The Berkeley pier. Photo: Dorothy Brown
See more photographs of the Berkeley pier, which the city closed to the public last summer. Photo: Dorothy Brown

It’s going to cost so much to repair Berkeley’s historic fishing pier that the city can’t even afford to study the issue until mid-2017 at the soonest.

That’s according to a brief report released last week by Dee Williams-Ridley, Berkeley’s interim city manager.

Williams-Ridley told the Berkeley City Council in the Feb. 9 memo that the city had hoped to have a consultant “investigate possible methods to repair portions of the pier and the potential costs, but the needed scope and cost associated with the work has escalated beyond the limits” of the approved budget.

Williams told council the analysis itself is likely to cost between $150,000 and $200,000, and said that allocation won’t be considered until the budget cycles for 2017-18 and the following year.

Scroll to the bottom of this story for a brief update from the city.

“The pier is a beloved asset to the entire region, and staff will continue to research grant opportunities with the hope of finding funding to repair the pier,” she wrote.

The city closed the pier last July, citing structural problems. An engineering firm hired by the city looked at the underside of the structure “and found evidence of significant spalling of the concrete decking and badly corroded structural rebar.”

The consultants found that “the concrete decking of the pier cannot even support its own weight, let alone vehicles or pedestrians.” The city closed the pier indefinitely “as a public safety measure.”

The Berkeley pier: A local treasure. Photo: Dorothy Brown
The Berkeley pier: A local treasure. Photo: Dorothy Brown

In December, council members Darryl Moore and Linda Maio asked the city manager to figure out how much it would cost to fix the pier so the public could once again access it.

The city had pledged in March 2015, prior to the pier’s closure, to spend $230,000 on “fishing pier upgrades” — using grant funding related to the Cosco Busan oil spill — in the current fiscal year. It was not immediately clear prior to publication how that money was reallocated. (Scroll down for an update.)

The subject of the pier came up in passing last Tuesday during a council discussion of possible ballot measures the city might bring to voters in November. During the Feb. 9 meeting, Councilman Moore tried to get the pier added to a survey of likely voters that will help the city in its ballot measure plans. Mayor Tom Bates said officials should hold off.

“We have no idea what the costs are going to be, and no idea how to do it,” Bates said. “It takes all kinds of permits. So it’s a little too early for prime time.”

City staff noted that the city already has “hundreds of millions of dollars” in deferred capital projects related to parks and public works facilities, which does not include projects like the pier. (Read more about those capital projects in the related stories listed below this article.)

A report from January describing the city’s seismic needs lists the parks department’s needs alone at $78 million, but says that is a 2011 figure that “predates a number of major facility closures or failures, including the Berkeley Tuolumne Camp, the Berkeley Pier, and the trellis at the Berkeley Rose Garden.” Voters approved a parks tax in 2014, but the city is spending much of that money to address serious seismic and siding problems at James Kenney Park.

The Berkeley pier by Dorothy Brown
The city closed the pier last July due to structural problems. Photo: Dorothy Brown

Last Tuesday night, Councilman Kriss Worthington, too, spoke up for the importance of the pier.

“I don’t want to leave that out in left field and ignore it,” he said, noting that there would be real challenges to coming up with the money to pay for the work. “I’m not sure how to address that. But I do think it’s an important one. And there may be ways to get matching funds to try to help us accomplish that.”

According to the Berkeley Historical Plaque Project, the Golden Gate Ferry Company built the Berkeley pier in 1926. It “now extends from the Berkeley Marina, which was built on landfill, out into the Bay well beyond the original shoreline.”

According to a description posted on the project’s website and at the pier itself, “The pier accommodated ferries that carried cars across San Francisco Bay. After big events in Berkeley, such as football games at the University of California, hundreds of cars would back up for hours waiting to board the ferry for the trip back to San Francisco. After the Bay Bridge was completed and opened to automobile traffic in 1936 the pier was converted to recreational use, including fishing.”

About 3,000 feet of the original 3.5-mile-length of the pier were, until last summer’s closure, in usable condition.

Update, 10 p.m. The city of Berkeley provided additional information after publication about the oil spill grant money. Matthai Chakko, city spokesman, said, “The portion of the Cosco Busan settlement that was allocated for ADA access for fishermen on the pier was re-allocated in 2015 for improvements to the Marina’s South Cove area, which is scheduled to start construction this summer. Among other things, that will include dock improvements, ADA access improvements and a new restroom.”

Photographs: An ode to the shuttered Berkeley pier (07.27.15)
Citing structural problems, Berkeley closes historic pier (07.23.15)
Op-ed: Down the garden path with Berkeley City Council (04.13.15)
Op-ed: Berkeley needs a better parks, facilities plan (04.07.15)
Berkeley to spend millions to fix up James Kenney Park (04.07.15)
Berkeley may double Public Works budget, as $17M repair backlog looms (04.06.15)
Berkeley parks advocates push back after council drops bond from November ballot (07.25.14)

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...