Environmental group sues to try to block consultant’s work toward Ocean Beach Pier replacement

The city of San Diego is pursuing planning to replace the Ocean Beach Pier.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

An animal-rights and environmental group has filed a lawsuit seeking to block the city of San Diego’s $8 million agreement with a consulting firm to start working on plans to replace the Ocean Beach Pier.

The suit, filed Nov. 15 in San Diego County Superior Court on behalf of the Animal Protection and Rescue League, alleges the city “failed to follow basic transparency rules or to consider environmental factors as required by state law” in proceeding with a study by Long Beach-based engineering consultant Moffatt & Nichol.

“While disguised as merely a ‘study,’ the contract approved by the city involves auger boring, drilling, sand excavation and other invasive activities that will also cause fumes and noise pollution in Ocean Beach, without any environmental review,” according to Bryan Pease, the attorney who filed the suit on behalf of APRL, a San Diego-based nonprofit.

According to the suit, APRL is “beneficially interested in protecting the environment in and around Ocean Beach … and preventing extreme noise and fumes from activity such as drilling and boring that would be harmful and disturbing to companion animals and wildlife.”

The lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop what the group calls an “illegal and wasteful use of taxpayer money without complying with the California Environmental Quality Act.”

Earlier this year, Kohta Zaiser, Mayor Todd Gloria’s representative for City Council District 2, which includes Ocean Beach and Point Loma, said a working group of residents would be created to convey the community’s desires for the pier during planning.

City spokesman Scott Robinson said Nov. 17 that the city had not been served with the lawsuit and could not comment.

Moffatt & Nichol is the same firm that in 2019 completed an evaluation report (released in April 2021) that said the pier had “reached the end of its service life.” The inspection found cracked pilings and erosion, particularly at the junction where the downward-sloping pier from the land meets the slightly upward-sloping section heading out above the water.

The original rebar reinforcements, which were standard materials at the time of the pier’s construction in 1966, are made of an uncoated steel that has deteriorated over time, leaving the foundation’s concrete pillars at risk of falling apart, according to the report.

The pier also was damaged by high surf in January 2021, resulting in temporary closure and repairs.

In October, the City Council approved the $8 million contract with Moffatt & Nichol for a study to begin the planning process for replacing the pier, considered one of the top priorities of a new unit of the city’s Engineering & Capital Projects Department named Strategic Capital Projects, which handles major public developments. The money was from was a state grant.

The city would like to begin construction on the new pier by 2026. The agreement with Moffatt & Nichol is to expire in 2028.

Of the three options for the pier offered in the 2019 report — repairing existing damage (about $8 million), rehabilitating the pier (up to $50 million) or tearing it down and building a new one ($60 million to $65 million) — Ocean Beach community leaders have expressed preference for the latter, saying a new, modern pier would last longer (75 years or more) and be more cost-effective than a major overhaul.

However, the price tag for a new pier is expected to be higher than the original estimate because of inflation and other factors. Pease said the cost would be closer to $80 million.


11:30 a.m. Nov. 17, 2022: This article was updated with city spokesman Scott Robinson’s statement.


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