People could be taking a short walk on what was once a longer pier. The Port San Luis Harbor District, which received ownership of the Avila Beach Pier in 1984, is continuing to explore options for replacing the structure as well as different avenues for fundraising.
The District contracted Netzel Grisby Associates, Inc. to do the feasibility study that was completed in 2017. The company came back with a few recommendations, one being to shorten the 1,600-foot pier to approximately 900 feet, which would dramatically reduce the cost of replacing the structure.
“The Port has been methodically working towards the replacement of the pier,” said Port San Luis Harbor Manager Andrea Lueker.
A non-profit foundation, Friends of Avila Pier, was recently formed to raise and manage funds for the replacement of the structure. The foundation is looking for individuals to assist in its duties. Anyone interested in joining the foundation can contact the Port San Luis Harbor District.
“The main purpose of the 501-C3 is going to be raise fund to replace the pier,” said Lurker.
The board has been in communication with RRM Design Group, a local employee-owned company that has worked on design major projects throughout California, to come up with a few preliminary designs the pier’s replacement.
Lueker said that the board is planning on holding a community stakeholders meeting in March. The meeting’s agenda will focus on the community’s input on the conceptual designs for the structure and the funding of the pier replacement.
“We’re going to have to raise a substantial amount. The estimate at this point to take down what’s there and replace it is about $10 million,” said Lueker but added the caveat that is a “very rough estimate.”
Another difficulty the project faces is the presence of [oil] plumes that still exist under the pier and the potential of disturbing them when piles are driven into the ground. The foundation will likely have to hire a company to monitor the site to ensure that the contamination is not aggravated during construction adding an additional cost to the project.
Additionally, money for grants and state funding may not be readily available. Many of the coast piers were damaged or destroyed from storms that rocked the coast in 1983. These structures are reaching their shelf life; wooden piles that support these constructions have an estimated lifespan of 30 years. Avila will most likely be competing with cities up and down the coast for these funds.
In June 2015, the Avila Beach Pier was closed indefinitely due to the reduction of structural integrity, the culprits, wear and tear of the sea and marine wood borers tunneling into the 1,651 foot long pier’s timber.
Last year, throngs of people gathered at the end of the pier to witness the unprecedented display of the Humpback whale migration. Liz Carraso was on the pier with her family and noticed the structure swaying and contributed the movement to people moving from side to side to get a better view of the whales. “We were there in the morning, we went out with my grandkids and my daughter and her husband and my husband. There were tons of people out on pier and they kept going from side to side to side,” Carraso said.
Dreizler was notified of the instability of the pier and closed it for obvious safety reasons.
Shoreline Engineering, Inc. of Morro Bay was contracted to inspect the pier. Shoreline inspected 700 piles and 111 bents. Piles are the columns driven into the ground and are essentially the foundation of the structure, while bents extend from the piles and give the pier additional support. The Avila Pier is composed entirely out of Douglas fir timber. The report states that approximately 27% of the piles inspected were rated at “Major” or “Severe.” A pile that received a Major rating has section loss of up to 50%. “Piles typically rated Severe have significant cross-sectional loss of up to 95% due to marine borer infestation or are broken off they received a severe rating or are broken,” Shoreline’s report states. Of the 9% that received a “severe” rating, 21 piles were found to be broken and missing with only pile stubs remaining.
Constructed of the pier was complete in 1912 replacing the Peoples Wharf that was destroyed by a major storm, the pier has been repaired several times over the years. It was featured in a super bowl commercial in 2010 entitled “Whale of a tale” and was a stopping point for “The Great White Fleet,” a naval diplomatic peace tour ordered by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1908.
To view reports, studies and updates on the pier, visit https://www.portsanluis.com/2236/Avila-Pier
Story and Photos by Mark A. Diaz