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Imperial Beach

Port of San Diego’s oceanfront tidelands

The entrance to Imperial Beach is marked by a grand entry sign and public art.

When most people think of the Port of San Diego, they think of the areas surrounding San Diego Bay. What many people don’t know, however, is that the port also manages a small section of oceanfront in the city of Imperial Beach.

Back in 1990, the State of California transferred 403 acres of beachfront to the Port of San Diego and the city of Imperial Beach became the port’s fifth member city, joining Chula Vista, Coronado, National City and San Diego.

Since then, the port has embarked on many projects that have improved the Imperial Beach oceanfront.

From maintenance of the Imperial Beach Pier, to the reconstruction of the Palm Avenue street end, the port has pumped millions of dollars of capital improvements into the beachside community.

The Imperial Beach Pier, originally built in the 1960s, was renovated and extended in 1986, before the Port of San Diego took over its management. Popular among both residents and tourists, it needs constant upkeep due to the harsh conditions of its ocean environment. In 2006, the port completed a $1.8 million project that made structural repairs to the pier, including repairing and replacing guard rails, light poles and timber deck planks. Electrical and mechanical repairs, as well as sewer line repairs were also made.

The "Spirit of Imperial Beach" by the late A. Wasil is the centerpiece of a public promenade at the foot of Palm Avenue in Imperial Beach.

This December, the port will begin another project to replace damaged sections of the wooden pier deck and level its uneven surfaces.

In 2009, the port contributed nearly $3 million to a public works project that transformed the western end of Palm Avenue. The project created a park-like setting for ocean viewing, and included important environmental and safety features. A new storm water pump station with a built-in pollution diversion system was installed, as well as ramps that provide direct access to the beach. The city of Imperial Beach and the state Water Resources Control Board also contributed to the project. Public art was also incorporated, with the installation of an 18-foot tall cast bronze sculpture of a surfer and his longboard titled, “Spirit of Imperial Beach.”

In June 2012, the port began the Imperial Beach Street Ends Sand Abatement Project. This is a $521,000 project that will provide sand abatement structures to prevent sand from blowing into Dunes Park and onto the street ends near the beach. The project is in the preliminary stages and must go through the California Environmental Quality Act review and public review. Once all approvals are met, it is anticipated that the project would begin in June 2013.

Other upcoming projects in the beach city include replacing the roof on the Portwood Pier Plaza concession building and restroom. This project will begin in October 2012 and cost approximately $80,000.

Next summer, a project that will provide emergency vehicle access to the beach at the end of Palm Avenue will begin. This project will also mitigate damage caused by winter storms in 2010. It should take about five months to complete and is estimated to cost $665,000.

Future projects for the area include two that were recently approved in the Port’s Capital Improvement Program. These include a feasibility study for a restroom with a shower at South Seacoast Drive and a “tot lot” near the Imperial Beach Pier. The Capital Improvement Program also authorized $250,000 to be spent on aesthetic improvements for the area known as Pond 20, which fronts the 1400 block of Palm Avenue.

The area is often referred to as the “front porch” of Imperial Beach. It was purchased by the port about 14 years ago as part of an 836-acre land acquisition. It is located in the city of San Diego’s jurisdiction, but is included as part of the city of Imperial Beach’s redevelopment area. The port has been holding public meetings to get community input on what should be located on the land. A Memorandum of Understanding was approved between the cities of San Diego and Imperial Beach, and the Port of San Diego to explore possible uses. The project is still in the very early stages.

The Port of San Diego also helps pay for police, fire, emergency medical, lifeguard and animal control services for the city of Imperial Beach. For fiscal year 2012-2013, this amount is $3.4 million.

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