Re-Pier progresses by fits and starts

Business owners near Malibu Pier, eager to see the aging structure reopened, were cheered by signs of construction activity that began last month.

After the pier was closed in 1997, when it was deemed unsafe because of its rotting substructure, adjacent property owners say their businesses suffered. A significant portion of their customers, they say, were tourists and residents who fished from the pier and from the Aquarius, a day-fishing boat that for decades had occupied Malibu youngsters and seniors.

Now, the only people using the sagging structure are Los Angeles County Lifeguards, who still need to use the pier to launch their small motor boat to access the Baywatch anchored nearby.

According to Malibu Sector Superintendent Hayden Sohm, local contractor Darian Construction, the apparent low bidder, has more paperwork to do to qualify, and some governmental approvals are needed before the work can start. “We’re hoping that will be completed sometime this month,” he said. “If that goes well, construction will start later in August.”

Meanwhile, the underground storage tanks used for the old fuel dock are being removed through an EPA grant. “They removed one tank and then they discovered another, and there were no plans for the additional abandoned tank that needs to be removed,” Sohm said. “We have to encroach on Caltrans’ right of way. We have to get into the sidewalk.”

When construction gets under way, the parking lot on the east side of the pier will be used for the contractor’s staging and storage area. “It’s anticipated that will be closed to the public for the duration of the contract,” Sohm said. “The county Surfrider lot in front of the wall and the Malibu Lagoon day-use lot opposite Cross Creek will remain open, and we will open a pedestrian access way from the sidewalk to the beach.”

While this may cause some inconvenience to surfers and beach users, Lifeguard Capt. Nick Steers said, “The important thing is that the state is going to do a beautiful job.”

The city was negotiating with state and county officials to renovate and reopen the pier on a 30-year operating agreement but abandoned the projected $2.9 million plan after the state Parks and Recreation Department told the city’s consultant it had appropriated $900,000 for fiscal year 1998-99 for Phase One of the project.

State Parks Director Rusty Areias announced during a tour of the area in June the state had accepted a low bid of about $1 million for the first phase. Construction was scheduled to begin July 1 and be completed within one year, after which the pier could be reopened at least to foot traffic. The full restoration, including the Alice’s Restaurant site and the old bait shop at the seaward end of the pier, would take more than two years to complete and would bring the total bill to about $4.5 million, funding for which is still undecided but probably would have to include participation of the city of Malibu and Los Angeles County.

The city’s consultant decided the project was not economically viable, as rental space on the pier would be inadequate to support the maintenance costs. Some Malibu residents opposed expanded use of the site because increased tourism would add too much traffic to Pacific Coast Highway.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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