Yesterday afternoon, architect Michael Maltzan came to present an update to City Council about the progress being made on the new Lens pier project. Not much has changed in the last few months: still no new pictures, they are still using images of clear water in the "reef" area of the pier, they are still using generic images to describe features they are thinking about putting in the Lens pier. We counted over a dozen non-committal responses to questions asked by council members, including: "still under consideration", "to be determined", "we're studying that", "it is a topic of research of things to be looked at", "we are looking into that", and on and on.
Only a few new pieces of information came out at this 2-hour meeting. The first is that the bids came in to demolish the existing pier, they were between $2.9 - $6.8 million, within the budgeted $4.5 million amount, but WAY below the city-estimated $13 million figure that convinced city council to vote to destroy the inverted pyramid pier two years ago(we would think this big of a mistake by a city employee would result in some kind of disciplinary action, but disciplinary action doesn't appear to exist in Bill Foster's city administration).
The next new piece of information was about the expected subsidy for the new Lens pier. In response to Councilman Kennedy's decrying the lack of any kind of business plan, we found out that the subsidy will be "a third to a half" of the current operating subsidy. That puts it at a $500,000 to $750,000 per year net loss to the city to operate the giant toilet bowl of the Lens pier. This would still make the Lens pier the most expensive city subsidy aside from Tropicana Field. So the pier subsidy gets cut in half, and the number of jobs related to the pier will be cut by 80-90%(from 500 to 300 jobs now, to about 50 jobs with the Lens pier). This is a good time to mention one of our favorite Foster quotes: "Jobs is the biggest indicator of economic vitality and growth of a city. If you're not creating jobs, and growing, you're dying".
Another new piece of information was just how much the Lens pier itself has shrunk since its first presentation. The Lens pier plan entered into the design contest was about 1450 feet long. Then, to come in under budget, Maltzan had to shrink the "tiara" portion of the Lens and move the whole structure 100 feet closer to shore. Yesterday we found out that the Lens has shrunk even more. In response to a question about this from Councilman Nurse, Maltzan admitted that the Lens pier was now down to "1100 feet right now". If we keep going at this rate, the pier will be only 200 feet long by the time it is built.
The last new piece of information came from Mayor Bill Foster himself. The Mayor, who was dressed in a fashionable matching legal-pad-yellow shirt and tie, revealed that his parents "hate everything about" the Lens pier, and that the new Lens pier is about the future, not the older generation, saying "my parents will not be excited, I have written them off". Writing off an entire generation of people is pretty harsh Mr. Mayor.
Nothing else new was revealed, another meeting is scheduled "about 60 days from now" that is supposed to have more answers. Speaking of questions and answers, over a month ago, we submitted a list of 15 questions to Councilman Kornell to ask the Maltzan group, he never got back to us, but after this meeting, only 3 of those questions have been answered. We will be posting an updated list of "unanswered questions about the Lens pier" in the next few days.