Structural Damage Dooms 24-Year-Old Venice Pier

Times Staff Writer

The 24-year-old Venice Pier at the foot of Washington Avenue will be torn down this year because of major structural problems, city officials said.

The city Department of Recreation and Parks has asked for more than $500,000 to demolish the concrete pier that has been closed since November, 1986.

The funding request, included in the department's five-year capital improvements budget completed last month, requires approval from Mayor Tom Bradley and the Los Angeles City Council.

Joel Breitbart, the department's assistant general manager for planning and development, said officials have no choice but to tear down the pier because engineers have determined that it is beyond repair. He said cracks have appeared in the structure's concrete surface and steel beams that support the 1,200-foot pier have rusted.

"Everyone has concluded that, at the very least, everything above the pilings has to go," he said. "It may be that the pilings can stay, but the . . . consensus is that the pilings will have to be torn down."

There are no plans to replace the pier, Breitbart said, although officials may consider that option if there is community support. A new pier would cost at least $4.5 million, he said.

"If there's no large body of interest to replace it, we're not going to replace it," he said. "It's a major capital expense and we all have literally hundreds of projects, each of which is competing for those dollars."

A group called Pier Pressure was organized about two months ago to see if there is interest in building a new pier.

Group spokeswoman Cathy Connelly said she envisions a pier resembling Stearn's Wharf in Santa Barbara, which received a face lift in 1981 after years of neglect. She said the group hopes to hire Hal Conklin, a Santa Barbara city councilman who led the effort to restore Stearn's Wharf, as a consultant if plans are drawn for a new Venice pier.

"It's an L.A. issue, not just (an issue for) the Venice area," Connelly said. "People like piers. It's like mom and apple pie. Who hates piers?"

Connelly said Pier Pressure founder Frank Maddocks is designing a Venice Pier logo for T-shirts that will be used to generate support for a new pier.

Aside from a small concession stand, the Venice Pier was never a shopping and entertainment center like its more popular counterparts in Santa Monica and Santa Barbara.

It attracted fishermen at dawn and romantic couples at dusk but was never seen as a community landmark.

"There was no constituency trying to get us to open it again," said Larry Charness, chief of planning for the county Department of Beaches and Harbors, which maintained the pier until it came under the city's jurisdiction last October. "There's been no outcry from the users of the pier."

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