Laguna adds another street to Longboarding Ban
LAGUNA BEACH – The city’s approach to dealing with skateboarders on its steep neighborhood streets isn’t working, officials said. The City Council on Tuesday night voted 4-1 to add Skyline Drive to its list of banned streets. Skyline joins eight other hills that officials have ruled as too treacherous for skateboarders due to its grade, 10 intersections and more than 100 driveways. The Laguna Beach Police Department reported a steady number of complaints from neighbors, including reports of skateboarders weaving across lanes and rude behavior like urinating in bushes.
The council also asked police to increase enforcement of the ban and of safety regulations that require skaters to wear a helmet, stay on one side of the road and obey a speed limit. Police Chief Paul Workman said 84 tickets have been issued since May 2011, but many times, officers are tied up with other calls when complaints come in. When officers do arrive, skateboarders are often gone.
“The enforcement hasn’t been 100 percent of what I would have liked it to be,” Workman said, adding he hoped to redirect more resources to skateboarding once beach patrol officers began their summer duties.
The banned hillsides and safety regulations are the result of more than a year of meetings and discussions on the issue. Youth in Laguna Beach have “bombed” hillsides on skateboards for decades, but numbers have grown as downhill skateboarding has become a sport with specialized equipment, global tournaments and sponsorship deals. Laguna’s hills have become known among downhill skaters, but for drivers in neighborhoods like Skyline Drive, each day brings fear of a collision and serious injury. In a police department analysis of calls for service between May 2011 and January 2012, two falls or collisions involving a skateboarder and a vehicle were recorded.
The city had hoped banning skateboarders from the most dangerous hills while enforcing safety standards would solve issues. “Banning is not really working,” Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson said. “We need to do something different going forward.”
She and Councilman Kelly Boyd will work with parents of skateboarders and city staff to look at new solutions such as creating an off-street hill where downhillers can skate. Closing all hills above a certain grade to skateboarders may also be back on the table.
“What we’re doing right now is just not working,” she said.
Kimberly O’Brien-Young, whose sons skateboard, said the problem is younger skaters, fifth- and sixth-graders, who aren’t following the rules. She and other parents organized a safety meeting which drew 75 children but only 10 parents.
“It’s a shame I think, but I can’t get the parents to pay attention,” she said.
She added closing Skyline would only send the problem to another hill. Ticketing those who are misbehaving would be more effective, she said.
“Make them be the ones to pay the price, not the kids who are doing the right thing,” she said.
Skyline Drive resident Ken Roberts said he’s seen many dangerous situations with skateboarders, including skating on the wrong side of the road. With as many near misses as there are in the area, he said a crash seems inevitable.
“It’s a dangerous street,” he said. “We just don’t want anything to happen to our kids.” Councilwoman Toni Iseman suggested confiscating skateboards from those violating the rules as a way to get through to them. Mayor Pro Tem Verna Rollinger, who voted against the ban, agreed more enforcement of rules would be necessary to change children’s behavior.
Even with the existing ban, Councilman Kelly Boyd said he received calls and emails about skateboarders on Bluebird Canyon Drive, one of the banned streets. He had seen them on Temple Hills Drive as well. Parents aren’t doing their job of controlling their children, he said. With such critical safety concerns, he supported expanding the ban to Skyline Drive.
“The kids just aren’t getting it,” he said. “It’s our responsibility to make it safe not only for the people who live in those neighborhoods, but for the kids on skateboards.” by Claudia Koerner / Orange Country Register