Pacific Beach’s Crystal Pier reopens after report deems it safe for public use

An arieal view of Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach on Friday, May 5, 2023.
(Sandy Huffaker/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The Pacific Beach pier was shuttered in March after winter storm damage was noticed; a consultant’s inspection determined that the pier was safe for public use while repairs are planned.


Pacific Beach’s Crystal Pier was reopened Saturday after being partially closed to the public for nearly two months.

The owners of the Crystal Pier cottages had closed off the final stretch of the 871-foot pier in March as a safety precaution because the structure appeared to be damaged after heavy winter storms hit the coast.

Public access to the end of the pier has been cut off for more than a month due to safety concerns by owners of the Crystal Pier cottages, which sit on a large stretch of the structure.

A consultant’s report released last week determined that although the pier did sustain damage during the storms, it is safe for public use while repairs are planned.

The cottages, which sit atop a large stretch of the pier and are rented out year-round, remained open.

Crystal Pier Hotel and Cottages is co-owned by the Allen and Bostian families and has been family-owned since 1961. The hotel is a city tenant and leases a portion of the pier for the operation of the cottages, but it controls access to the pier via its property.

Co-owner Willis Allen said Monday that after city officials sent him the 90-page consultant’s report Friday, he conferred with co-owner and general manager Jim Bostian.

“We both were satisfied that the hotel liability issues are covered and agreed to reopen the city end of the pier,” he wrote in an email to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

During their review, Moffatt & Nichol — the consultant hired by the city, and the same firm working to assess conditions on the currently shuttered Ocean Beach Pier — reviewed an inspection report provided by the hotel.

The city wants public input on the future of the 56-year-old icon: Repair it, rehabilitate it or replace it?

That report — written on hotel letterhead, but not dated — identified the locations of broken or missing braces below the deck of the nearly century-old wooden structure. Although the report itself was not dated, photos showing damaged sections were sent in January.

Allen said the hotel has its own structural engineer it has worked with for over 30 years and submits reports of the entire pier to the city every two years. “Having more than one set of eyes is a big benefit for protecting the future of the pier,” he said.

Two Moffatt & Nichol engineers also performed an independent site visit on April 6 and identified several additional damaged areas on the pier.

On the 471-foot, city-owned portion of the pier, a total of 38 defects were deemed “moderate urgency” and recommended to be repaired within nine months before the upcoming winter storm season. The damage would cost an estimated $324,500 to repair.

The Moffatt & Nichol report explained that “timber structures like the Crystal Pier are typically designed with a significant amount of redundancy,” meaning that isolated broken or missing braces do not significantly compromise the pier’s overall stability or capacity.

Therefore, the pier may remain open to the public while a repair program is implemented.

The hotel staff first noticed some damage to the pier’s braces following stormy weather in March, prompting its owners to close the section of the pier farthest from the shoreline that takes the brunt of the waves.

Although a city planner told the California Coastal Commission in a letter that the hotel had failed to get the city’s permission before barring public access to the pier, Allen disagreed.

“The city was notified that we intended to close off their end prior to us actually closing it off,” he told the Union-Tribune in a May 6 email. “We followed the chain of command.”

Allen said he’d been working directly with the city’s parks department, which manages the pier, and real estate department, which manages the lease. He said the lease authorizes the hotel to make these decisions if there are safety concerns, such as closing the pier during high surf.

City officials say they anticipate repair work will be done in the coming months without any additional pier closures.

Staff writer Lori Weisberg contributed to this report.