Improvement project for Santa Monica Pier section approved by City Council
By Vince Echavaria
The Santa Monica City Council has signed off on an $8.2 million project to tear down and reconstruct a section of the historic Santa Monica Pier that has fallen into disrepair over the past several decades.
The council voted unanimously Jan. 22 to award the construction contract to Meek Shea, Joint Venture. Under the “municipal pier replacement project,” a 360-foot-long by 36-foot-wide portion of the 103-year-old pier will be demolished and rebuilt, from the high tide line to the westerly concrete pier area built in the late 1980s. The existing pier section was constructed of timber in the 1920s, and an infrastructure assessment study found that the area, with its pilings and deck, need to be completely replaced, staff said.
The replacement project is the final phase of structural improvements performed to ensure the iconic attraction’s preservation and safety for future generations.
“It’s the fourth phase in the whole process of bringing the pier up to the standard that will ensure that it lasts for another 100 years,” said Kori Jones, assistant to pier manager Rod Merl.
While some pier tenants have expressed concerns that the construction could impact business and keep visitors away, particularly during the summer months, Pier Corporation chair Judy Abdo noted that ensuring safety is the priority.
“It’s part of the plan to preserve the pier for another 100 years or more and it will ensure that people can enjoy the pier for generations to come,” Abdo, a former mayor, said of the project. “No one likes to see things disrupted but we all want to have the safest pier possible.”
According to staff, structural analysis of the pier section, which has degraded over the past decades, found that the area has a limited capacity to support emergency and commercial delivery vehicles. Underwater and above water inspections indicate that the wood pilings have deteriorated, staff said.
The construction will replace the damaged portion with concrete pilings, timber stringers and new wood decking, creating a highly durable structure in the tidal zone that requires low maintenance, staff said.
The replacement of wood pilings and decking will make the 360-foot-long narrow stretch uniform with other parts of the city’s pier, Jones said.
“We’re very pleased (at the council approval); safety and bringing the pier up to standard, making it uniform throughout the pier is definitely something our office is taking seriously and it’s at the top of the list,” Jones said. “It’s definitely a good sign that the council supports moving forward with the needed repairs.”
Public Works Director Martin Pastucha told the council that under the contract, the contractor will be required to complete the project within 240 working days throughout the year or it would be assessed a $6,000 fine per day beyond the timeline. The exact timing of construction is yet to be determined.
Some tenants near the project site argued that construction and closing off a portion of the pier could be a deterrence for visitors and impact business, especially during the summer. Officials at Pacific Park said they support the improvement project but have serious concerns about the timing, scope, phasing and public outreach of the work.
“The current project would directly and adversely impact Pacific Park, other pier tenants and members of the public, and impede pedestrian access during construction,” park officials said in a statement. “Although disappointed by the City Council’s vote, Pacific Park is eager to engage in substantive and productive conversations with the city to find solutions, mitigations and plans that address these concerns and are memorialized in a written agreement.
“Pacific Park is committed to creating jobs and economic growth in the community and preserving public safety and access for the pier.”
Pastucha said officials are meeting with tenants to try to address their concerns, including possibly delaying the start of construction past the summer, which is their most profitable time.
“We are looking at trying to expedite the construction of this project as quickly as possible. We understand there are impacts to the tenants and we are very concerned about the impacts,” said Pastucha, adding that staff are working to ensure there is adequate public notification of the work.
No construction will take place on weekends or holidays.
Jones noted that pier management and the Pier Corporation board have been working with tenants and the city to discuss ways to mitigate potential impacts, such as providing clear signage for where visitors will be redirected during the project.
“We’re making sure we have a really clear communication strategy so that people know we’ll be open during construction and what to expect when they get here,” Jones said.