HOP ON: A couple boards one of the gondolas on the Pacific Park Ferris wheel on Monday. (Photo by Daniel Archuleta)

HOP ON: A couple boards one of the gondolas on the Pacific Park Ferris wheel on Monday. (Photo by Daniel Archuleta)

OCEAN AVE — Businesses on the Santa Monica Pier are not pleased with City Hall’s plans to rebuild a weakened section of the iconic structure, saying they were not consulted on the decision that will impact their livelihoods.

City officials maintain that the pier will be open throughout construction, and that they will build a parallel trestle along the side of the pier to provide access even while construction crews do their work.

Still, construction is expected to last at least a year, although it will be broken into phases to minimize the impact on businesses, said Martin Pastucha, director of public works.

Businesses want to avoid interrupting summer, their busiest season. Officials have already promised to suspend work on weekends to avoid disrupting crowds more than usual.

Officials have not yet considered dropping rent as part of the process.

“It’s an important time period for all the tenants on the pier,” Pastucha said.

The $8.5 million construction project covers the complete demolition and reconstruction of a 360-foot section between the high tide line to the concrete westerly portion of the pier.

That section is comprised of wood, and has been weakened to the point that it has difficulty accommodating emergency and commercial delivery vehicles, according to a city staff report.

A report by Moffatt & Nichol, a consultant hired to inspect the pier, recommended that the section be replaced with a new pier made of concrete piles and pile caps, timber stringers and timber decking.

The concrete substructure would make the new piece of the pier more durable and low maintenance, according to the report.

While pier tenants do not dispute that the work needs to be done, they’re nervous about the lack of detail at this stage of the process, said Chris Volaski, president of the Santa Monica Pier Lessees Association, an organization representing business owners.

“This is a large undertaking, and I’m sure the city can do it, but we need more information and would feel more comfortable when fences go up that are 8 feet tall or there’s a one-way sidewalk from the east to the west end of the pier and obstacles people try to maneuver,” she told council members.

Once the contractor is on board, officials will be able to craft a strategy to keep visitors in the loop about construction on the pier, Merl said.

He even envisions that this could bring positive interest to the pier, because the process, though disruptive, is ultimately a flashy thing that could attract tourists if pitched appropriately.

“People are wondering what this is and how it will impact me,” Merl said. “Are there ways to make it interesting, like showing people how a pier is built?”

Dana Wyatt, director of operations at Pacific Park, is not so sure about that.

Construction will be noisy and disruptive, and Pacific Park’s entrance will be right next to the work site. Still, the large amusement park was not briefed on the matter until June 2012, just before the project went out to bid, Wyatt said.

The contract is open ended, and does not require that the contractor stick to a plan or set of measures to avoid impacts on businesses, he said.

“The lack of a specific plan leaves critical details to the discretion of the contractor and provides no assurance that these concerns will be addressed and adverse impacts to pier tenants and public avoided,” Wyatt said.

It’s in everybody’s interest for the businesses on the pier to do well, Merl said, and its his business to keep the largest number of businesses on the pier as possible.

The work must go forward to make sure the pier remains a safe place for visitors and businesses alike.

“It will be good to have a true boardwalk back,” Merl said. “That’s the goal and safety associated with that to have a stronger, renewed and reinvigorated pier.”

 

ashley@smdp.com

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