San Diego’s Ocean Beach Pier ‘has reached the end of its service life,’ according to new report

Residents walking down the Ocean Beach pier in June.
The 55-year-old pier in Ocean Beach has significant deterioration that could cost the city of San Diego $30 million to $50 million to rehabilitate, according to a 2019 city report released this month.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / San Diego Union-Tribune)

A newly released report shows that San Diego’s iconic Ocean Beach Pier has suffered significant deterioration over the last 55 years and, despite multiple attempts to repair it, the end of the road could be near.

However, city officials said Thursday, they have since made some repairs and are reassessing more recent damage. They will update the report before deciding the pier’s future.

The report was completed by the advisory firm Moffatt & Nichol in 2019, but it was only recently released to the news media. It makes the case that the pier “has reached the end of its service life.”


“Corrosion in the reinforcing steel has initiated and the structure will continue to degrade unless corrective action is taken,” the report said.

City officials said Thursday night that the pier has been damaged multiple times since that draft of the report was completed, and it requires further investigation. The report will be updated once that assessment is complete, said city spokesman Alec Phillipp.

For now, the city is planning to continue repairs, he said. The pier is closed at the moment.

“The city continues to move forward with the design of a future capital improvements program project that will repair and replace much of the structural components that have or soon will exceed their useful life while addressing rising sea levels caused by climate change,” Phillipp said in an email.

In the upcoming weeks, city crews will repair railings on the deck, Phillipp said. Columns and other structures under the pier, from the shore to the bait shop, also need repair but are structurally sound enough for public access, he said.

The 364-page report explains that the city has three options for the pier: repair, rehabilitate or replace.


Repairing the pier’s columns is the cheapest option, about $8 million, but it will not address the deterioration, according to the report.

Waves crash over the Ocean Beach pier on Monday, January 11
Waves crash over the Ocean Beach pier on Jan. 11, damaging the structure.
(Jim Grant / For the San Diego Union-Tribune)

Rehabilitation will increase the life of the pier, but it’s estimated to cost $30 million to $50 million.

The city also could replace the entire pier, but that could cost $60 million, according to the report.

Ocean Beach residents and businesses leaders said they were surprised to learn about the report’s findings from a story in the neighborhood’s newspaper, OB Rag, and not from elected officials.

“It’s surprising that the city tried to keep this under wraps,” said Mark Winkie, president of the Ocean Beach Town Council, a nonprofit that advocates for the community.


He said it’s disappointing the city has not taken a more aggressive approach to fixing the pier because it’s a large tourist destination. The pier gets about 500,000 visitors a year. It also draws business for local storefronts.

Denny Knox, executive director of the Ocean Beach MainSteet Assn., said business leaders and owners are at a loss for words.

“This is devastating to our businesses and so many thousands of people who use the pier and walk through the business district,” said Knox.

Knox said she wishes the city had been more forthcoming about the report when it was released. She learned of it only Wednesday, she said.

For those who live in Ocean Beach or frequently visit the pier, it’s not surprising that there are issues, Winkie said.

The pier was closed earlier this year after high surf caused railing boards to break.

Beachgoers stroll on the Ocean Beach pier
The Ocean Beach Pier draws about 500,000 visitors a year.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Before that the city completed emergency repairs in 2019 after a damaging winter storm. The city repaired railings and sewer and electrical lines for a total of $430,000.

Winkie said it will be interesting to see what approach the city takes, because even if immediate repairs are made, that will just be a Band-Aid for the structure’s larger issues.

“We just don’t want to see a closed, condemned pier in Ocean Beach for years to come,” Winkie said.

Councilmember Jennifer Campbell, who represents the neighborhood, said her office has asked for updates on the extent of the latest damage to the pier since it was first closed in January. She said she is in favor of a long-term solution.

“The assessment report that was recently released will provide needed guidance for next steps,” Campbell said in a statement. “The pier is a true San Diego landmark and has seen significant damage through the years. I will be advocating for a long-term solution and will continue to work with city staff and the mayor’s office to determine the best path forward for this beloved San Diego icon.”