Saying goodbye
Preliminary work to dismantle the Romeo Pier in Princeton has begun. Barges will arrive shortly to handle the heavy lifting. Kyle Ludowitz / Review

On Thursday, workers began what’s referred to as a pre-demolition abatement assessment at Romeo Pier. Within a month, the aging, roughly 700-foot structure could be gone.

The pier was constructed in the early 1940s by a San Francisco man named Joe Romeo who thought he could make a better profit if he purchased from the fishermen directly.

The structure served as a place for the fishermen to unload their day’s catch. It was also once home to a bait shop, served as a place to purchase fuel and provided lodging to past and current harbor denizens, including Pillar Point Harbor Assistant Harbormaster John Draper.

No one has occupied the dilapidated pier in decades. The San Mateo County Harbor District purchased the pier in 1996 and within two years it was permanently closed because of safety concerns.

The district purchased the pier for $185,000. Until recently, district staff hoped to maintain ownership of the pier’s “footprint,” meaning that the district would be permitted to build out elsewhere — perhaps as an expansion of Johnson Pier.

However, district staff was notified by the California Coastal Commission that the Coastal Act makes no provision for such arrangements.

The barges that will enable the actual demolition work are expected to arrive on Monday, but John Moren, director of operations for the harbor district, said that the Dutra Group was still working on securing permits and certification from the U.S. Coast Guard in order to get its roughly 12,000- and 10,000-square-foot barges into the harbor.

“Once they get the barges down there … they’re going to have it done in short order,” Moren said.

The predemolition work that is currently in process includes a removal of lead-based paint, asbestos, mercury light tubes, an old forklift and treated wood.

“During storm events, the pier has been literally falling into the water,” Moren wrote in an email to the Review.

The district is paying $2.3 million for the demolition work. The Dutra Group was the sole bidder for the project and offered to do the work for $2.7 million, which was significantly higher than the district’s vision of $1.5 million. The Harbor District compromised by putting off the project to better suit the construction company’s timeline and, in doing so, knocked off $400,000 from the price.

When the barges arrive, the dismantling will begin. Approximately 95 percent of the work will be completed from the water, and conservation measures will ensure that there will be no harm to any of the area marine life.

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