Vancouver Park Board staff propose demolishing Jericho Pier instead of $350,000 repair cost

Sep 6 2023, 5:38 pm

The estimated direct cost to the municipal government to fix the popular Jericho Pier attraction, which has been closed since early 2022 following damage from a historic windstorm, is $350,000.

According to a newly released report by Vancouver Park Board staff, the cost to complete a “like-for-like” repair of the existing timber pier and breakwater is $1.7 million, which includes a significant 50% contingency for any unexpected costs. The actual estimated cost, excluding the contingency, is about $850,000.

Park Board staff expect an insurance reimbursement of $1.35 million to cover the cost of a repair, with the remaining $350,000 coming from the municipal government, including $250,000 from the Property Reserve Fund and $100,000 from Capital Plan Funding.

Such “‘like-for-like’ repairs to the pier, as has been done on several occasions in the past… would include replacing damaged decking, guardrails, beams, pile caps, piles, and selective repairs to the ramp and float.”

But Park Board staff are instead recommending to Park Board commissioners to approve the direction of demolition of the existing pier, even though the costs are higher overall and for the municipal government.

Demolition would cost between $1.3 million and $3.6 million, including a 30% contingency. The expected insurance reimbursement will be significantly lower at $550,000, which means the municipal government would be on the hook for between $750,000 to $3.05 million of the cost of removing a public recreational amenity. This includes $250,000 from the Property Reserve Fund and up to $2.8 million from Capital Plan Funding.

If Park Board commissioners follow the staff’s recommendations, the pier’s demolition project will reach completion in late 2024. If they reject their staff’s recommendation and choose a repair, the pier will reopen to the public in 2025. Both options would also include investments to reinforce the rocky breakwater on the west side of the pier, which is needed to protect Jericho Sailing Centre.

Park Board staff also believe that if the pier is retained and repaired, it will have a limited remaining lifespan from the possibility of repeat damage from future storms. The estimated annual baseline cost of maintaining the pier is $100,000, with Park Board staff also painting the picture of an absolute worst-case scenario of a $2.35 million annual cost to maintain and repair the pier assuming it incurs significant storm damage each year. This worst-case scenario figure includes up to $175,000 in “Park Board staff time.”

But 20 months after the January 2022 windstorm shuttered the pier, the suggested theoretical types of annual investments to repair the structure have not been made, nor would the Park Board have the financial capacity to do so on a regular basis. As a case in point, the municipal government’s cost of demolishing or repairing the pier this time around would come from various multi-year capital funds between 2019 and 2026, with a combined total available pool of $4.5 million.

jericho pier wind storm damage

August 2022 damaged condition of the Jericho Pier, after the January 2022 windstorm. (Shutterstock)

jericho pier wind storm damage

Damaged condition of the Jericho Pier after the January 2022 windstorm. (Shutterstock)

In the other part of their rationale for demolition, Park Board staff assert the “80-year-old pier has reached end of service life,” specifically the piles. The current structure that exists was largely built in 1977 through a refurbishment of the original piles and structure.

And now, Park Board staff also deem the popular public recreational amenity — providing the public with a spectacular experience to view Burrard Inlet, the mountains, and the downtown skyline, and a spot for fishing and crabbing — to be a “colonial structure.” According to Park Board staff, the removal of the pier “will demonstrate the Park Board’s commitment to decolonization and reconciliation.”

The original pier in the area dates back to the area’s previous use as a Royal Canadian Air Force Base, which played an important part in securing coastal defences during the Second World War amidst the threat of an attack by the Empire of Japan. The existing pier, however, was a project almost a decade after the military vacated the site in 1969 and transferred the property to the municipal government for its conversion into public park and recreational uses.

jericho pier wind storm damage

Damaged condition of the Jericho Pier after the January 2022 windstorm. (Shutterstock)

vancouver-jericho-pier-jericho-beach

Jericho Pier in its condition prior to the January 2022 windstorm damage. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

On Monday, September 11, during a public meeting, Park Board commissioners will decide on whether to follow their staff’s recommendations to demolish the pier or choose the alternative path of making interim repairs until a permanent resilient replacement can be built.

After two pier-less summers, this decision is needed now as the insurance policy requires that the application for a claim and the remediation work be completed within two years from the incident date. The absolute deadline is January 2024.

In 2017, the Park Board approved the design of building a new replacement pier made out of concrete and steel for greater durability. Its height would also be 2.5 metres higher than the existing timber pier as a measure to account for storm surges. At the time of the approval, based on a 2021 completion, the Park Board estimated a $16 million construction cost. But with factors such as inflation, Park Board staff currently believe the estimated cost today is in the range of $21 million to $25 million.

2017 artistic rendering of the new entry plaza into the new Jericho Pier at Jericho Beach in Vancouver. (City of Vancouver)

2017 depiction of the taller height of the new replacement Jericho Pier compared to the existing structure. (City of Vancouver)

2017 approved concept for the new Jericho Pier at Jericho Beach in Vancouver. (City of Vancouver)

Park Board staff also assert a demolition of the existing pier at this time could represent the “first step” towards the future permanent replacement pier project, even though there are no guarantees and timelines for building such a project given the lack of significant funding.

For perspective, the municipal government’s direct estimated cost of $350,000 to repair the pier is equivalent to twice the cost of the two “Portland Loo” single-stall public washrooms recently installed at Crab Park, twice the cost of installing the Stanley Park temporary bike lane, the same cost of later removing the temporary bike lane or the same estimated cost of repairing the Stanley Park miniature train.

 

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