As those of you know who read my original 2013 post, Pismo Beach Stairway to Nowhere, earlier this year I received conflicting information as to whether a vintage spiral staircase – long since abandoned – had indeed been demolished. This decaying gem, which once transported happy beachcombers safely down the steep rugged cliffs to a picturesque cove, is a source of fond memories to locals. I am happy to finally report that, as of April 2015, the staircase still stands in all its glory, although plans have been proposed for its partial demolition and restoration. In honor of one of my favorite James Bond movies, I titled the image You Only Live Twice, as it seemed rather appropriate.
According to newspaper articles, Noreen Martin, owner of Martin Resorts, has applied for a coastal development permit to repair and reconstruct the staircase, which can only be accessed via kayak or brave souls who dare swim to the beach. At one time the staircase was connected to the coastal bluffs by a bridge that has long since rotted away, leaving the now disconnected stairway alone and decaying from the salty ocean air. Martin’s plans include preserving the existing staircase core and constructing a new spiral staircase around it.
In addition, the existing seawall would be restored and a new pedestrian bridge would be built from the Ventana Grill – located on hotel row just above the staircase – down to the stairs. For those of you who are interested in viewing or photographing the original staircase, I would recommend a timely visit to the Ventana Grill in Pismo Beach before the restoration work commences. And have a lovely James Bond Vesper martini – shaken not stirred – in the lounge. A heap of thanks to Richard Bryant for sending me the newspaper article.
Update April 2015: Please see my new post Pismo Beach Stairway to Nowhere – April 2015 Update, for further information. The staircase still stands in all its glory for now. However, plans are underway to demolish and restore a portion of the staircase (while keeping the main core) and build a new access bridge down to the beach.
Update March 12, 2015: Please see the comments from Richard Bryant below for the latest news update. A sincere apology to my readers for any misinformation on this staircase. There has been much more interest in its fate than I could have imagined. I have received conflicting accounts over the past few months regarding whether or not the staircase – or portions of it – are still present. In January some local residents wrote me and said it had been demolished. Today I was informed it’s still standing and that the main central support section of the staircase will be part of a restoration, along with the walls to an elevated beach. Since I am not a local Pismo Beach resident, I will refrain from further updates until I can confirm these reports in person and onsite.
Original 2013 Post: Just a quick post this afternoon on a subject I have long since wanted to photograph here on the California Central Coast. During the time I was a Resident Artist at Studios on the Park in Paso Robles, a patron came in one day and commented on my urban exploration (UrbEx) photography. She inquired as to whether I had photographed an abandoned beach access staircase in the Shell Beach area, since I love to shoot decaying structures. A few months ago I was fortunate to locate this vintage stairwell during a glorious and very colorful sunset.
Lurking just behind the posh Ventana Grill in Pismo Beach, this long abandoned spiral staircase sits decaying alongside the beautiful Pacific coastal bluffs. It once served to transport beachcombers safely down to the ocean, but now appears to be the Central Coast version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The walkway that once connected this staircase to the bluffs has long since rotted away, but the leaning tower still beckons, harkening back to a once golden era. For you pixel perspective peepers, yes, this stairwell is leaning and rather precarious. The only true access to this spiral staircase is via ocean kayak, as there is no way to get to the beach from the adjacent cliffs.
These images were taken with a Nikon D800 and a Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 ultra-wide angle lens, and are HDR (high dynamic range) photographs comprised of bracketed RAW shots processed in HDRsoft’s Photomatix Pro, Lightroom, Photoshop and with onOne Software’s Perfect Effects. The top two images were processed to lend a vintage, soft lomo effect.