Pursuing Innovation for the Ocean Beach Pier

by on March 31, 2023 · 1 comment

in Ocean Beach

By Nicole Ueno

When I was nine years old, I went fishing for the first time on the Ocean Beach Pier with my father. We didn’t catch anything, but I didn’t mind – it was the time spent with my dad that I cherished.

Years later, I would often take my children out on the pier and watch their faces fill with wonder as they looked out over the waves and surfers, little hands pointing at pelicans cruising past in a ‘V’ or dolphins playing in the water below. The pier holds many happy memories for my family and for countless others who come to marvel at the beauty of this liminal space between land, sea and sky.

Now the time has come to determine a new future for the OB Pier. After a series of devastating winter storms, the pier has been repeatedly closed due to structural damage and ongoing public safety concerns.

The deck and pilings are crumbling from the inside out as waves crack the concrete and expose the encased reinforcing steel to corrosion from saltwater. When the metal rusts it expands, further destabilizing the surrounding concrete. Colloquially known as ‘concrete cancer,’ it is unfeasible to merely repair the damage– surveys indicate that the pier has come to the end of its useful life and must be replaced.

This reality presents a once in a lifetime opportunity to reimagine the Ocean Beach Pier and envision a new life for the dilapidated structure.

The City of San Diego has created an Ocean Beach Pier Task Force composed of city officials, engineers, consultants, and community representatives to help determine the preferred alternative for replacing the pier. Outreach to the public will soon begin in earnest, asking citizens and community stakeholders to engage with the question of what a new Ocean Beach Pier could look like.

It’s a chance to rebuild the pier not only as a utilitarian piece of infrastructure from which to cast a fishing line, but also as a peaceful place to gather, an outdoor space to walk and watch the sunset, a venue to enjoy a concert or experience local art, a resource for education and research, a platform to expand the frontier of renewable energy, and a paragon of sustainable construction methods.

As the conversation begins on the best design for the new Ocean Beach Pier, it’s imperative that consideration be given to the many ways that the structure could be improved to better meet the future needs of the public. Community workshops are being planned to gather input on the pier, and to evaluate the benefits of innovative proposals that will fully capture its potential going forward into the 21st century.

These include incorporating a sustainable energy component to achieve a net-zero energy usage, along with exploring educational spaces and partnerships with local schools that will serve to inspire the next generation of ocean enthusiasts and marine researchers. Thoughtful planning of the areas surrounding the pier could help capture blue carbon and mitigate impacts of rising sea levels. Increased accessibility and new approaches to recreational activities might enhance the ways in which the pier is used. The possibilities are exciting and timely.

As a long-time Ocean Beach resident with strong ties to the community and coastline, I deeply value the OB pier because it creates public access to the water, allowing people to experience the power, beauty and bounty of the ocean. It’s also a flawed structure, with a design that creates structural pitfalls and hazards. The original investment in the pier was meant to attract real estate development, and was spurred on by sports fishing advocates.

The question in the current moment is: what does a forward-looking needs assessment for the next round of investment reveal?  As times have changed, the needs and desires of the community have evolved. By introducing new science-based applications and expanding the uses of this valued public space, we can bring a modern version of the pier into focus.

The Ocean Beach Pier is a great economic and recreational asset for the City and the local community, drawing hundreds of thousands to our coastal shores each year. Its design should be carefully considered to achieve the highest public good. Room for innovation must be allowed, lest we miss the chance to build a better, stronger, more efficient pier that we can all take pride in for generations to come.

Learn more about the pier project and find out how to get involved here  www.obpierfoundation.org.

Nicole Ueno is a Board Member of the Ocean Beach Community Development Corporation 



{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Christopher April 3, 2023 at 4:52 pm

Wonderful reporting, Nicole. Did the City Engineers and Planners assess the comprehensive impacts of Sea Level rising and Weather Changes in Ocean Beach? Constructing an elevated walkway the length of the beaches seems essential.


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