The Avila 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, often referred to as “The People’s Pier” was completed in 1908.
It was not until 1912 that freight trade began in Avila. At that time the Pier contained a large warehouse and several hoists. 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 in 1939 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 as a lookout station for the duration of the war.
In 1954, the Port San Luis Harbor District [PSLHD] 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 Port San Luis. Small boats still could be launched from the pier depending on the condition of the hoist.
The pier suffered major storm damage in 1953, 1955, 1960, 1969, 1973 and again in March 1983, when the pier had to be rebuilt. Public Funds were used on the rebuild and shortly after the State and County transferred ownership of the Avila Pier to the Port San Luis Harbor District.
Years of damage, caused by storms and general “wear and tear”, have had their effect on the Avila Pier. To compound this, in May of 2015 humpback whales arrived in the Harbor. These whales attracted an unusually high volume of people, which caused the pier to sway significantly as the people ran from one side of the pier to the other to view the whales. Engineers, hired by PSLHD, raised concerns over public safety and the pier’s structural integrity.These concerns resulted in the closure of the Pier until repair, rehabilitation and reconstruction could be completed.
Initial studies undertaken to determine the cost of total replacement of the pier estimated $17 million. Due to the substantial estimated costs and the budgetary restraints of the PSLHD, the fundraising group of Netzel, Grigsby and Associates was hired to: 1) assess available resources and capacity, 2) determine the most likely funding package and a realistic community fundraising goal and 3) recommend a plan of action.
The overall conclusion of the study was that, although the Pier holds historical significance and cultural value to the community”, the $17 million price tag was not seen as a viable goal for fundraising. Their study concluded that it would take a public-private partnership between the Port San Luis Harbor District,the Community, corporations, foundations and government to raise the necessary funds.The company estimated a goal in the $2 million range could be more successful.
Between 2017 and 2019, the PSLHD commissioned engineering surveys to arrive at a more realistic estimate of the costs of restoring and repairing the Avila Pier rather than the total replacement of the Avila Pier. After a second load capacity and preliminary study and underwater examination by the company Moffatt & Nichol, it was concluded the Avila Pier could be restored rather than replaced.
The 501(c)3 Non-profit, Friends of Avila Pier [FOAP], was established to help raise a portion of the funding needed to repair, rehabilitate and reopen the Pier and to ensure the continual maintenance of the Avila Pier for future generations. All monies raised by the Friends of Avila Pier are specifically designated for the repair and maintenance of the Avila Pier only. The 501(c)3 status allows Federal Income Tax exemption, allows donors to deduct contributions they make to the Friends of Avila Pier nonprofit and qualifies FOAP to receive tax-deductible bequests, transfers, and gifts.
Restoration and upgrade improvements of the Avila Pier, which could include making the Pier ADA accessible, will depend on the amount of money that is raised. Port San Luis Harbor District is in the process of securing grants, however, these grants generally require a private community match of funds. Therefore a public-private partnership is the most effective means of securing the funds needed to restore the Avila Pier.
There are multiple ways the pier benefits our community:
- Youth recreation
- Environmental awareness
- Town revenue
Support Avila Pier! Mail a donation to:
Friends Of Avila Pier
P.O. Box 685
Avila Beach, Ca 93424
Or donate online: