Vancouver Park Board approves repair of Jericho Pier instead of demolition

Sep 12 2023, 3:31 am

The existing Jericho Pier at Jericho Beach will not be demolished after all, following a decision by Vancouver Park Board (VPB) commissioners to pursue a repair of the damaged pier.

The original recommendation by Park Board staff to demolish the pier was effectively rejected in Monday evening’s public meeting.

As usual, Park Board commissioners voted along party lines, with ABC party commissioners voting for retention through a repair of the structure, and the lone Green party commissioner opposed. A motion by ABC commissioner Angela Haer to push forward the alternative strategy was approved.

The popular public recreation amenity — providing spectacular views, water access, and a place for crabbing and fishing — has been closed ever since a January 2022 windstorm sent waves crashing over the breakwater, submerged the deck, and turned free-floating logs into projectiles.

The estimated “like-for-like” repair cost of the existing timber pier and breakwater is $1.7 million, including a 50% contingency for any unexpected costs. After an expected insurance reimbursement of $1.35 million, the municipal government will be on the hook for up to $360,000 of the total costs of the repair.

The rejected demolition carries a higher upfront overall cost of between $1.3 million and $3.6 million, including a 30% contingency. For demolition, 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 upfront cost of removal. The estimated annual cost of upkeep of the retained pier ranges between $100,000 for regular maintenance and up to $2.35 million for the worst-case scenario of repairing the pier again after a significant storm.

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

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Damaged condition of the Jericho Pier after the January 2022 windstorm. (Vancouver Park Board)

“Building like-for-like at the same elevation is not ideal. It’s not an ideal solution. I think everyone would like to have a renewed pier at a higher elevation, but that price tag is just too high to happen right now,” said ABC commissioner Laura Christensen during the meeting, referring to the 2017-approved design for a brand new pier, which is now expected to cost between $21 million and $25 million today — up from its previous estimate of $16 million.

The new pier design, built out of concrete and steel, as envisioned in 2017, would be 2.5 metres higher than the existing timber pier, which was largely rebuilt in 1977. Many pilings of the existing pier date back to the area’s original pier dating back to the Second World War, when the area used as a Royal Canadian Air Force base. But plans to build this new pier design to take into account stronger storms and rising sea levels have stalled due to the lack of significant funding required.

“The current pier is on life support, and this motion is to keep it on life support, and continue to have it on life support because we’ve heard from the public that this is important to them… I see keeping the pier in life support as the better option than removing it,” said Christensen.

The Jericho Pier repair option will enable the facility to reopen to the public sometime in 2025.

In contrast, the City of White Rock repaired and reopened the significantly longer White Rock Pier in August 2019 — about eight months after the structure was compromised and severed by a windstorm in December 2018. White Rock’s municipal government expedited the approval of a $16-million repair project, with a multi-year upgrade that began with interim repairs to restore public access as soon as possible, before the more complex work of rebuilding large sections of the pier with steel piles, a concrete deck, and matching timber planks.

ABC commissioner Brennan Bastyovanszky said the issue with Park Board staff’s demolition plan is that there is a 15 to 20 year gap between demolition and the construction of a brand new stronger and higher pier as the permanent solution.

It was noted during the deliberations that not only does the pier serve as a public amenity, but it has helped save many lives over the decades, with rescue crews using the pier’s floating dock for the transfer of patients from a boat to an ambulance.

“It’s not a denial that there is a change in climate. In fact, it’s probably an acceptance that something more permanent is needed,” said Bastyovanszky, suggesting the lack of such a facility over an extended period due to the replacement project’s high degree of uncertainty is unacceptable.

“It could get damaged again, and it is very likely that it will at some point, but we’re hoping that this, as a temporary measure, will allow us to bridge that. We now know that this is likely one of the last times, if not the last time, this pier gets repaired and something permanent will need to be in place.”

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Damaged condition of the Jericho Pier after the January 2022 windstorm. (Vancouver Park Board)

ABC commissioner Scott Jensen suggested if the same rationale for demolishing the pier were applied to the Stanley Park seawall, it would not have been reconstructed after the significant damage it incurred after the same windstorm.

“When I think about families growing up in Vancouver, if this is not here and it’s not here for a long time, when will that be? How long are these children going to go without that joy that you expressed earlier today?” said Jensen, addressing to comments made by representatives with Jericho Sailing Centre who expressed support for the pier’s demolition.

Both pier demolition and repair options presented by Park Board staff incorporate upgrades to the existing breakwater immediately to the west of the pier, which protects the sailing centre’s harbour.

It was noted during the meeting that there will be a future planning process on improving Jericho Beach Park to integrate it with the First Nations-led Jericho Lands redevelopment just to the south.

 

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