I am writing to you as a homeowner and resident of Morningside Drive to share my concerns and thoughts about the issue of speedboarding in the neighborhood.
Most of us who purchased homes in the neighborhood did so in part because it was quiet, secluded, beautiful and safe, not to mention in Laguna Beach and valuable as an asset. All of these are adversely affected by speedboarders, who make use of the neighborhood as a sports arena.
I have thought a lot about this issue, and what it means to me on both a personal and community level. You’ve probably thought about everything I will raise thoroughly and deeply, but let me share a little.
1. Transportation. If we agree that transportation is basically a means of getting from Point A to Point B, speedboarding, at least on the Morningside-Bluebird Canyon loop, is not used as transportation. If that were what people were doing on their boards, they would use the road as a route to get to a destination, once at any given time, not repeatedly. Nor would they need a chase car behind them to bring them back to the beginning of the route.
In any case, all modes of transportation are controlled. Pedestrians must cross at crosswalks or lights or risk a ticket; bicycles must use lanes, wear helmets, pay for licenses, signal, have lights and reflectors. Cars are regulated, as are buses, taxis, shuttles, trains, subways, airplanes.
2. Regulation. Sports, too, are regulated. Skiers use slopes, though they might prefer those nice, accessible streets in mountain cities. Surfers are only allowed on some beaches during some hours. Baseball players do not set up diamonds anywhere in parks or on the lawns of public buildings or on public streets. Golfers must practice on driving ranges and courses.
Culture is regulated as well. Art is exhibited in specific places and licenses are required for public exhibits. Music has venues and regulated hours. Parties, even in private homes, are regulated by noise variances. Public space is not free space, but shared space; space where everyone’s rights must be considered.
3. Freedom. With freedom comes responsibility. In particular, free society requires every citizen to consider his or her responsibility towards others while exercising a freedom. Laws come into being when people exercise their freedoms at the expense of others; when freedoms collide.
The speedboarders I have seen obey no set of laws. They use the entire street, occupying lanes and pedestrian space in both directions; they do not obey the speed limits; they do not obey stop signs; they sometimes use their boards at crosswalks; they don’t signal for lane changes or turns.
It would have been possible for speedboarders as a group to organize in order to set up regulations they could present to the community to show that they understood the concerns and were taking action toward self-regulation.
4. What I fear. A terrible accident in which a speedboarder is brain-damaged or killed and I or a neighbor is haunted for life; the escalating battle between homeowners and speedboarders; the lack of safety and respect on the streets of my neighborhood; the possibility that speedboarders will arrive in larger and larger numbers; the devaluation of neighborhood property to buyers and renters as a consequence of the presence of speedboarders.
An additional concern is for the safety of my husband, who has a degenerative neurological condition, ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, now in its sixth year. When we “walk” in the neighborhood, he must use a power wheelchair. You can imagine my fear for him should speedboarders and their chase car come around a bend.
5. A personal view of speedboarders. In my view, speedboarders are valuable citizens in our community. They are brave, they are young, they are our future. It would be wonderful to see them take on the job of self-regulating and presenting what they see as fair regulation to a meeting, regulation that took into consideration the needs of the community as well as their need to have a place to practice their sport. I would like to see them take on the responsibility of finding a venue that works and raising funds to see that it’s built. That Council Member Kelly Boyd has taken on such a project is terrific.
6. A note about accidents. The other day, a friend whose son is in high school quoted him as saying, “Well, I can stop on a dime.” That belief, that skill can avert accidents, is deeply unseasoned. If only life worked like that, that our skill could defend us against the lack of it: spare us from the driver who just got fired, who is sipping morning coffee, who is punching the dashboard in fury about an argument, whose mother or father is dying, who is talking on the phone or switching on music, or daydreaming. The definition of an accident is “an unfortunate happening that occurs unintentionally and usually results in harm, injury, damage or loss.” And when you find yourself in a wheelchair for life or worse, it isn’t going to matter whose fault it is.
I support a full ban on speedboarding on public streets and any other regulations the Council sees fit to impose. I also support the Council retaining the right to lift this ban for specific events, as is done for other sports, if our public safety officials agree that it would be possible to police it.
Julie Brickman, Laguna Beach