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Residents react to plan to replace crumbling Shell Beach staircase

Posted at 9:29 PM, Nov 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-15 18:19:34-05

Plans are in the works to replace a crumbling staircase in Shell Beach.

The Pier Avenue stairs have been closed since last October and residents are hoping to regain beach access as soon as possible.

“It’s just so scenic and usually peaceful,” said Pismo Beach resident Mark Cawelti.

The popular coastal access point has been closed off to the public for more than a year now.

The narrow beach is a place that has meaning to both visitors and residents alike.

“It’s a beautiful place. My grandmother, who was a painter, painted a few watercolors of this little cove,” added Cawelti.

The Pier Avenue stairs were damaged by a storm last October.

Part of the bluff washed away leaving the lower landing hanging above ground and the stairs too dangerous to walk down.

“I can tell you—the value of these stairs to the public is priceless, and it’s important to people to be able to access the coast. This is the perfect spot,” said Shell Beach resident Tarren Collins.

The Pismo Beach City Council is now looking to restore access.

There are five options on the table that range in cost from $430,000 to $5.2 million.

A temporary fix to the existing staircase would cost $1.5 million and last for three to five years.

Other options involve reinforcing the foundation and replacing the stairway at the same location or building an entirely new staircase at Margo Dodd Park-- or across from Palisade Avenue.

“Do the immediate fix--even though it might cost a million dollars, we’ll get a million dollars worth of value,” said Collins.

Some residents want an immediate fix while others are hoping for the city to address the long-term issue of coastal erosion in the surrounding area.

“I prefer the ‘none of the above’ alternative which they have in there. It’s the one where they will study the issue and do a more comprehensive plan to attempt to take care of all the issues in this four, five-block area,” said Effie McDermott, author of “Pismo Beach History, the Book. “

Pismo Beach city officials say that the Pier Avenue stairs go back to the 1970s.

Local history author Effie McDermott says there have been stairs at other locations in the immediate area for even longer.

“This is the second set (of stairs). The first set was right there on that little outcropping and those were in before the 1940s, maybe earlier. This subdivision dates until about 1925,” McDermott adds.

The Pismo Beach City Council will review and possibly pick an option at Tuesday night’s meeting.