What could the new Ocean Beach Pier look like? San Diego unveils three possible designs

Ocean Beach's 57-year-old landmark pier is planned for replacement.
(Ana Lombrozo)

The public gets a look at preliminary concepts during a community workshop as the iconic pier is reimagined for the first time in its 57 years.


After more than five decades, the iconic Ocean Beach Pier is being reimagined, and the city of San Diego unveiled three preliminary design concepts Sept. 9 for the public to weigh in on.

The presentation at the Liberty Station Conference Center in Point Loma was the third in a series of community workshops intended to get the public’s input on a long-term solution for the structure.

About 180 people attended the workshop, where they had the opportunity to speak with project designers, view the renderings and place stickers next to their preferred design elements. Officials also presented three ways the pier could connect with land.

Some visitors chatted about how they liked the amount of seating offered in one design and the shade offered in another. One expressed excitement about upgrades while emphasizing that fishing options should remain as flexible and accessible as they are now.

Ocean Beach resident Daniel Gussman hits the beach every day to surf and enjoy the pier with his wife and two daughters. He said he’s excited about the investment in the community and that certain elements — like more transparent railings so small children can see the ocean — sound intriguing.

“It’s really hard to weigh one most important thing — anything different than today is like exciting to me,” he said.

People at a Sept. 9 workshop attach stickers to renderings to show their preference for potential pier design features.
Audience members at a Sept. 9 public workshop attach stickers to renderings to show their preference for potential design features of a replacement for the Ocean Beach Pier.
(Tyler Faurot)

In addition to recreational amenities incorporated into each concept, the reconstruction of the pier will account for rising sea levels.

A report completed in 2019 by Long Beach-based advisory firm Moffatt & Nichol determined the landmark had “reached the end of its service life” and gave the city three options: Repair the now 57-year-old pier, rehabilitate it or replace it.

San Diego officials determined that replacement is the best option considering “the ongoing costs of repairs, the need to modernize the existing facility and the anticipation of future sea-level rise,” according to a city statement.

Though the pier has undergone periodic repairs — including this year, when it was closed from Jan. 6 to July 1 because of damage from high surf — that has only put off the inevitable, officials said.

Ocean Beach community leaders also have expressed preference for a new pier with modern materials, saying it would last longer (75 years or more) and be more cost-effective than a major overhaul.

The city is now working with Moffatt & Nichol on what is called the Ocean Beach Pier Renewal project.

The three designs presented at the workshop were meant to be a jumping-off point for San Diegans to offer feedback on the elements they want to see in the new pier.

“At the end, we are designing and creating this project for the Ocean Beach community and the whole of San Diego,” said Elif Cetin, the city’s assistant director of strategic capital projects. “The best way to do that is to hear from them.”

Rick Espana, principal architect for Roesling Nakamura Terada Architects
Rick Espana, principal architect for Roesling Nakamura Terada Architects, talks to people attending the Sept. 9 workshop for their feedback about Ocean Beach Pier design options.
(Tyler Faurot)

A survey of more than 500 people indicated that the top retail and dining feature people want on the pier is the historical Walking on Water Cafe. The top three amenities respondents said would enhance their pier experience were upgraded restrooms, accent lighting and fishing spaces.

San Diegans also can share their opinions through an online survey that will be open until Monday, Oct. 9, at surveymonkey.com/r/OceanBeachPierRenewal.

The next public meeting and presentation of a preferred design concept is expected “sometime between February and April of next year,” according to Matthew Martinez, vice president of Moffatt & Nichol.

The current planning and engineering phase of the project is backed by $8.4 million in state funding. The estimated total cost will be determined after a design is chosen.

The 2019 report estimated that tearing down the pier and building a new one would cost $60 million to $65 million, but the price tag now is expected to be higher because of inflation and other factors.

The city plans to pursue state and federal money for the project.

The three design alternatives presented at the meeting resemble the “T” shape of the existing fishing pier, with some augmentations. Scott Jordan, principal of Civitas, a Denver-based design studio working on the concepts alongside Roesling Nakamura Terada Architects of San Diego, said they used the original pier layout to pay homage to the pier’s legacy.

Here are the three preliminary designs:


The Squint Test

The Squint Test design closely resembles the current structure of the pier but is about 8 to 10 feet wider. It features a straight walkway to the end of the pier and an “infinity plaza” offering an unobstructed view of the open ocean. The plan also includes a fishing deck around the pier’s cafe. A new building with upgraded restrooms could provide more retail or community space.

Jordan said this concept leans into the current everyday uses of the pier. He added that the designers were intentional about making the pier accessible and preserving the long ocean views the structure is known for.


The Remora

The Remora design builds on the original pier by adding elements that emphasize viewing and experiencing the ocean. Part of the inspiration comes from the symbiotic relationship between the Remora fish and the sharks they attach themselves to.

The concept includes angled extensions along the sides of the pier, a surfers lounge area and fishing amenities. There also would be a dedicated area accessible via a gate for Junior Lifeguards participating in the traditional OB Pier Jump. Currently, kids have to climb over a railing before taking the plunge.

That’s in addition to an expanded deck for outdoor dining at the Walking on Water Cafe and an expanded plaza with a small retail pavilion.


The Braid

The Braid concept — described by designers as the most “bold” — offers a pier structure distinct from any other in Southern California, including the Ocean Beach Pier’s current design. Though it maintains the long, linear experience of the current landmark, it diverges into different levels of interconnected pathways.

This option emphasizes ocean views at different elevations and has two curvy arms that extend the pier farther into the ocean. It would offer upgraded bathrooms, potential retail, dining and community spaces, and lower-level fishing areas.

Jordan said this design is intended to gauge how much innovation the public would welcome.

“Some of these ideas are pushing some boundaries, so we want to know if people are comfortable with that, if they like it or if they don’t like it,” he said. “The Braid idea is pushing a little bit beyond what the current pier is like today, so we want to know if that resonates or if really any of these ideas resonate or will we have to start over again.”

The presentation also exhibited an option to add more retail spaces and parking in the area of the Newport Avenue pier parking lot.

A rendering shows an option for adding retail space at the Newport Avenue pier parking area.
(City of San Diego)

Jordan said the costs of maintaining potential new amenities at the pier could be offset by the additional retail but that it is too early to pin that down.

“People seem to care and want the pier to continue on in some form, so we’re trying to figure out what the right level of continuing on would be,” Jordan said. “People seem to want change, and there is not any hostility. People are just sharing their ideas.”

A lawsuit filed in November challenging the project has not stopped the planning and predesign analysis.

The suit, filed on behalf of the Animal Protection and Rescue League, an animal-rights and environmental group, sought to block San Diego’s agreement with Moffatt & Nichol to start working on a pier replacement plan, alleging the city “failed to follow basic transparency rules or to consider environmental factors as required” under the California Environmental Quality Act.

“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,” Bryan Pease, the attorney who filed the suit on behalf of APRL, said at the time.

Pease told the Point Loma-OB Monthly in September that his firm was “still working on preparing the administrative record so the [case] can be heard.”

“We’ve been keeping an eye on it to see if the city tries to cause any physical impact to the surrounding environment without conducting the proper review,” he said. “The bottom line is they are conducting more than just a ‘study’ here ... and it will involve alteration to the physical environment that should have been reviewed and disclosed.”


3:30 p.m. Sept. 11, 2023: This article was updated with more information and comments.