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$31-Million Renovation Project : Storm-Ravaged King Harbor Begins Recovery

January 19, 1989|BOB WILLIAMS | Times Staff Writer

A year after the start of a series of storm and fire disasters, King Harbor in Redondo Beach is on the way to recovery, city officials and harbor business people say.

More than $31 million in private and public improvement projects are either completed, in progress or being planned in the effort to restore the harbor as a major recreational area before the city's centennial observance in 1992, Harbor Director Sheila Schoettger said.

"When all the scars are gone, King Harbor will be even more beautiful," she said.

Schoettger acknowledged, however, that the city has some major financial hurdles to overcome. The biggest is raising the $6 million needed to reconstruct the 60-year-old Horseshoe Pier, most of which was destroyed by fire last May.

'No Guarantees'

"I'm confident we can do it all," she said, "But there are no guarantees."

The City Council voted in September, after a community debate, to restore the pier. Some contended that the pier attracted gangs and caused traffic congestion, while others maintained that it was an essential feature of the beach community.

Thirty-two of the original 48 shops and restaurants are still in business on the south portion of Horseshoe Pier and the adjacent Monstad Pier. Merchants say the number of visitors has dropped 30% to 45%, partly because many people think the pier area was totally wiped out by the fire and three major storms last year. It is estimated that about 8 million people visited the harbor and 4.5 million visited the pier in 1987.

"There are people living within six or eight blocks who have not checked yet to see whether anybody's left here," said Chuck Milner, owner of the Pier Import Shop on the south leg of Horseshoe Pier, which angles off from the base of Monstad Pier.

Milner and his wife, Judy, lost a cluster of four other shops in the Edge Restaurant building when the north and ocean sides of the pier were damaged in the January and April storms and then finished off by the fire and more high waves in late May.

Milner said he and most other merchants plan to restore their businesses after the city reconstructs the pier.

Another pier business owner, Tony Trutanich, said his two restaurants--one on Monstad Pier and the other on the south end of Horseshoe Pier--incurred only minor damage and his business remains fairly stable.

But less fortunate shop owners have lost more than half of their customers as a result of the 1988 disasters, he said, partly because there are fewer places to attract visitors to the pier area.

Restaurants to Reopen

The January storm, believed to be a once-in-every-75-years phenomenon, also demolished the Blue Moon Saloon and heavily damaged Reuben's Restaurant and the Portofino Inn, all on the harbor shore north of the pier.

Restoration of those restaurants is in the planning or construction stages. Reuben's and the Portofino Inn are planning to reopen in June.

To secure King Harbor against future onslaughts from the sea, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to raise the south portion of the harbor's northern breakwater about five feet to the 20-foot-plus level of the rest of the barrier. The shorter southern breakwater will be doubled in length to 600 feet to head off waves at the harbor entrance.

The $5.9-million breakwater project, now in the design and testing phase, is expected to be completed in early 1991, with the city paying 35% of the cost and the federal government financing for the rest.

Schoettger said the city has applied for a loan from the state Department of Boating and Waterways to cover its share of the breakwater project, which was planned before the January storms.

Financing for the new pier, however, "is much less clear," Schoettger said. "We're hoping the state will provide about $2.5 million and we're still looking for the rest."

$30,000 Contributed

Possible avenues, she said, include a bond issue, a bank loan and contributions from businesses and individuals. She said those contributions have reached $30,000 without a major fund-raising effort.

A design committee is scheduled to select a firm by early February to draft initial proposals. If all goes well, construction on the pier, possibly using steel or concrete pilings instead of wood, could start late this year or in early 1990, Schoettger said.

"When we have the whole package put together, including designs and the financing we'll need, I think the project will become much more real to people," she said.

Schoettger said there is broad community support for rebuilding the pier, but residents differ on how large it should be and how much of it should be devoted to businesses. The city will ask the design firm for three options:

One would provide less than the 21,500 square feet of commercial space lost in 1988.

The second would provide the same amount of commercial space available at the old pier.

The third would have the same amount of business space, plus about 6,000 square feet for some type of public building.

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