Reviving iconic Ocean Beach Pier: Engaging community through public workshops


Francesca Clark/The Mesa Press

The sun sets over the Ocean Beach Municipal Pier before its closure to the public.

Francesca Clark, Staff Writer

The Ocean Beach Pier Renewal Project is organizing a series of public workshops, which will offer an open platform for community members to share their ideas for restoring the treasured Ocean Beach Municipal Pier.

Since its opening in 1966, the Ocean Beach Pier has become a quintessential staple of San Diego, and an integral part of the community’s identity. Widely regarded as a prime fishing location, the pier also offers a remarkable vantage point for sunset watchers and customers dining in cafes. Aside from being the longest concrete pier on the West Coast, the pier is unique for its deck that extends both north and south.

Chasen Chess, local realtor and five-year resident of Ocean Beach, says “Ocean Beach without its popular pier would be like going to Paris and discovering the Eiffel Tower was missing.”

Unfortunately, constant exposure to the elements has caused a gradual degradation of the structure – costing San Diego millions of dollars for excessive repairs. Even after a major structural renovation in 1991, the pier has been impacted in recent years by rising sea levels and high surf.

In the spring of 2017, the City of San Diego employed Moffat & Nichol, an infrastructural engineering firm based in Carlsbad, to assess the pier’s structural damage. During their evaluation, Moffat & Nichol’s team of divers and engineers identified an excess of corrosion, concrete cracks, and soffit damage in various locations of the structure. The findings of the study were published in December 2018, in which Moffat & Nichol concluded that the pier had “exceeded its service life.” In other words, the pier could no longer be economically or safely maintained.

When much of the pier’s railing crumbed under the brunt of this year’s waves, the City of San Diego was forced to bar public access to the Ocean Beach Municipal Pier.

“It’s such a special place to me,” says Nora Zywien, who has resided in Ocean Beach since October 2021. Zywien says she would ride her bike down the length of the pier every night, absorbing imagery from the north and south ends. “I miss seeing the sun go down just a little bit closer, and feeling a little escape from the town.”

Upon the pier’s closure, San Diegans speculated about the landmark’s future – would it be repaired, replaced, or removed entirely? Public concern for the fate of the pier, particularly in the tight-knit community of Ocean Beach, prompted the creation of the “OB Pier Task Force”. According to the Ocean Beach Pier Renewal Project’s official webpage, the task force is comprised of nominated volunteers who will represent the community’s interest as the project develops.

With counsel from the task force, the Ocean Beach Pier Renewal Project held its first public community workshop on April 1. The meeting was commenced by San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, who expressed his reverence for the Ocean Beach Pier, calling it a “beloved icon of San Diego and Ocean Beach.” He acknowledged the need for a long-term solution for the pier’s restoration, as ongoing maintenance cost for temporary repairs on the facility is unsustainable. Gloria then introduced James Nagelvoort, Director of Public Works for the City of San Diego, and announced that Nagelvoort would be directing the Pier Renewal Project.

Nagelvoort’s speech at the first workshop detailed the structural and functional concerns of the pier that warranted its closure. With the severity of the damages, Nagelvoort informed attendees that while the Pier Renewal Project was exploring all options, complete replacement seemed to be the most effective long-term solution.

Should the city proceed with total replacement, measures would be taken to preserve the spirit and cultural significance of the original Ocean Beach Pier in the new design. “Now, it’s not our intent to build the old pier,” Nagelvoort says. “It’s our desire to build something that honors the past.”

At the end of the first community workshop, leaders from the Pier Renewal Project encouraged attendees to weigh in on a variety of topics regarding the old pier. A comment box was available for community members to “share [their] local knowledge of the pier and the surrounding area”, such as the best viewpoints and fishing spots. They also had the opportunity to vote on five features of the pier that were most important to them, and what should be prioritized when designing a new one. 

The City of San Diego, along with the Ocean Beach Pier Renewal Project and the Ocean Beach Pier Task Force, will continue to consider the community’s sentiments as the pier’s renewal proceeds. In collaboration with Moffat & Nichol’s team of trained engineers and designers, the City is taking active steps in restoring the pier to be economical and functional for the public.

The decision to completely replace the pier has not been made official yet, and community members still have the opportunity to make their voices heard.

The Ocean Beach Pier Renewal Project is accepting comments or questions via their email,, or an entry form on their website. The site offers videos from their last community workshop, as well as the tentative timeline for the project.

The second community workshop will be held at 2600 Laning Road, San Diego, 92106, on June 10, from 2 to 4 p.m. Speakers will present at 2 p.m., followed by a series of interactive workshops for attendees.

Ocean Beach Municipal Pier’s railings damaged during period of high surf in January 2023. Photo by Ocean Beach Pier Renewal Project.