Limited Ban on Skateboarding
A skater on Park Avenue, one of the hills that remains open to skateboarding. | Photo by Ted Reckas
By Rita Robinson | Laguna Beach Indy
“We don’t want to trade liberty for safety,” Peter French, whose family has lived in Laguna for generations and whose children skateboard, said to the council. “If you ban hills in the city where this sport was born, I personally will challenge it. I’m sorry, I will. It will cost me a lot of money, but I’ll do it.”
Councilmembers Verna Rollinger and Kelly Boyd voted against the ban, preferring to see how new rules are observed in the next six months. Skateboarders will be prohibited from Alta Vista Way, Summit Drive, a section of Morningside Drive, Bluebird Canyon Drive between Morningside Drive and Cress Street as well as the Third Street hill, the upper end of Diamond Street, Crestview Drive and Temple Hills Drive.
The council unanimously accepted two accompanying resolutions that set specific rules as well as incremental fines starting at $50 after a first warning is given. Once regarded as pedestrians, skateboarders must now follow the rules of anybody else riding under their own power on two wheels or four. Police Chief Paul Workman presented sample brochures outlining the rules, such as obeying traffic signs, yielding to pedestrians, wearing helmets for skaters 18 years and under, keeping speeds to a maximum 25 mph, and prohibiting certain tricks as well as skateboarding at night. When finalized, police officers will distribute the brochures to skaters. Skateboarding is already prohibited in the downtown business district.
After the meeting, French said he will ask Hobie, Nike and other sports companies to support his challenge to the new hill-banning law. French compared the ban to other city regulations prohibiting Frisbee catch and smash-ball on city beaches, surfing at certain spots, and backyard tiki torches and fire pits. “Our liberties are being taken away in this town one by one,” he said after leaving the meeting shouting his disagreement at the council.
Other residents voiced concern about hitting skateboarders bombing residential streets as the popularity of the sport increases. “A skateboarder came screaming down Cress Street, he was a blur, right through the stop sign,” said Barbara Evans, who’s a longtime bicycler and skier. “I understand the feeling of exhilaration.” She said she saw a skateboarder on Summit Drive fall off his skateboard, sliding under a car up to his hips.
Another resident, Kimberly O’Brien-Young, described an incident involving a black Mercedes with tinted windows purposely hit a skateboarder causing minor injuries on Skyline Drive, witnessed by another middle-school skateboarder. “In these last few months, these kids have been so vilified as if they’re criminals. I don’t know if they thought they were just going to teach them a lesson but I don’t think playing chicken with a kid is appropriate. That’s a far worse crime than these kids skateboarding.”
Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson said she hopes the newspapers report the incident. “Trying to deliberately hit a kid really bothers me,” she said. “It’s not acceptable in this community.”
Skateboarders on Glenneyre at Bluebird Canyon. | Photo by Ted Reckas
Rollinger said she considers skateboarding a legitimate form of transportation with Mayor Pro Tem Jane Egly agreeing that streets need to be shared by a variety of travelers. Mayor Toni Iseman and Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson supported the ban citing the safety of skateboarders as a primary concern. “I’m looking at you guys and I’m scared for you,” Iseman said to young skaters sitting in the front row. “When you’re 17 years old and you’re driving and you reach down to change something in your car and a skateboarder hits you, I can’t tell you how it’s going to interrupt your life.”
Boyd said he will continue to work with a task force comprised of two representatives from both sides of the issue in designating the city-owned private access road off of Quivera Street in Arch Beach Heights for skateboarding as well as “closing off Park Avenue once or twice a year for contests.”