San Clemente Opens Its Better-Than-Ever Pier

Times Staff Writer

Under gloriously clear blue skies, the San Clemente pier, severely damaged by a winter storm more than two years ago, was reopened Saturday in a brief ceremony marked by smiling faces and the kind words of several elected officials.

Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach) and Assemblyman Robert C. Frazee (R-Carlsbad) paid tribute to residents for their support and help in rebuilding the pier, which lost 400 feet of its 1,275-foot length to the wind and the waves on March 1, 1983.

Mayor Robert Limberg also told the crowd of about 200 spectators, beaming in a wash of 70-degree sunshine, that rebuilding the pier had united the “comfortable small town that we are.”

But the ceremony to reopen the pier, renovated at a cost of $1.4 million, drew a protest from a local electrician, who said the project could have been done better and at less expense.


Walter Webb, 57, stood at the foot of the pier passing out leaflets and criticizing city officials for paying an out-of-town consultant $42,000 to help plan the restoration. He also said San Clemente residents were not hired to do some of the work.

Defense of Contractor

San Clemente’s marine safety captain, Lynn Hughes, disagreed with Webb. He said the consultant, the Long Beach engineering firm of Moffatt & Nichol, had done an excellent job of figuring out how to restore the pier to prevent another disaster such as the one two years ago.

“These people are experts and well qualified. They’ve designed numerous marine facilities,” Hughes said. He said the engineers had done extensive graphic analyses and wave studies to make the restructured pier stronger than ever. Hughes said the wave studies found that the pier needed to be


raised about three feet to avoid being battered by huge breakers.

Part of the reconstruction, he said, was done in steel, to protect the pier from future storms. The old pier was all wood.

“We’ve built a structure that will very likely withstand a storm of considerable size, or even one worse than the one we had two years ago,” Hughes said.

Saturday’s reopening marked the second major reconstruction of the 57-year-old pier. It was rebuilt in 1939, after it was destroyed by a winter storm that year, and that remodeling stood until 1983.


Destroyed Restaurant

The 1983 storm also destroyed the restaurant at the Huntington Beach pier and the pier at Seal Beach, which was reconstructed and reopened last January. The Huntington Beach pier restaurant is being remodeled and is expected to be reopened in August.

An American Scene

Saturday’s low-key reopening dedication, attended mostly by middle-aged and elderly San Clemente residents, had a distinctly American flavor. The 1st Division Marine Band from Camp Pendleton played the national anthem to open the ceremony.


After the dedication, the band entertained the crowd with more music, concluding with a gentle rendition of “God Bless America” in which the director, Maj. Harold E. Whitney Jr., coaxed the crowd into singing along.