OB Pier: A Storied History, and a New Pier?

What do you think of when you first think “Ocean Beach”? The weekly market on Wednesdays? Dog Beach? Sunset Cliffs? What about the pier?

The Ocean Beach pier has been an iconic landmark of the area for over 50 years. Originally known as the “San Diego Fishing Pier”, the OB Pier has quite the history. Measuring in at 1,971 feet, it is the second longest pier on the West Coast, and the longest concrete pier in the world! Today the pier is visited by over half a million people each year.

After a few different iterations and attempts in other nearby locations, The Ocean Beach Pier’s current location was chosen. Due to rough waters, and keeping with the spirit of OB, the pier was built from the shore out, as opposed to most piers being built from the ocean inward. Waves caused by an earthquake near Japan halted construction by destroying three concrete support beams and nearly wiped out a crane. The pier then had a vertical incline added to its design to alleviate future stress of large waves.

As construction was still underway, the community of Ocean Beach liked the idea so much they raised over $100,000 in funding to extend the southern bank by an additional 167 feet (making the ‘T’ 193’ on the north side and 360’ on the south). Once complete, over 7,000 people attended the grand opening in 1966 where the ribbon was cut by then California Governor Pat Brown. The grand event also included a parade including Naval and Marine marching bands, the San Diego Unicycle Clowns, and an animated “Anti-Litter Pelican”.

Continuing its storied history, when it was first opened, the first three fish caught were a perch, a gray shark, and a crab, but as the days passed by, many fisherman complained there were not enough fish in the area and bites on their lines were few and far between. What turned out to be a genius, if not unusual, solution was made to dump junkyard cars to the water beneath the pier. Fish wound up flocking to the new manmade habitat. Nowadays, one can catch herring as well as mackerel, bass, yellowtail, halibut, and more.

The ocean, though traditionally viewed as calming and tranquil, is also powerful and uncaring. Throughout the years the Ocean Beach pier has weathered the storms and taken its share of beatings. The planks and railings have been destroyed and washed up onto Newport requiring temporary closures of the pier as repairs are made. The structural beams are becoming corroded as well and general degradation is causing the pier to need more and more renovations.

Tattoo by Dan Collins

There have been countless talks on the long term life of the pier on whether it should be rebuilt, renovated, or removed. The short-term fixes that have been made have worked for now, but recent reports on the pier haveconcluded that it has reached the end of its service life (already outlasting its planned life by 6 years). No matter which route is chosen, it will be a costly endeavor so the city is weighing the benefits of the different paths as no one wants to have it wind up condemned and becoming an eyesore.

Luckily, city directors and the local OB Planning Committee have plans to rebuild! With an estimated cost upwards of $65 million dollars, the new project does not come cheap. To help with the costs, there are talks of adding a marine turbine powered by the tides, a marine lab, or possibly even a surf museum. The city also received over $8 million dollars already from the state budget, and that should be enough to bring the new pier to the point where it becomes eligible for federal funding, further softening the blow.

Replacing a world-famous attraction is not easy. The design committee has already begun working on the replacement plan. This winter they will hire a consultant and contractor to begin the design as well as estimate cost, environmental impact, and all other factors related to a full rebuild.

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