A giant sailing ship will be docking off Redondo Beach in the next few years and calling itself a pier.
The new horseshoe pier design approved by the City Council this week is supposed to give visitors the feeling they are on a turn-of-the-century sailing ship. Sails will fly overhead to provide shade. Light poles will be miniature lighthouses. Railings will resemble the side of the old SS Santa Rosa that docked off Redondo in an earlier age.
It's all part of a nautical architectural scheme that emerged after years of community wrangling over whether and how to rebuild the ill-fated pier, which was ravaged by storms and fire in 1988.
"It's about time," said Gordon McRae Jr., a longtime Redondo Beach resident who heads the adjacent Redondo Beach Marina. "To me the pier is Redondo Beach. If you don't have the pier you might as well be Lawndale."
The pier's architect, Edward Carson Beall, says the new design will distinguish Redondo's pier from all others and make the beach town an upscale destination point for out-of-towners. The nautical theme evolved from earlier Victorian, Mediterranean and wharf designs after a series of public hearings and workshops.
Before it proceeds to the construction phase, however, the plan must still win approval from both the Coastal Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers. City planners estimate that construction of the V-shaped extension onto the existing Monstad's Pier will be completed in 1993 at the earliest, with the shops and restaurants finished by 1995.
Voters in June, 1990, directed the city not to spend any general fund money on the pier, which will cost an estimated $7.5 million. Instead, the city will use $2 million from the California Disaster Assistance fund, in addition to Redevelopment Agency loans and tax revenues from the Harbor Center project.
To help lure visitors to the new pier and other Redondo attractions, the city also created a Visitors Bureau within the Chamber of Commerce. It will be funded by a 1% increase imposed last year in the transit occupancy tax, which translates into roughly $150,000 a year.
"We're trying to make Redondo Beach a known destination and not just a place between Long Beach and Santa Monica," chamber President Ernie O'Dell said.
"When the pier is rebuilt there will be a feeling of wholeness again," he said. "We've had a pier in Redondo Beach for over 100 years. It's been a resident of the community for all of our existence. It's part of the spark that brings people to the region."
The new pier, the eighth in Redondo's history since the late 1880s, will have outlines of marine life imprinted into the concrete walkways, a small amphitheater and a separate area for fishing. Other features include historical markers that tell the city's history, telescopes and touching ponds for children. Nixed from the latest plan was a carousel like the one at the Santa Monica pier.
Several shops and restaurants, which have not yet been determined, also will line the 60,000-square-foot pier. One possible restaurateur is Wolfgang Puck, the celebrity chef who owns Spago and Chinois-on-Main on the Westside. He continues to negotiate with the city for a prime spot at the pier's most seaward edge.
To prevent future storm damage, the new pier will be roughly 25 feet above the water, five feet higher than the old pier. The stakes supporting the pier will be wooden, but the base will be concrete to prevent any future fire from spreading.
"It's been too long of a wait," Mayor Brad Parton said after Tuesday night's unanimous council vote. "The people want it rebuilt. They've been saying, 'Just do it.' "
After the storm and fire damage of 1988, city officials and residents could not decide on whether to replace the pier. Planning began, however, after a court order and an advisory vote showed that a majority of citizens wanted a new pier.
Parton made replacement of the pier a campaign promise when he ran for mayor in 1989. He said the reconstruction will improve the image of what remains of the current pier, thought of by many as a deteriorated hangout for gang members.
Parton said he wants the new pier to project an upscale image--with such things as valet parking and an art gallery--rather than what he called the current "carnival atmosphere."
McRae, who heads the marina just north of the pier, said the reconstruction will put Redondo Beach indelibly on the map and reinvigorate residents and business people. The marina, which also suffered heavy damage during the 1989 storm, has just completed a $4-million face lift, he said.
"In Hermosa Beach there is nothing happening on the pier--a snack bar and some fishermen," McRae said. "The same in Manhattan Beach, there is nothing much going on. In Redondo Beach, whenever someone has visitors from out of town, we take them to the pier. It's the pulse of the city."
The reconstruction plan for Redondo Beach's battered pier still needs the approval of the state Coastal Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is expected before the year's end. A city building permit for the pier superstructure will be issued next year, according to the city's timetable, with construction ending by the summer of 1993. Other more detailed improvements to the pier, which will require separate city building permits, should be completed by the fall of 1993. The city and state are expected to issue building permits for shops and restaurants in 1994, with construction to be completed by mid-1995.