PIER Group Aims at Rebuilding in Huntington Beach

Times Staff Writers

A number of volunteers calling themselves PIER Group--Persons Interested in Expediting Reconstruction--have banded together to raise money to rebuild the Huntington Beach Pier, which was damaged in last week's storm.

"We're trying to get an artist to draw a logo for us, and we'll be meeting with an attorney to talk over legal issues about our group," said Julie Kotsch, one of its founders.

Kotsch, 25, helped manage the End Cafe, which, along with 300 feet of pier, fell in the ocean during the violent storm Jan. 17.

She said she and Tammy Dillon and Tom Bagshaw, also former End Cafe employees, decided to form the group because "we don't want to wait another 2 1/2 years to build another pier. We want to make sure we get a good structure to be proud of.

"I've been working at the pier since I was 15, and it does mean a lot to me."

Kotsch said several people have already pledged to join the group. "It's so new and fresh in everybody's minds," she said. "Everybody misses it."

The group is trying to establish itself as a nonprofit organization, she said. Members will be asking area businesses for contributions to rebuild the pier.

City officials have said that according to preliminary estimates, it will cost about $5 million for the entire reconstruction.

John Gustafson, the End Cafe owner, said he will join in the group's efforts. Gustafson intends to rebuild his landmark restaurant, which he lost once before, during a storm in 1983.

"If you have the American spirit," Gustafson said, "you realize your resiliency and get back up and do it again. I'm old enough to know that the spirit we had in World War II was mostly concerned about the job you had to get done. You didn't talk about costs, you just got up and got it done."

Huntington Beach officials are studying damage estimates along with various state and federal resources to help pay reconstruction costs.

Kotsch said PIER Group will work "as long as it takes." She said anyone interested in joining the group should attend a meeting next Thursday at 7 p.m. at Huntington Beach City Hall, Room B-8.

A meeting to discuss the group's goals will be held at 9 a.m. today at Pier Realty, 220 Main St., Huntington Beach. (For more information, call Kotsch between 3 and 5 p.m. weekdays at (714) 536-9326.)

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