MANHATTAN BEACH — This city is struggling to restore a cherished but weather-ravaged landmark, the 72-year-old Manhattan Beach Pier.
Although the 928-foot pier is owned by the state and maintained by Los Angeles County, Manhattan Beach officials are pushing for the restoration to enhance the city's waterfront and to end liability problems. The city, county and state already face a lawsuit filed by a Redondo Beach man who was paralyzed in 1984 when a 150-pound chunk of concrete broke off from the structure and hit him.
A chain-link fence was installed under the pier to catch falling concrete, and 30 orange-and-white barricades now warn visitors about the structure's deteriorated railings. Cracks are visible throughout the concrete walkway and siding.
Pier a Turnoff
The condition of the pier makes it an eysore, some visitors said in interviews. John and Peggy Eachen of Rochester, N.Y., who recently spent a week in Manhattan Beach, thought a stroll on the pier would be romantic.
"Piers look so great on television and the movies, but this place is terrible," Peggy Eachen said. "Being unattractive is one thing, but the pier needs extensive repairs. It could really be an asset to the city."
Estimates for the cost of repairs range from $1.6 million for short-term restoration to $4 million for a new pier, but only a little more than $1 million in city and state funds is available.
The pier's main problem is corrosion of its steel reinforcements, said Michael Hays, project manager for the Los Angeles County Facilities Management Department. Chemical reaction between the reinforced steel and chloride salts from the ocean water and air causes salt ions to penetrate the concrete and attack the steel, causing the concrete to crack and fall off.
Last June, the department hired Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc., a Northbrook, Ill., consulting firm, to study the structure and make recommendations. The company suggested three options:
- Conventional restoration, which would involve the replacement of deteriorated railings and steel reinforcements, deck resurfacing and other structural repairs. The work would cost $1.62 million and be completed within two years. This would not stop the corrosion, and further deterioration would be evident within five years, Hays said.
- A cathodic protection system that could be installed during conventional restoration. Hays said this electrical process has been used on the East Coast to prevent chloride ion corrosion of bridges. Low-voltage electrical currents are sent through the steel reinforcements daily, causing chemical reactions that prevent corrosion. Installation would cost $1.75 million, including conventional restoration costs, and would take about two years.
- Demolition of the pier and construction of a new one. Hays estimated that a new pier would cost $4 million and take slightly more than two years to build.
Hays said the county is seeking additional funds before determining which route to take.
Manhattan Beach has alloted $900,000 of federal community block grant money for the project, and state Sen. Robert G. Beverly (R-Manhattan Beach) last year obtained $248,000 from the state for pier restoration. City, county and state officials agree that nearly $500,000 more must be found for even the least expensive restoration.
To many Manhattan Beach residents, the pier is an integral part of the city. Among them is Mayor Gil Archuletta, who recalled fund-raising and clean-up efforts by residents that he said demonstrate community concern. Two years ago, several hundred residents participated in a 13-hour pier beautification project, steam-cleaning the pier's walkway and repainting the roundhouse, an eight-sided building at the end of the pier.
Larry Wolf of Shorewood Realtors helped to raise $2,500 for that project from friends and business associates. The 20-year Manhattan Beach resident said he jogs 25 miles a week along the oceanfront and "couldn't help but notice the pier's poor condition."
"Since I am in real estate, I believe that my fellow associates should be involved in all efforts to restore the city's only historic landmark," he said.
Bob Parisi, a member of the city's pier restoration committee, established two years ago to upgrade the structure, said a recent golf tournament netted $1,600 and the Nordstrom department store chain contributed $11,500 for pier repairs. Donations from businesses, community organizations and residents now total $16,500 and will be used for aesthetic improvements.
The pier has also benefitted from the city's annual "private property week" in April. For the past two years, Byron Rife, director of the South Bay Board of Realtors, has organized local real estate dealers to repaint life guard towers, bath houses and the pier guard station.