Malibu Complete MALIBU HISTORY: 1970 TO CITYHOOD IN 1991

The Malibu Pier

The Malibu Pier photographed from Surfrider Beach parking lot (facing east), December 2005.
The Malibu Pier photographed from Surfrider Beach parking lot (facing east), December 2005.

History of the Malibu Pier

The Malibu Pier was originally built in 1905 to support the operations of Frederick Hastings Rindge's Malibu Rancho. Hides, grains, fruit, and other agricultural products were shipped from the pier either directly or by transfer to larger vessels. Building materials and other Rancho necessities arrived at the pier. The Rindge private railroad, used for freight movement within the ranch, had a terminus near the pier.

Entrance to Malibu Pier at 23000 Pacific Coast Highway.  The tower building dates from the Rindge Rancho Malibu and the sign from the late 1940s.  They have remained unchanged for decades while other development gradually modified the area around the pier.
Entrance to Malibu Pier at 23000 Pacific Coast Highway. The tower building dates from the Rindge Rancho Malibu and the sign from the late 1940s. They have remained unchanged for decades while other development gradually modified the area around the pier.

The Adamson House, located just west of the pier, included a wall built along the highway to the pier in 1932. The entrance tower and storage room, at the entrance the pier, is decorated with Malibu Potteries tile from the factory which was located just east of the pier. The tower and part of the wall are still there in 2006 (photo, above).

In 1934, the pier was opened to the public for pier and charter fishing. Fishermen were also shuttled back and forth from the pier and the barge Minnie A. Caine anchored a mile off shore. After the bankruptcy of Marblehead Land Co. (the Rindge's land operation) in 1936, the Malibu pier was taken over by bondholders who had helped finance Malibu development. The pier was extended to its current 780-foot length, and the first small bait and tackle shop building was constructed at the ocean end by 1938.

During World War II, the end of the pier served as a U.S. Coast Guard daylight lookout station until an intense storm in the winter of 1943-1944. The end of the pier, including the bait and tackle shop, was destroyed and had to be rebuilt. The remains of the pier were sold to William Huber's Malibu Pier Company for $50,000 with the proviso that he would construct a building for the Coast Guard to re-occupy. After the end of the war, Huber expanded the pier and built the familiar twin buildings at the end for a bait and tackle shop plus a restaurant.

In 1960, an artificial reef was constructed in the ocean about one mile southeast of the pier in an attempt to protect it from ocean damage. The reef was composed of concrete pilings, derelict streetcars and other heavy materials.

Sports fishing boats operated from the Pier until the early 1960s. The building near the land end of the pier (intended for the Coast Guard) became the Malibu Sports Club Restaurant in 1966, then the Malibu Pier Club after a change of owners, and then Alice's Restaurant (yes, named for the song) from 1972 to the closure of the pier in the 1990s.

Status of the Pier after 1980

On February 10, 1980 a real estate auction was held in Malibu and the star property offered was the Malibu Pier, the first time Bill Huber put it up for sale. Bids of $3 million and $3.1 million were received but Huber did not sell at that time. Later that year, the State of California did buy the pier, in somewhat battered condition. The pier continued to operate under the State Department of Parks and Recreation that leased space to the commercial operations on the pier. In 1985, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to recommend the pier for registration as a Point of Historical Interest.

The historic pier was heavily damaged in the El Nino storms in 1993 and another storm severely damaged it again in 1995. It was declared unsafe and the State shut it down to the public. In 1997, California transferred the pier to the City of Malibu with the proviso that Malibu fix and maintain it, something the City did not have the funds to do. The pier reverted to the State.

Reconstruction by the State of California, with a $6.2 million budget, began in 1999, and by October 2003, 75 percent of the pier was open to the public. The plan was to restore the pier to its condition in the 1950s, as a historical tourist attraction. A new concession contract will provide for operation of an upscale restaurant, one or two smaller cafés, a sport-fishing operation with bait and tackle shop, souvenier shops, and a Malibu surfing museum. The Los Angeles County Lifeguard Department also uses one of the pier buildings as an office.

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