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‘Save The Pier’ Campaign Celebrates 50th Anniversary

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A proposed 35-acre artificial island in the middle of Santa Monica Bay would have resulted in the demolition of the beloved Santa Monica Pier leading to a community revolt in 1972.

The last 50 years are proof that grassroots efforts do pay off and that you can fight City Hall. To showcase the events of two groups of passionate citizens in the 1970s that worked to save the Pier from the Santa Monica City Council’s plan to build a 35-acre artificial island in the bay with a bridge connecting it to the Santa Monica freeway, the “Save The Pier” play free live performances will be held on the West End of the Pier each day on Oct. 20-23 from 7-8:30 p.m.

In the winter of 1972, City Manager Perry Scott presented the City Council with plans to replace the Pier with a bridge to a proposed manmade resort island. The community revolted, and the plan to build the island was defeated. The Council, however, voted to demolish the Pier anyway. The community rallied again, this time targeting three City Council members who were up for re-election that spring. The Council rescinded its decision. The sentiment was so strong among voters, however, that not a single Council member who had voted to demolish the Pier ever won their re-election bid.

As reported in a local newspaper at that time, “[City Manager] Scott has a vision, instead of the 54-year-old pier, he sees, 500 feet off the shore, a $60 million, 35-acre island with a 30-story hotel and convention center, a sports pavilion, a theater complex, specialty shops, and five quality restaurants.” Scott stated, “The island would be more attractive than the existing pier.”

The Santa Monica Pier soon became “The People’s Pier” and the conflict became known as the “Battle of the Bay.”

Scott was asked in a meeting whether the people have a right to decide what they want to look at in the ocean. “Not really,” he answered slowly. “If the voters decided every issue, it would be tantamount to anarchy.”

After the new construction of Scott’s island was complete, the City’s plan was to tear down the Pier. The “Save the Pier” play will recount this 1972 grassroots fight to stop the demolition of the Santa Monica Pier, which ultimately led to voters passing “Proposition I” in 1975 – an initiative that preserves the Pier forever.

“The ‘Save The Pier’ play represents advocacy at its finest with results that have benefited the local community, Southern California, and international visitors for more than 50 years,” said Jim Harris, Executive Director, and Historian at Santa Monica Pier. “Guests will learn about these extraordinary efforts through a live performance that recalls the rich history and vivid account of that colorful time in Santa Monica.”

The story of the fight to save the pier revolves around the two major groups on the pier, working independently, to rally the citizens to stop the city council’s proposal. The “Save The Pier” play is using the names of real people who participated in saving the pier but behind each character in the play stands many more people.

After all, in a fight to gain community support you need thousands of supporters to fight city hall. So, when the going gets tough, the tough get going and start rebelling and then voting.

The “Save The Pier” play is being produced by the Santa Monica Pier Corporation and sponsored by The Albright.

The Santa Monica Pier opened as a public utility on California Admissions Day, September 9, 1909, and has a storied past with a variety of Pier configurations throughout the years leading up to the pivotal City Council initiative in 1975. The Santa Monica Pier today welcomes more than 10 million guests annually.

About Santa Monica Pier

The Santa Monica Pier Corporation (SMPC) is a 501c(3) non-profit public benefit corporation that was founded in 1983. SMPC was formed for the purpose of assisting the City in the rehabilitation, preservation, protection, development, operation, and management of the Pier. SMPC strives to provide impactful, culturally relevant, and “can’t-believe-it’s-free” programming year-round, upholding the Pier as a world-class destination, supporting our local business community, and most importantly providing a welcoming place for all to celebrate.

For more information, visit santamonicapier.org and follow Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube: @santamonicapier.

For more information on the “Save The Pier” play, please visit santamonicapier.org/savethesmpier.

Featured image provided by @candydergreat on Instagram.

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