Disappointing Turnout for OB Town Council’s Pier Update — No Word on Pier’s Repair or Re-opening

by on May 26, 2023 · 1 comment

in Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

The event noticed here in the OB Rag on Tuesday, May 23rd, titled the “OB Pier Update & Discussion” came off as advertised. It was sponsored by the Ocean Beach Town Council and held at the Point Loma/Hervey Branch Library. As noted in The Rag “(and there’s plenty of parking),” was accurate, but plenty went unoccupied.

The advance notice for this gathering was, unfortunately, not well done as evidenced by the attendance. There were 12 people at the live event and three more attending virtually. While the OBTC’s effort was well-intentioned, the result was a missed opportunity, not a total loss, but underwhelming.

The OBTC has a Facebook page and the meeting video is posted there. It is not clear why the OBTC relies on Facebook when it has its own website. Many people do not use Facebook, posting to the OBTC website would make it easier to access. Hopefully, many more people will view the video.

To access the Facebook page go here and click on the Facebook icon on the bottom left corner of the home page.

The event consisted of a presentation by James Nagelvoort, City of San Diego, and a question-and-answer period. Nagelvoort is the Director of a group within the Capital Improvements Program titled Strategic Capital Projects Department. The group was recently formed to concentrate only on very large projects, such as the $5 billion Pure Water build currently underway. That project dwarfs the pier project.

James Nagelvoort

The pier project is titled Ocean Beach Pier Renewal on the city’s website.

Nagelvoort’s presentation began with some brief history about when the pier was built and the various engineering assessments the pier has undergone, the first happening in 1987, 21 years after the pier opened. He then gave a brief explanation on the pier’s current condition.

According to Nagelvoort, the pier did not sustain any structural damage during the winter storms. The damage mainly consists of railing, pumphouse piping, and parts of the pier café.  This information generated some questions about when the pier will be open to the public.

Nagelvoort said the city had held off assessing the damage until the stormy season was over. That was two months ago. He said they believed it would have been a waste of money to send people out to assess damage too early and then have to send them again if there was another storm.

However, in the interest of time, a pier assessment could have been done in April and gotten a major jump on the work of obtaining materials. Had another storm occurred, the cost of a quick inspection to see if anything additional was damaged, would not have been a lot.

Nagelvoort explained that, after assessment, the city would be “evaluating the necessary repairs” and would “assess the next steps.” His explanation of this was no more definitive than that. Nagelvoort did not know when the pier would be repaired and re-opened. He said he guessed the repairs would take about four weeks.

The city plans to repair the pier using city forces. This was disappointing to hear. Nagelvoort explained that they had city forces who had repaired the pier before. He said they only used contractors for any pier work below deck as the city does not have that expertise. But, he maintained the city could make the other repairs.

No city force can compete with private industry when it comes to getting a job done quickly. It’s like the difference between a 75-year-old carpenter and a 30-year-old carpenter. They may both get the job done but nowhere near the same amount of time. Time is what matters here.

A quicker way to get things done is called a Job Order Contract. Here is how the city describes this:

Job Order Contract (JOC): This type of contract is as-needed and is used for construction-only projects; engineering design is not included. The projects under these types of contracts may be of urgent or emergency need and for repair, rehabilitation, or new construction projects. Furthermore, JOC is typically used for projects that rely mostly on single trades, such as mechanical, electrical, or pipeline work that is estimated to cost no more than $5 million. The contractor that provides the lowest responsible and reliable bid for each JOC contract is awarded that particular contract. Each JOC contract has a fixed term, typically two years, and is currently valued at a maximum of $30 Million for the total of the projects performed under each JOC contract.

This writer went to a JOC bid presentation years ago and learned what these are. The city puts together a bid book with hundreds of units of work inside such as a one square yard of sidewalk, or so many feet of pipe, so many feet of fencing. Contractors bid unit prices for each unit.

When a job comes up, such as repairing a sidewalk and curb and maybe some pavement due to tree roots, the city and the contractor visit the site select the appropriate units of work from the bid book for sidewalk and curb and pavement and a work order is written for the total. The advantage is that the work does not have to be bid out and it can get done faster.

The city used the JOC to build the Dog Beach ADA Ramp to nowhere. It was done that way because the city believed it was under the gun to get the path rebuilt quickly and did not want to go through the bidding process.

Nagelvoort resisted the JOC suggestion saying it was far more complicated than that. He did not want to explain why right then and suggested talking “off-line.” Talking off-line does nothing for people attending a meeting who perhaps would liked an explanation.

The presentation moved on to grant funding explaining the $8.4 million the city got from the state. That money will be used for community outreach efforts to determine what the preferred pier will look like. Most of the money will be spent on a preliminary design, enough to go through the environmental permitting process and to pursue grant opportunities.

Nagelvoort then explained the future that includes entering into a design-build contract with a design-build entity. The most traditional construction contract delivery system is design-bid-build. It works as it sounds, the project is fully designed first and then put out for competitive bidding. Usually, the low bidder gets the work and builds the project. This delivery method takes the most time.


Design-build is very different. Design-build entities consist of a contractor and a designer working in a partnership. In design-bid-build, the designer and the contractor have separate contracts with the owner. Design-build results in a more collaborate relationship as the contractor and designer work together.

Design-build reduces a project’s overall duration because the work does not need to be fully designed in order for work to begin. For example, foundation work can start while design for the structure it will support is still being done.

Design-build can also provide a more solid overall budget for a project. Because the contractor and the designers are in partnership, conflicts between design and construction, that result in change orders increasing the cost, can be avoided.

In order for a project to go out for design-build proposals, it must be designed to a certain level so that the concept of what the owner wants is sufficiently clear. To do this, projects may be 30% designed before engaging a design-builder. This is what some of the $8.4 million will accomplish.

The successful design-build proposer will complete the pier design to 100% and will build it. This reduces the design and management effort for the city. It was encouraging to see the city has chosen this type delivery contract.

Nagelvoort explained, that there is no way to estimate the cost of the new pier until the preferred design is finalized after the extensive public outreach effort.

Regarding progress to date, Nagelvoort said efforts are being expended on an historical resource report and site investigations including surveys and geotechnical investigations. Work is also being done on environmental issues. An actual fishing consultant has been engaged. (There’s a job.) And, finally, outreach is on-going.

Nagelvoort then recounted what happened at the first community event held April 1st at the Liberty Station Conference Center. He said the most important thing that came out of the event was that there is now documented, overwhelming support for building a new pier.

The next big event like the April 1st one will be on Saturday, June 10, from 2:00 to 4:00 at the Liberty Station Conference Center, 2600 Laning Road.

This concluded the presentation and Nagelvoort then answered questions. Many of the questions were in the form of suggestions for having things like:

  • an educational component in the design
  • retail on the pier
  • public art work
  • having a wave energy generating system
  • underwater viewing elements
  • two levels, the lower for fishing

There was a discussion about making the pier part of an overall redevelopment project for that area of OB.  This is a dangerous idea. If the rest of the world sees this as an “Ocean Beach” project, it will suffer. The pier is a regional asset and should not be identified as an Ocean Beach project. Nagelvoort said as much in his remarks.

As Nagelvoort explained, they are part of a pier task force that includes a group of community leaders.

Sadly, only two people from that citizen task force attended. Corey Bruins of the OBTC was present emceeing the event. Ralph Teyssier, the son of the contractor who built the pier in 1966, was there as well. The mayor’s representative and the District 2 representative did not attend. Other community leaders on the task force also did not attend.



{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Frank Gormlie May 26, 2023 at 4:09 pm

The pier is too dangerous to reopen.


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