of the Engineering & Capital Projects Department and strategic to the City’s Mission and Objectives.

The department will deliver capital projects through multiple methods including but not limited to: Design-Bid-Build, Design-Build, Construction Manager at Risk, Private-Public Partnerships, Agency Agreement, and more. Due to the complexity and unique nature of the capital projects, SCP is dependent on private consultant services. SCP will be working closely with the Engineering & Capital Projects Department to coordinate the City’s large and complex Capital Improvement Program.

After a career in the construction industry, this writer has mixed feelings about this, which will be the subject of a separate story.

Nagelvoort proved a hit at the meeting — handling the presentation well with a sense of humor. He provided background about the pier from when it was built in 1966 to 2022 when repairs are being made on two severely damaged piles.

The pier was designed to last 50 years but after just 21 years it needed an assessment and serious repair in 1991. The presentation showed there was another assessment in 2004, only 13 years later that contained a number of recommendations from engineers. None were done.

There were more assessments in the 2016-2019 time period and three more in 2019. 2021, and 2022. The problem was the city was only “assessing” the pier and doing nothing to address the many problems the assessments illustrated.

Because of a storm in 2019, some work was done but only to railings and utility lines, all above deck.  A storm in 2021 damaged more railing. Here was where the presentation went along with the city’s attempt to rewrite history by saying the 2021 storm caused structural damage to Piles 61 and 62.

Those piles were damaged years before and were neglected by the city. The 2021 storm just chipped off more concrete and made even more obvious the serious condition of those piles making it impossible to ignore any longer. The city keeps repeating the mantra that one storm caused the problems and that is simply not true but it does attempt to absolve the city of its neglect.

Some of the city’s pictures gave the wrong impression because of how they were shot. The photo of Pile 62S – 2021 shows the rusted steel inside the pile. The pile behind it looks seriously bowed, but that is an optical illusion.

After that, Nagelvoort moved to a discussion about replacing the pier. It seems the city and the community have come to an informal consensus that the pier needs to be replaced, not rehabbed.

Replacement would mean demolition of the existing pier at some point. If the new structure would go in the same place, the existing pier would have to go first. If the new one is set in a different location, demolition could take place once the new pier was open. It might also be possible to build from the ocean toward the shore and keep some of the pier open while the seaward sections were built.

Before a new pier can be built, everyone needs to decide what needs to go into the design. To that end, Nagelvoort said the scope of the new pier will need to address things like climate change and sea level rise. The scope will need to include things the community wants such as an educational component.

Nagelvoort stressed that the scope needs to check off some very specific boxes in order to maximize chances of federal and state funding. There are various pots of money in the ether for specific things such as the education and the environment that can be applied for to build a construction fund.

The presentation was a bit misleading by showing a “Total Preliminary Estimated Project Cost:” of “greater than $65M.” This figure was from the “OCEAN BEACH FISHING PIER Draft Evaluation Report, dated September 3, 2019,” almost three years ago.

The report was very clear the figure only represented construction costs. When design and construction management are added in the figure is more like $100 million. At today’s inflated construction costs, it could be even higher.

The available funding in hand is $8.4 million, secured by Toni Atkins to be used on a new pier, not on repairs to the existing structure. Nagelvoort was asked how the current repairs are paid for, and he explained the money came from the city budget, the $8.4 million was not used.

The repair price tag to just two piles was a stunning $600,000. This is what happens when there is no maintenance. However, the figure felt unduly high considering the repair work only involved part of two piles.

Nagelvoort said he hoped the $8.4 million would be enough to get the project to a “shovel ready” condition. Ordinarily, this term means a project is designed and all permitting is done, it just needs money to start building. That was not exactly what Nagelvoort meant.

“Shovel ready” meant having a partially designed concept with some permitting completed and then going into a design-build competition. Design-build construction is when a contractor and a designer form a partnership that then designs and builds the project.

The client, in this case the city, provides only a partially designed concept showing generally what it wants done. The concept goes to the design-builders who provide proposals for a full-blown project in detail. The design-builders provide budgets and schedules for their proposals that the city evaluates for the best one. Very similar to the competition to redevelop the Midway city land.

The advantages of design-build are time and cost. Design-build projects move much more quickly, resulting in a time and cost savings. Another big advantage is that the design process includes the contractor every step of the way minimizing construction problems when the project is built, which also saves time from delays avoided.

So, the $8.4 million will get the project started, but clearly it is only a start.

Nagelvoort said the goal is to define a “preferred project proposal,” meaning one that hits certain requirements that would make the project a candidate for grant money. He said the city wants to form an Ocean Beach Pier Taskforce to work with the city developing the preferred project proposal. He said they are asking the OBPB to recommend two or three members.

There is currently a group of community members who have been meeting for over a year that was working with the District 2 council office.  Progress has been minimal because D2 did not do much of anything. This new interest on the part of the city was welcomed and seen as a positive sign.

The presentation showed the city expected the selection of task force members would happen this summer and meetings would commence this fall and continue through the winter of 2023. In the meantime, the city will need until late fall to finish executing a contract with the engineering firm of Moffatt & Nicholto do the preliminary design concept, the firm that has done all of the city’s pier assessments.

There are plenty of people who would like to be on the task force, anyone interested needs to contact the OBPB. The city wants ideas and suggestions.

Here is the link to the city’s presentation


Only one project was presented involving a property at 4953 Coronado Ave. This property came before the board in May and was described in The Rag story about that meeting.

Not much had changed when it came back in June. The main issue was a very tall wall the applicant wants to build between her property and the one next to it. The fence will only leave the neighbor 28 inches between his home and the fence. The applicant was unmoved and insisted she needed the fence.

There was a long discussion but the board eventually passed the project because it was all legal. If ever a project called for a symbolic no vote, this was one. Just because something is legal does not make it right.

Other News

Board member Tracy Dezenzo, who is also an Arts and Culture Commissioner on the city’s commission explained about a new experience involving public art at city parks. It is called “Park Social” and is described this way on the city site – :

Park Social, initiated by the City of San Diego, is the first citywide social-specific public art initiative and the only initiative of its kind in San Diego. Featuring eighteen projects by San Diego area artists and collectives, Park Social utilizes over twenty-eight parks and presents newly commissioned works that connect the park-goer and the park directly, providing a range of unique experiences and events. Park Social uses the park system as a platform to strengthen social connections and bolster a dynamic artistic landscape across the city.

[It was also the subject of a recent Rag post here.]

Kohta Zaiser, the mayor’s representative mentioned a few budget items. He said the mayor’s budget included $2 million to clean parks and restrooms and provide security in the beach areas.  He mentioned that they were working with Congressman Scott Peters to get a $4 million request into the federal budget for the OB Library.

Both items were a bit of a head shaker. Why does there need to be a special set aside of $2 million to do what a city is supposed to be doing already? Why is the city, with a budget of $1.7 billion, going to the federal government for $4 million? It would seem this money could be, should be, in the city budget.

Zaiser mentioned there is a new conservatorship unit that has been formed at the city attorney’s office. This is a very controversial topic complicated by individual rights in this country. This is basically a mechanism for removing people from the street who are incapable of making decisions about their welfare and providing care for them. Sort of like the Britney Spears case. The idea is well meaning but not universally popular.

Denny Knox of the Mainstreet Association spoke up and said her group is very much opposed to SB-972. This bill is designed to make it easier for street food vendors to get health permits for their street businesses.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie June 8, 2022 at 1:04 pm

This is the most complete and uptodate report on the current status of the Pier and moves by OB and the city to replace it.


sam h June 9, 2022 at 5:21 am

The City has never maintained any of its properties with regular maintenance, budgeted repairs, and budgeted capital repairs. The elevator modernization at Civic Center Plaza is being handled by E&CP and the project has come to a complete stop.

The City has no business handling the repair and/or replacement of the OB Pier – they will bring in the lowest bidder and it will be another situation just like Ash Street.


Kendal June 13, 2023 at 7:57 pm

This blog post provides valuable insights into the current state and future plans for the OB Pier. As someone who grew up near the coast, I have fond memories of visiting piers and experiencing the unique charm they offer. It’s intriguing to learn that OB and San Diego are considering replacing the pier rather than just rehabilitating it. This decision reflects a forward-thinking approach that takes into account factors such as climate change and sea level rise, ensuring a resilient and sustainable structure for future generations to enjoy.


Dave in Phoenix, AZ August 15, 2023 at 9:56 am

Thanks for sharing! I’m looking forward to making it back to San Diego soon.



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