Lack of parking biggest issue for Malibu Pier

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“If you build it, they will come,” was the motto at the Malibu Pier Concession Planning meeting on Thursday.

However, the lack of parking spaces clearly became the main concern as potential concessionaires brainstormed about the future of the Pier.

As it stands, no budget has been set aside by the California Dept. of State Parks and Recreation to acquire additional parking. Businesses could invest in it themselves, said Hayden Sohm, Superintendent for the Malibu Sector of the Dept. of Parks and Recreation.

The 100 or so parking spaces currently available were already too few 25 years ago; therefore, some suggested that a two-story structure be built to accommodate more cars.

This could be done at the current lot, but blocking views of the ocean may be a concern. Another option may be to use a vacant lot across the Pacific Coast Highway. The Pier no longer owns property across the street, however, and arrangements would have to be made with current property owners.

But to make the concessions viable, availability of parking is a key concern and stakeholders are making sure that planners take this concern into account.

Shared mooring for fishing boats and water taxis, a Pier shuttle bus and use of nearby Surfrider Beach parking facilities were some of the ideas raised to help solve the problem.

Other concerns, such as the impact of noise and increased traffic were discussed. A traffic bottleneck already occurs on PCH before the bridge at Cross Creek Road, and any increase in traffic, pedestrian or vehicular, would be a problem.

Possible solutions include a pedestrian overpass to access the pier if a parking lot is made available on the north side of PCH. A shuttle service from the Civic Center was also suggested.

Before the closure of the pier, annual visitation was estimated to be 350,000. In 1998 the state worked with the City of Malibu to reconstruct the pier.

“It’s a number one priority in the Angeles District,” said Sohm.

Phase I, working on the structural soundness of the pier, was completed in June of this year and Phase II is scheduled to begin Sept.

Phase II will be completed by December, unless unexpected problems come up. Phase III will include work on the buildings themselves, ensuring they are structurally sound so the concessions can make improvements that will accommodate their businesses.

Marsha Moss, Angeles District Concession Specialist, said that her role is to assist the district as they develop the concession contracts.

“This is the very beginning stage of that,” she said.

Moss said she will develop a proposal based on the suggestions made at the meeting. Contracts may be executed by March 2002, she said, and the concessions could open by June of that same year, but nothing is set in stone yet.

The group of participants at the meeting suggested that restaurants, sport fishing, a visitor center with a souvenir shop and tackle shop would be desirable for both the local community and visiting public. Malibu does not currently have a visitors’ center. Educational and nonprofit groups could take part in the venture as well, which could include local artists, so that the pier will have an artsy feel, not just a commercial feel.

So far, no decisions have been made as to whether the concessions should be under one master concessionaire or subleased to multiple concessionaires.

There are restrictions regarding adaptive use so the exterior of the historic buildings on the pier will not be altered.

Competitiveness between the restaurants on land and potential restaurants on the pier will also be considered.

Concerns about ancillary businesses and law enforcement were other issues discussed at the meeting.

The Highway Patrol controls the two lanes of the PCH while the Sheriff’s Dept. handles the parking lanes, so coordination is important. Two sets of plans will be drawn up, depending on the availability of parking spaces.

Public restrooms should be made available for the visiting public and a viable recycling program should be instilled, said one stakeholder.

Finally, a MalibuPier.com Website may be created to advertise the pier worldwide and inform local residents about the ongoing work and re-opening of the pier, which was constructed in 1945 and has 9,000 square feet of leasable space.

Concessionaires have ceased operating on the pier since 1996 after damages suffered during the stormy El Nino period.

“When we closed up I thought we were gonna close for two weeks,” said Phil Kemp, owner of the Sports Fishing business that was on the pier. “It’s been five years.”