Without an acceptable location for an in-town skate park, skateboarders may soon be shuttled to parks with ramps and rails in nearby towns, according to a recommendation unanimously accepted by the City Council Tuesday.
Where once there were 14 potential skate park sites, now there are none, reported Michele Hall, chairperson of a recreation subcommittee studying potential skate-park locations. Land scarcity, lack of parking, safety, noise and nuisance issues, out-of-town crowds and potential detrimental impacts to habitat have kept a skate park a pipe dream, she said.
“A temporary solution to a long-term problem” is to bus kids out of town for a $15 fee, she said. The council accepted the skate-park shuttle recommendation with transportation specifics to come.
The council also asked the subcommittee to continue to pursue other options, including a mobile “pop-up” skate park or “skate dot,” a skateboarding configuration that can be integrated into a park or set up in an open lot. The Christmas-tree lot at 725 Laguna Canyon Road was suggested as a six-month pilot site for a pop-up park by the subcommittee. The council also recommended seeking permission of the Laguna Beach Unified School District to use the El Morro Elementary School parking lot in the summer.
“At this point in time, there’s just not a location for a skate park,” said Hall, “but we didn’t want to come up empty-handed.”
The pop-up park would demonstrate the need for an in-town facility and “show people that skate parks do not bring crime to the neighborhoods, they actually keep kids busy,” Hall said. A pop-up skate park costs $15,000, she said.
Only one resident attended the council meeting to voice support for a skate park, an issue that has raised near-capacity crowds at City Council meetings in the past.
“You can say it’s complicated and it’s tough, but it really isn’t,” said Aaron Talarico, father of two daughters. “Someone needs to just do it.”
In a town where there was once a bowling alley and, more recently, a movie theater, Talarico opposed shuttling. “I think it’s a message we’re sending to the kids,” he said. “‘We’re going to shuttle you out of town to do your sports.’” Nearby Irvine and Laguna Niguel offer skate parks.
The most recent in the line-up as contenders for possible skate-park locations were the inland-
side of the Aliso Beach parking lot, Lang Park in South Laguna and the Southern California Edison power station lot across from the Sawdust Festival on Laguna Canyon Road.
Already zoned for recreational use with plenty of parking, the Aliso Beach parking lot remained the last site standing, but toppled due to potential complications with its owner, the County of Orange, and concerns from nearby businesses and neighbors about noise and nuisance, said subcommittee members. It’s also next to the Aliso Creek estuary, which is being eyed for restoration by Laguna Ocean Foundation and the California Coastal Conservancy, according to the city report.
Lang Park languished due to opposition from residents of senior housing near there and complaints from park-users about losing a grass playing field to a concrete construction. The Edison site was dropped for health-safety reasons, said Hall, but the council directed city staff to ask Edison about electro-magnetic field emissions at its power station. “The great thing about the site is that it scores so well in all the other categories,” said council member Rob Zur Schmiede. “I would rather base something on fact than fear that may not really be there.”
The recreation subcommittee, also consisting of Allen Doby and James Howard, will continue to look for lots for sale on Laguna Canyon Road as well as consider the potential of putting a skate park on top of a parking structure if one is built at the village entrance.
Several steep streets running through the hilly neighborhoods of Laguna Beach were banned in 2011 and 2012 to skateboarders, who could be cited for ignoring the rules. Safety helmet laws for 18 and under were also imposed. The rules resulted from a public outcry over downhill skateboarding, a sport as iconic to southern California as surfing. Ban proponents said skateboarders were a car collision waiting to happen and opponents decried criminalizing the sport.