Gaviota Pier Not Opening for Years

State Parks Plans to Reopen, but Repairs Will Cost Many Millions

The last 100 feet of the Gaviota Pier was demolished and swept away during a big storm in late February
Ray Ford

Santa Barbara’s only real storm of 2014 destroyed the last 100 feet of the pier at Gaviota State Park on March 1, and the structure — beloved by both those who fish from the wharf and the boat owners who use its hoist to access the remote reefs and surf breaks of the adjacent Hollister Ranch — has been closed ever since. And while State Parks is taking the diligent steps toward reopening the popular recreational resource, which is the only launching spot between the harbors of Santa Barbara and Port San Luis, don’t expect it to open anytime soon: The project could cost as much as $20 million, and even if that money was already in the bank, the project would take more than a year to complete.

“It’s a very important facility, not only for Gaviota State Park, but for the region,” said State Parks’ Rich Rozzelle, who supervises this stretch of coastline. “It provides access to a stretch of coast that’s very rich in history and marine life. There are a lot of people, including State Parks, who want to see it reopened.”

Rozzelle commissioned a study on possible repair options, and his staff is analyzing that now while also identifying funding possibilities. The range of fixes goes from basic repairs that only cost a couple of million but wouldn’t add the remaining 100 feet or include a hoist to a full concrete pier build-out, which is where the $20 million figure comes in.

Though many Hollister Ranch property owners — who enjoy a private, behind-guarded-gates, idyllic California coast experience — are notorious for opposing easy access to their beaches and breaks, Rozzelle has not heard of any actual opposition to fixing the pier. He also doesn’t foresee trouble in permitting or environmental review, as State Parks employees process pier rebuilds often, but there will be a struggle in finding funding in the competitive state budget environment. There will likely be access improvements for the disabled when the repairs do happen, but the biggest expense will be the basic structural improvements.

“Without funding, it’s premature to give specific dates,” said Rozzelle, who believes it will take about a year to develop the plans to put out to bid. “If we had the money sitting in the bank today, we’d probably be 12 months out and more like 16 months.”


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