H-SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY

Mar 28, 2011 9:46 PM by Ariel Wesler

Businesses lose money since Harford pier closed access to cars

Business owners and fishermen on the Harford Pier at Port San Luis are afraid they won't stay afloat unless cars are allowed to return to the pier.

About two weeks ago, the harbor commission voted 3-2 to close the Harford Pier to all passenger vehicles. It says engineering reports show concerns about the pier's safety. Those involved plan to discuss what to do about the problem during a public meeting Tuesday night.

Before the pier closed to cars, Michael and Leonard Cohen thought the worst was over.

"Yeah, we're gonna finally start doing some business and then boom," Leonard said.

The two brothers are longtime business owners on the Harford Pier. They say stopping cars from accessing the pier is sinking their businesses. We even saw a couple cars turn away.

"I've had a couple days where I've done $60 in business here," Michael said.

The harbor commissioners are worried about the canopy at the end of the pier. They say engineering reports show the stress from cars starting and stopping on the pier could cause it to eventually collapse.

"For them to say that a car could cause that damage, either they should shut the whole pier down, or there's something else going on," Leonard said.

Ariel: Why do this now?

"We could not do it and it may be good for another 10-15 years, but at some point, wooden structures fail," said Harbor Manager Steve McGrath.

They say weight is less of a concern and still allow delivery and commercial fishing trucks to operate on the pier, but businesses say that doesn't make sense.

"They need to look at it and they need to make a plan, just like retrofitting something," Leonard said.

The Harford Pier is a little less than 1/4 of a mile long, but some say closing it off to cars discriminates against people who are disabled.

One woman had to leave her husband in the car.

"We didn't bring a wheelchair. He could walk, but not this far," said Annie Mosqueda of Santa Maria.

"I have a hard time walking. This is the first time I've walked. I'm gonna be 86-years-old."

The harbor manager says closing the pier off to cars is not unusual. There are only two wooden piers in California open to all vehicles. They are Stern's Wharf in Santa Barbara and the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf.

Nevertheless, some fishermen plan to call for the harbor manager's resignation at Tuesday night's meeting.

The meeting starts at 6 p.m. It will be held inside the Coastal Gateway building at Port San Luis. That's located at 3900 Avila Beach Drive.

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