(photo by Daniel Archuleta)

SM PIER — The restoration of a piece of the Santa Monica Pier’s history progressed after the City Council allowed the Department of Public Works to move forward with the creation of an emergency gangway.

The gangway was identified as an important safety feature in a 2008 infrastructure assessment conducted by the firm Moffat & Nichol, according to a staff report.

“Right now, there’s a temporary measure located by the harbor guard office,” said Eric Bailey, a civil engineer with City Hall. “There is a way for people to evacuate the pier, and a chute for the waiting boat.”

The gangway will let more people queue up for the evacuation, making the hypothetical operation run more smoothly, he said.

Officials plan to build the gangway on the southern side of the end of the pier, and estimate that it will cost approximately $700,000 to construct.

After the council’s vote, engineers will create the final design, get it signed off by the Landmarks Commission and then put the project out to bid.

“We are very excited to see this,” said Jim Harris, the pier’s historian. “It’s a project that has been several years in the making, and is part of our phase four construction for shoring up the pier and making it better and safer.”

The project offers more than safety — it has historic significance as well, Harris said.

It hearkens back to the days when the iconic sign at the entrance of the pier that reads “Santa Monica Yacht Harbor, Sport Fishing, Boating” was relevant.

When the pier first opened, there was a focus on getting fishing at the end of the pier, and ultimately the west end became a popular boating facility.

After several failed attempts, officials finally succeeded at securing a federal grant to create the proposed yacht harbor, which was completed in 1934, Harris said.

Notables like Charlie Chaplin and Errol Flynn kept their boats there, and when World War II swept the nation, it was requisitioned for naval purposes.

The breakwater that created the harbor was a constant problem, however. Its top rock layer was too light, and needed maintenance on a regular basis, Harris said.

When the infamous 1983 storm blew in and destroyed the pier, it took the gangway with it, and although the remainder of the pier was restored, the gangway was never replaced.

Until now.

According to an environmental report, workers will have to demolish and remove an existing concrete piling and an 18-by-8-foot wide section of concrete decking of the southern fishing platform.

A 2,160 square foot barge will float off the south side of the pier, anchored by 12 piles driven into the sea floor.

The gangway will connect the pier to the barge.

The document acknowledges that the project could have an impact on the environment around the pier, including effects on animal habitats and the look of the beach when construction materials are piled up near the pier.

Constructing the emergency gangway and floating dock is expected to result in only temporary problems, according to the environmental document, mainly from the one-time disruption of installing the dock anchors.

Staff expects recovery “of existing marine species and composition and diversity … within two years or less.”

At the council meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis pulled the item from the consent agenda to assure the public that the installation of the gangway was not an invitation to large vessels to dock by the pier.

Although bringing boats back to the pier is not in the cards right now, the gangway will be constructed with the future in mind, Bailey said.

“This is just what it sounds like,” Bailey said. “If they revisit the issue, it’s designed in such a way that those options are not eliminated.”

ashley@www.smdp.com

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