Skateboarding proponents dominate hearing

Almost 160 people attended a committee meeting to discuss options for regulating speed boarding, comparing Laguna Beach to Portland, Newport Beach and Poway.

July 29, 2010|By Barbara Diamond,
  • Audience members including parents, skateboarders and neighbors, wave their hands in favor of comments opposing the ban of downhill skateboarding in Laguna Beach during an open hearing at Thurston Middle School's gym.
Audience members including parents, skateboarders… (Don Leach, Coastline…)

Skateboarders and supporters of limits on the activity gave the Parking Traffic and Circulation Committee an earful last week, but neither side will know how well they pitched their cases for at least eight weeks.

Testimony presented by speakers, who ranged in age from pre-teen to an octogenarian, at the July 22 meeting will be considered by a PTC subcommittee, which is scheduled to make recommendations at the Sept. 22 full committee hearing on what, if any, restrictions should be placed on trick skateboarding or its off-shoot, downhill speed boarding.

The committee has been tasked to assess issues of safety, tradition, love of the sport and what some have termed unruly behavior.

"This sport is an inextricable part of our town's culture," said Genny Davis, 20, a Laguna Beach High School graduate and one of the 35 speakers at the hearing. "Laguna's residents love to skate. High school students who cannot drive or afford expensive activities use it as a free, healthy form of exercise, entertainment and transportation."


Davis said rude behavior is not exclusive to skateboarders and should not be used to characterize an entire group of people.

However, Margaret Butts, a senior citizen, said skateboarders harass the elderly and dog walkers.

"They are a menace to society," she said.

John Bernstein said he is more concerned about safety than manners.

"When something is dangerous in Laguna, we regulate it," Bernstein said. "Surfing is only allowed on five of Laguna's beaches. Skateboarding is banned on 10 of Laguna's streets."

Dr. John Brusky said statistics show there are five skateboard-related deaths a year, compared with 500 bicycle-related deaths and 30,000 vehicle-related deaths.

"Children are in more danger driving than skateboarding," he said.

A proposal by Bernstein, backed up by a petition, to limit skateboarding to 10 miles per hour and on hills with less than a 3% grade, triggered the formation of the PTC subcommittee on skateboarding.

"We are not looking to ban skateboarding," Bernstein said. "It's 'speed-boarding' we are trying to stop."

Speed boarders have been estimated, if not clocked, going down Laguna's hills at more than 50 mph, maybe as fast as 60 mph.

Keith "Kito" Peery said he has no objection to skateboard regulations, but favors ones that are enforceable and that he said have proven effective.

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