The City of San Diego has released three design options for the historic pier’s renewal project and is collecting feedback in a series of public meetings
San Diego, California – November 27, 2023 – Global landscape architecture and urban design firm Civitas is continuing its decades-long relationship with the City of San Diego to develop design concepts for the highly anticipated renewal of Ocean Beach Pier. Civitas has been part of a multidisciplinary design team that includes waterfront and coastal engineers and architects collaborating on the evolution of the pier concepts.
This traditional concrete fishing pier – the longest on the U.S. west coast, stretching more than 1,900 feet into the Pacific Ocean – was built in 1966 and suffers from increasing levels of damage to the concrete caused by corrosion of the internal steel reinforcement. A 2018 study conducted by engineering firm Moffatt & Nichol confirmed that the pier has exceeded its useful service life and is in need of replacement.
Ocean Beach Pier has been one of San Diego’s most visited attractions with more than 500,000 people using it each year. Popular for fishing and for its expansive ocean views, the current pier is a mostly linear experience for people who walk out to its end and then back to shore. As options for a new pier are considered, there’s an opportunity to enhance the pier experience and keep people sticking around.
Civitas is well known for their practice of listening and understanding, consistently engaging numerous stakeholders in their design process. For Ocean Beach Pier, multiple public meetings have already been held with more planned through 2024 to solicit input from the community and build a sense of civic ownership. At the first meeting, on April 1, 2023, community members were invited to share their greatest experiences or memories of the pier, to record video messages about what the pier means to them, and to vote on what they feel is missing from the current pier. The second meeting on June 10, 2023, focused on the public unveiling of guiding principles for design of the replacement structure.
“With more than 250 community members in attendance,” Civitas principal Scott Jordan explains, “the public meetings have helped us understand that this pier ultimately must respect the environment; ensure safe and equitable access; reflect the community; honor history but look to the future; enhance and diversify the experience; and maximize value. Moving forward, each design consideration will continue to be measured against these principles to ensure the pier respects the community’s needs.”
At the third and most recent meeting on September 9, 2023, captured on video here, three design options were shared by the project team, which includes waterfront and coastal engineering experts Moffatt & Nichol, RNT Architects, and marketing and public engagement consultant Cook + Schmid:
The Squint Test: Enhancing the Everyday
This concept utilizes the original layout and design of the pier while exploring placemaking and activation strategies that have been thoughtfully located to minimize their visibility from the land and retain the historic and iconic pier silhouette.
The Remora: Celebrating the Place
Inspired by Remora fish and the sharks they attach themselves to, this concept uses the original pier’s layout as an armature for a new series of places and features that celebrate a variety of Ocean Beach experiences and activities.
The Braid: Walking Over Water
The third concept rethinks and differentiates the pier design with a more fluid, curved layout and a secondary walking experience that flows from the linear pier structure and provides a 360-degree view of the ocean and its horizon.
In this video produced by the City of San Diego, the community’s enthusiastic engagement and support for the Ocean Beach Pier’s renewal is evident. More than 3,000 responses were also collected in a public, online survey about preferred design options for the pier.
According to Civitas designer, Kyle Hopkins, RLA, “we’re genuinely excited about the ongoing concept development, and are working hard to align the community’s valuable and important input with overall functionality in order to create updated designs that will most likely blend a few of the early concepts’ most favored elements.” The next iteration of the pier design is expected to be unveiled at the next public meeting in early 2024.
Civitas has worked closely with the City of San Diego for decades, as lead designers of the North Embarcadero waterfront plaza and green spaces, including Lane Field Park, and as advisors on the overall Port of San Diego master plan. The firm, in conjunction with Moffatt & Nichol, also designed the recently completed renovations to Imperial Beach Pier.
Founded in 1984 with the core purpose of “creating healthier cities,” Civitas is an idea-based practice of urban designers, architects, and landscape architects engaged in strategic planning for urban change and project design for built works. Curbed has recognized Civitas as one of five practitioners “who are putting the public back in public space.” Fast Company has acknowledged Civitas in its Innovation by Design Awards. A consultancy and a design studio, Civitas advises on a wide range of strategies for re-imagining urban life and places, working in U.S. cities coast to coast and around the world. For additional information, visit civitasinc.com.