A 68-year-old building at Pacific Coast Highway and Main Street in the downtown area was cordoned off from pedestrian traffic Monday after one of its brick walls started bulging outward.
City officials said no bricks actually fell from the building, which houses Jack’s Surfboards, and no one was hurt. But they said that because the structure looked as if a partial collapse might be possible, the sidewalk was sealed off by yellow tape. Two upstairs apartments in the two-story structure also were evacuated.
“We don’t know what caused it,” said Deputy Fire Marshal Dennis Groat. “We’ve closed the area off to protect people from possible injury.”
The surfboard shop is somewhat of a downtown landmark, located across the street from the municipal pier and visible to thousands of motorists who pass by on Pacific Coast Highway each day. The old building is opposite the gleaming new Pierside Pavilion, a complex of newly built shops, theaters and restaurants. Pierside Pavilion opened this year as part of the city’s downtown renewal.
Jack’s Surfboards also is scheduled for some type of renewal, city officials said. They added that the bulging condition of the old brick building may now hasten a decision on whether to tear it down or try to restore it. Groat noted that the building, like most of the older structures in the downtown area, was not built to earthquake-safety standards.
Mike Adams, city director of community development, was at the scene, surveying the possible hazard at 3 p.m. Monday.
“It looks like face bricks are hanging out further than they should, so we’re going to double check and take all safety precautions,” Adams said. “We’re going to put a scaffolding up there tonight. We’re going to get engineers in here the first thing on Tuesday morning and make sure the building is still structurally safe. We’ve also told the occupants of the two apartments (that were evacuated) not to stay there tonight.”
Adams said there had long been a slight curve in the Jack’s Surfboards wall that faces Main Street. But he said the bow became a distinct bulge Monday afternoon, generating fears about the building’s safety. The bottom floor of the building is used for the surfboard shop, and the apartments are on the upper floor.
Adams said the downstairs surfboard business is being permitted to continue operation, but access to the store is limited to doors not near the bulging wall.
“This building has always been scheduled to be part of downtown redevelopment,” Adams said. He said no decision had been made whether to renovate the building to earthquake safety standards or to raze it and build a new structure.
The building’s owner, Mike Abdelmuti, said the building was constructed in 1922, during the early heydays of the Huntington Beach oil boom.