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Old Voices Chime in on Future of Santa Monica Pier  

 

By Jorge Casuso

June 21, 2012 -- Santa Monica Pier officials charting the century-old landmark's future didn't have far to look Monday when it came to gathering input from its longest-standing stakeholders.

During the "visioning meeting, the new board plotted ways to reach pier users, including conducting surveys during the Twilight Dance Series Concerts, attending events frequented by those who visit the popular destination and using the Internet.

But the board -- composed of a who's who of Santa Monica civic leaders -- didn't have to log on or leave the room to get expert advice from those who know the pier best -- its longtime business owners and stakeholders.

"I've been at visioning meetings for more than 30 years," said Murray Gould, who's been selling churros on the pier for more than three decades. "Look at all the (old) visioning meetings and see what's never been done," he advised.

"The nature of the pier is so broad, plus it's world famous," said Gould, who would like to see valet parking on the pier. "It's an international event place."

"I've been on the pier for 23 years, and I've seen a lot of ideas come and go," said Jim Harris, the pier's deputy director.

And ideas kept coming Monday form those closest to the pier.

Judith Meister, who as a City official helped resurrect the old wooden structure after storms battered it to pieces in 1983, would like to see the beach shuttle that took passengers from the Ocean Park lot to the pier make a comeback.

"Some of the signs (from the old shuttle) are still there," said Meister, who retired 12 years ago.

"I've been waiting here for hours," joked Russell Barnard, who has owned Rusty's Surf Ranch on the pier for nearly two decades.

Barnard would like to see parts of the pier surface made smoother for those in wheelchairs and late-night parking rates to drop. He also would like to see maps distributed to make it easier for visitors to get around.

Landmarks Commissioner Roger Genser would like to see development standards in place before physical changes are made to one of Santa Monica's oldest structures.

"So much has to do with potential physical changes," he said.

Karen Ginsberg, the City's director of Community and Cultural Services, echoed the importance of maintaining what makes the pier unique.

"The pier is authentic," she said, "and I would hate it to get like every other place."

Monday's meeting was the second visioning session held by the new pier board, which was named by the City Council earlier this year as part of a major overhaul of the Pier Restoration Corporation (PRC), the non-profit agency that for nearly three decades has run the world-famous pier.

Under the new management structure, the smaller board will focus primarily on marketing, planning special events and fundraising the regional destination, instead of on rebuilding and revitalizing the structure, which was the original mandate when the agency was formed 29 years ago, City officials said.


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