The Avilia Pier was originally built in 1907 with county-wide taxpayer funds. It was named the Avila Municipal Pier and the fight that brought this publicly owned pier to Avila, began in 1894.
The 1890’s saw the country in a great economic depression, following the boom years of the 1880’s. The Populists, represented by the People’s Party, officially called the Farmers’ Alliance and Industrial Union, wanted the pier to be owned by the people of San Luis Obispo County. The main objective was to compete with the privately-owned Harford Pier, by having more competitive freight rates. Farmers county-wide could get their products to market cheaper. State-wide the Robber Barons, Stanford, Huntington and Crocker had a monopoly on trade and could establish the freight rates to their advantage.
Private companies were proposing building the Avila wharf, but the populists won the debate. The people were to own the Avila Pier!
County approval from the voters was needed with a super majority, somewhat similar to today. This finally happened in 1907. The Avila Municipal Pier was completed.
It was not until 1912 that freight trade began in Avila. The Avila Lumber Company used the pier to unload freight from its vessel. Front Street in Avila became a lumber yard. For many years the wharf was commercially viable, though not a major port.
As the years past, Port Harford gradually declined. Union Oil built its terminal at the present location of the Cal Poly Pier, in 1914. There was no road out to Port, only the narrow-gauge Pacific Coast Railway. Port Harford began to decline and by the 1930’s the Avila Pier was the primary pier for the local fishing fleet. Construction was started on the San luis Yacht Club in1939 and was completed in 1940. Small sailing vessels were launched from the pier until 1942 when the club was requisitioned by the Navy and the Coast Guard.
By the late fifties the Port San Luis Harbor District was formed to bring back facilities for boats and boaters at the then derelict Harford Pier.
The Avila Municipal Pier became less important as the commercial and sports fisheries moved back to the port. Small boats still could be launched from the pier depending on the condition of the hoist.
A huge swell knocked-out a section of the pier in 1960 and the March first storm, 1983, caused more damage and the pier had to be rebuilt. Public Funds were used on both rebuilds and the Pier was given to the Harbor District by the County in 1983.
In 2014 the pier was partially shut down due to many pillars needing to be retrofitted. In 2019, Port San Luis Harbor District has revised a repair bill for the Avila Pier and we need to raise $1m from our amazing community to ensure that we can repair and preserve the marine heritage and character of the local port for future generations.
There are multiple ways the pier benefits our community:
- Youth recreation
- Environmental awareness
- Town revenue