The Future of the OB Pier

Ocean Beach Pier at Sunset. Photo Credit to Tessa Balc.

The Ocean Beach (OB) Municipal Pier has been closed since October 2023 as a result of the structural damage it has undergone from numerous storms that have hit San Diego, California. A notice has been posted at the site detailing that a claim has been filed for demolition with the city of San Diego. 

The OB Pier is known as the longest concrete pier on the West Coast. Standing since July 2, 1966, the pier has been a waterfront staple for the community of Ocean Beach. 

Historically known as a sportfishing pier, the landmark has attracted fishermen, locals and tourists for decades. 

Information on the history of the pier along with the recent damage can be found on the city’s website. Due to the intensity of the marine environment, the pier had to receive maintenance regularly during the first 25 years of its existence. No rehabilitation of the structure was needed up until 1991. 

Over the years, the pier has temporarily closed due to damage but was closed in October and has not reopened since. Numerous storms, including those resulting in county-wide weather alerts, have added damage to the pier following its closure.

In early January, the king tides (which are known to be the highest tides of the year to hit California shores) took out one of the pier’s support structures. Standing 57 years, the pier hasn’t been in ideal shape for a while but has now been closed out of concern for community safety.

Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU) biology professor Mike Mooring stated his thoughts on what the notice means for the future of the pier.

“From what I understand, the pier will likely be demolished and rebuilt, but there is a lengthy process before that happens,” Mooring said via email. “The notice of demolition was simply the first, required step that must initiate an environmental assessment and recommendation for building a new pier. ”

Climate change has also played a part in the damage to the pier, Mooring said. 

“I also read numerous references to the fact that increased sea level and bigger waves due to climate change have contributed to the damage of the pier,” Mooring said. “There is scientific evidence that the wave force and size on California’s coast has increased, and with it the damage to piers. The OB Pier is not the only pier that is in trouble due to age and increased wave damage.”

The pier being closed has been heartbreaking for locals and PLNU students who reside in OB. 

Victoria Hector, a third-year psychology major, has lived in OB for the past year as a commuter student. 

“Honestly it’s pretty sad the pier has been closed but it does make sense due to how unsafe and unstable it’s become,” Hector said. “It’s hard to hear that a landmark of OB that my roommates and I love might get taken down.” 

The city of San Diego has released information about what is to come for the pier. In 2018, a study was conducted that can be found on detailing the three possibilities for the pier: rehabilitation, replacement and repair. The study is a 46-page public document and states: 

“Three options for remediation are examined: repair of the structure, rehabilitation, and replacement. There are economic, environmental, and historical issues associated with each option. While the initial cost of the repair option is less, the repairs will not address the continuing deterioration of the pier and the cost to keep the pier operational going forward will be significant.

Rehabilitation will increase the service life of the structure, but the cost is comparable to the replacement option and will change the aesthetics of the structure with the addition of large pile jackets. It will also result in extending the service life, but for a shorter amount of time than possible with the replacement.

Replacement of the structure will allow the City to design the pier for current seismic codes and address sea level rise to ensure the pier will be available for generations to come.”Since the publication of the study, the city released a statement on the damage of the pier on their website: “Based on the findings of a 2018 study of the OB Pier, the City has determined that pursuing a potential replacement of the pier is the best option considering the ongoing costs of repairs, the need to modernize the existing facility and the anticipation of future sea level rise.”