Major renovation of the Ventura Pier--a $3.5-million overhaul needed to save the historic structure from possible destruction--could begin as early as this spring because of a successful campaign to persuade Gov. George Deukmejian to fully fund the restoration job.
While cautioning that studies are not yet complete on how to pay for maintenance of the pier in the future, Ventura city officials this week said Deukmejian's approval of the final $1 million needed for the job virtually assures the pier's salvation.
The next major step in what began as a citizens drive to save the pier from demolition involves negotiations between state and city officials to transfer ownership of the 117-year-old structure from the state of California to the city of Ventura.
"Now that the governor has signed the legislation providing us with the money needed for the renovation, I would hope agreements could be signed within the next month," Ventura Mayor James Monahan said. "The whole job might take two years or more, but the pier is definitely going to be saved."
Heavily damaged by a winter storm in 1986, the 1,600-foot pier was closed for more than two years before a 1,200-foot portion was reopened in 1988 after repairs described by state officials as "Band-Aid work." They warned that the pier faced total destruction without major renovation.
Early in the campaign to save the pier, city officials noted this week, the drive was led by the Ventura Jaycees and the Chamber of Commerce. A Pier Steering Committee was set up and collected 15,000 signatures urging full renovation.
While $1.5 million had been raised by this summer, the city's hopes for saving the pier rested primarily on a budgetary bill in the Legislature that would have included $2 million for the project, but that amount was cut in half by Deukmejian in July.
With the city still short of renovation funds by $1 million, the focus of the effort shifted next a campaign by state Sen. Gary Hart (D-Santa Barbara) and Assemblyman Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks) to have the extra money included in the budget for the coming year.
Monahan and other city officials praised Hart and McClintock this week for their efforts, while the two political leaders also praised the state Department of Parks and Recreation for endorsing full funding of the project.
"Frankly, it was not a tough sales job," McClintock said. "It was simply a matter of pressing a very meritorious issue. Henry Agonia, director of the parks department, was of tremendous help in pushing it with the governor."
Deukmejian's initial veto of full funding for the pier work had nothing to do with his views on the project, but was based on the fact that the earlier legislation had not been properly reviewed by the Department of Parks and Recreation, Kevin Brett, the governor's press aide, said Wednesday.
Review Final Studies
Now that the political maneuvering in Sacramento has ended, Ventura officials said the next step is to review final studies on how much repair work is actually needed and what facilities can be built around the pier to generate the $150,000 or so that will be needed for annual upkeep.
City officials said studies show that about 10% of the pier's pilings must be replaced, along with decking and wiring. There could be additional damage to the pier that has not yet been detected, they added, and the repair job could grow even costlier if winter storms batter the pier this year.
Even those officials who were initially skeptical of whether enough money could be raised to save the pier expressed belief this week that come more high water or not, there is no longer a chance that the structure will have to be torn down.
"I was really skeptical until the money popped up," Councilman Richard Francis said. "I am one of those who would like to save the pier, but not at any cost. I'm optimistic that the work now will be done in a year or so, probably starting with the first repairs in the spring."