Public Support Could Shore Up Idea of Renovating Venice Pier

Times Staff Writer

The deteriorating Venice Pier, scheduled for demolition, will get a reprieve while the city attempts to determine whether the community would support repair or replacement of the structure, according to Joel Breitbart of the Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department.

The state Coastal Conservancy, which finances restoration of coastal recreation facilities and wildlife habitats, recently offered to pay half of the $100,000 cost for a study on saving the pier, which has been closed for nearly two years.

Although the parks department has received $500,000 in its new budget to demolish the pier, Breitbart said the city will not raze the structure until the conservancy has conducted a public meeting on the pier's future. The meeting will be held sometime this year.

The 1,200-foot-long concrete pier was closed in November, 1986, after pieces of concrete fell off. County officials who were then managing the pier discovered that the steel frame of the pier deck was corroding. They determined that the pier could not be saved and that the $4.5 million needed to replace it was too much.

No Commitment Yet

If the public meeting determines that there is support for the pier's repair or replacement, Breitbart said it would be worthwhile for the city to match the conservancy's $50,000 offer to pay for the study.

If the study finds that the base of the pier is still intact, it may be possible to replace the damaged concrete deck for less than it would cost to build a new pier, Breitbart said.

But, he emphasized, the city will not commit itself to helping pay for the study until it can determine whether the community is interested.

"We feel the first question that has to be answered is: Does the community still think the pier is something worth keeping?" Breitbart said. "If yes, . . . should it be the same length, should it be the same width, should there be any kind of commercial establishment on the pier?"

So far, Breitbart said, the only contact from the community has come from members of Pier Pressure, a small group of Venice business people and residents who are trying to rally support for saving the 24-year-old structure. The group hopes to raise $16,000 to pay for a survey that will be mailed to 30,000 Venice residents, said spokeswoman Cathy Connelly.

Los Angeles Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, who represents Venice, is also waiting to hear from residents before she takes a position, said her deputy, Rick Ruiz.

Watched by Lifeguard

Galanter "is 100% behind giving the community a chance to have their voice heard on the pier," Ruiz said.

Lifeguard Jeff White, who watches the empty pier during the day from a small booth at its entrance, said the pier used to attract 500 people a day during the summer.

"I can't tell you how many people a day ask me to let them out on the pier," he said.

Two former regulars, Julius Polsky and Theodore (Ted) Rubenstein, are buddies who met four years ago on the pier, their favorite fishing spot.

"We had a good place here," Polsky said. Most of the 25 to 100 regulars "got to know each other during the last 10 years. It was a really nice gathering."

The two retired men--Polsky owned a tire store and Rubenstein managed a liquor store--do not consider themselves community activists. But, they say, they gathered more than 400 signatures on a petition during a recent 10-day period asking the city of Los Angeles to reopen the pier immediately.

Liability Risks

The city is not likely to grant their request.

Breitbart said any use of the pier would expose the city to substantial liability risks.

The county last year agreed to a $3.26-million settlement with a jogger who was struck and paralyzed by a 150-pound chunk of concrete while running near the 68-year-old Manhattan Beach Pier.

But Polsky and Rubenstein said the Venice Pier can withstand the weight of some retired guys catching fish.

They observed that their pier survived last winter's fierce storms, which tore apart a portion of the Redondo Beach Pier.

City officials "can run you around like nobody's business," Polsky said. "They said they are going to evaluate this and evaluate that. I don't understand what the hell they are talking about."

Rubenstein, who lives near the pier, said most of the people in his neighborhood want to save the structure.

"It's a landmark," he said. "It's the best fishing spot in the city."

"Ted," cautioned Polsky, a dedicated angler, "don't say too much about the fishing."

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