Ocean Beach Pier designed to take the hits - even after some damage from waves, pier demonstrates its prowess
Published - 01/26/21 - 08:00 AM | 16170 views | 1 1 comments | 80 80 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Massive waves strike the Ocean Beach Pier in early January. PHOTO BY JIM GRANT
Massive waves strike the Ocean Beach Pier in early January. PHOTO BY JIM GRANT
Strutting its piling and decking 1,971 feet into the Pacific, the iconic Ocean Beach Pier reminds us of more than the strength of steel. Strong enough to withstand the restless lashings of winter storms after a half-century, why then, the fuss over a few washed-out railings?

Consider, too, the brawn of imagination, dreamers, and a community’s craving to fish in deeper waters, no boat required. An earlier pier at the foot of Del Monte Avenue took shape in the early 1940s but World War II gobbled the steel needed to finish it.

By 1965, pier fever crescendoed and movers and shakers on the Point Loma peninsula had ruffled enough city feathers to get the job done. The local firm of structural engineers and architects, Ferver-Dorland & Associates, designed the new pier. Opening day festivities on July 2, 1966, were celebrated amidst a mighty commotion of parade floats, bands, and California Gov. Pat Brown’s ribbon cutting.

Still today, fishermen, sunset gawkers, and hundreds of annual visitors crave a wallowing along the pier. But when winter storms come, sometimes railings get washed away and city lifeguards close the gates to pedestrians.

“Those railings are doing exactly what they were meant to do — wash away in high seas, lessening resistance of water hitting the pier,” says the general contractor who built the pier (he prefers we not mention his name for privacy’s sake). “Rails can be easily replaced, though at an expected cost to the city.”

The feat of building such a structure was unconventional. “We had to design equipment to handle problems. The whole idea of a fishing pier was to keep it as low as we could for fishermen pulling up their catch.”

Incidentally, engineer Greer Ferver, himself a fisherman, in his draft of the pier addressed the convenience of cutting bait on wider tops of the wooden rails.

“Ferver had done his underwater design study the summer ahead, noting four feet of sand on top of the natural sandstone layer under the area where we put the pier,” the general contractor said.

Midway through the build it was necessary to alter the original blueprint after an aggressive January storm washed out three forward pilings and nearly forced a costly crane into the water. Keep in mind that at the time, the pier was still under construction when the sea devoured portions of two, 30-foot precast concrete deck sections.

It was then discovered that the natural progression of winter tides took out all that sand from the sandstone ledge, which increased the height of waves that would hit the pier.

“To accommodate this revelation, the structural engineer redesigned the grade of the pier from the destruction point, or from where the pier bends up,” notes the contractor, “thus increasing the grade, or slope, by 1 percent to get above the surf, nearly two-thirds the length of the pier. All in a day’s work…”

Curious surfers were discouraged from the dangers of riding through the underside of the pier, but piles at this monstrous construction site intrigued nearly everyone.

The contractor holds rich esteem for the community of Ocean Beach, for its early tenacity for want of a pier, and its on-going affection of it. “Everybody loves that pier!” he crows.

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January 27, 2021
More about the OB Pier, including it's history and construction as well as it's designer can be found here...

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