The Great Skateboard Diaspora
“At this point in time there is no location for a skate park,” said Michele Hall, head of the skate park sub-committee (of the Parks and Recreation Committee), to Council on Feb 9. Council agreed. So that’s it. Just like that. No skateboard park in Laguna. Yet again.
Instead, the committee recommended busing our kids to skate parks in other communities. Now our kids will know what it’s like to be a Syrian refugee, or experience the great, failed Boston experiment known as desegregation.
It’s a travesty, really. The city has been grappling with this for 20 years and can’t find a 20,000 square foot solution. Yet when there’s money involved, like the ACLU lawsuit over persecution of the homeless, the city galvanizes in a minute and finds a place to build a shelter. When the very vocal senior community complains of lacking a facility, a block long center on prime downtown real estate gets built. When we need more parking, the city doles out $5 million for a postage stamp sized lot in the canyon. When Marine Safety complains of cramped quarters, they expand their footprint on our most sacred real estate, Main Beach. But somehow we just can’t find a patch of land for our kids to skate safely.
Mayor Steve Dicterow said in his last election campaign that downhill skating on our streets was the second most talked about issue in the community when he went door to door. He felt one of the remedies would be a skate park. And back in 2013, after failing to gain community support for a park at Moulton Meadows, he said “I’ll never give up.”
But throw in the towel he did, along with the rest of Council, when Michele presented analysis of 14 potential sites, all of which failed to make the grade for one reason or another. But of course. There were eight criteria by which no land use concept could qualify. They included the site being “far from a residential area, serving Laguna residents and offering convenient access, sufficient parking, safe, minimal impact on existing uses, served by transit, and minimal site constraints/ownership issues.” By these criteria the Senior Center never would have been built. I doubt The Montage would have made it either.
This cannot and will not go away. There is a seething, silent majority of parents young and old who will demand public officials fulfill campaign promises and common sense by providing a safe place for kids to skate. It’s not a threat. It’s a mandate, especially after so many streets were outlawed to skaters by the retired residents who drive them.
For example, local resident Chad Gibbs posted his disappointment on his Facebook page. What followed was a cavalcade of outrage, with 55 comments and 108 shares. While no location is perfect, what Chad said was this:
“If the issue was day laborers, homeless, elderly, tourists or sea lions, they would come up with a solution. When it comes to our greatest asset, our children and their safety, they can’t find a solution? I call that a cop out. It’s so easy. Carve out a piece of the dog park, put it under the toll road overpass, Thurston and El Morro fields are huge! TOW tree fort area. Aliso Beach, the fire road…I could go on and on. Put a postage stamp park so kids can have a safe place to skate. Only then can we say if a kid gets hit on a public street that we as a community provided a safe alternative and that kid didn’t have to be on the street. Until then we have nothing.”
Wait, did Chad say under the 73 overpass? That wasn’t on the sub-committee list. Why not? Have you ever seen that blighted, underused urban miasma? This could be something magnificent. Re-use projects under freeways is common in other cities. While it’s getting built, let’s use the underused Christmas Tree lot for the winter months, and one of the school parking lots for the summer months (something Councilman Whalen suggested). Seriously, the Christmas Tree lot meets all criteria. We don’t need it during the winter. Heck, we don’t even need it in the summer until a cultural arts center is birthed. And it would help provide value for the enormous expenditure. The sub-committee mentioned this in passing (though it wasn’t on their list), but nobody latched on and ran with it.
If we can’t do it there, then our fall back must be my personal favorite, Main Beach, where we can all access and enjoy the pageantry of this sport. Yep, I said it. That little strip of unused sand that borders Coast Highway and the volleyball and basketball courts. It would make a perfect downtown recreation troika. OK I’ll shut up on that.
But please, let’s not bury this. Write your Council. Lean into this issue. The city that is such a mecca for action sports, that has such a great skating heritage (we practically invented it), that is home to Barbara Odanaka (founder of Skateboard Moms and the Sisters of Shred) and Kim Novick (development director of the Tony Hawk Foundation), that has perfect year-round climate but imperfect, crowded roads, deserves a skate park for all of us to enjoy. Otherwise we are just another town of empty promises and parking lots.
Billy Fried hosts “Laguna Talks” on Thursday nights at 8pm on KX93.5, and can be reached at [email protected]