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Council compromises on skateboard ban

Out of 20 possible streets, skateboarding could be banned on eight. The council will have to do a second reading to put the ordinance in effect.

March 24, 2011|By Barbara Diamond, coastlinepilot@latimes.com
  • STANDING ROOM ONLY -- In a show of solidarity, local skaterboarders wait in line to testify at the podium against a ban on skateboarding at Tuesday's City Council meeting.
STANDING ROOM ONLY -- In a show of solidarity, local skaterboarders… (DON LEACH, unknown )

Laguna Beach will curb skateboarding, but not outlaw it.

The City Council gave preliminary approval Tuesday to an ordinance that limits speed and allows city officials to ban skateboarding on certain streets in the name of safety, despite public testimony that often equated the ban with the deprivation of civil liberties.

The ordinance requires a second reading before it becomes law in Laguna, considered by many to be the cradle of skateboarding and a haven for downhill speedboarders.

"I have skated thousands of hills, and in those thousands are every hill in Laguna Beach, but there is only one I deem truly dangerous — Alta Vista," said Kevin Reimer, a two-time downhill skateboard world champion.

Alta Vista Way is one of 20 on which the council considered a ban on skateboarding and roller skating.

Mayor Toni Iseman would have added more. Councilwoman Verna Rollinger would have preferred none.

The council settled on eight.

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"I don't want to close this town down," Councilman Kelly Boyd said. "This is Laguna. We shouldn't be taking away rights."

Most of the ordinance was recommended by the city's Parking Traffic and Circulation Committee, which did not include banning any streets, and was accepted with some reservation by skateboarding adherents.

The ban would take effect 30 days from an approval date. In the meantime, city staff will investigate off-street locations for speedboarding, as Boyd suggested.

Reimer, 22, came from Canada, where he lives and owns a business, to support skateboarders and their parents who opposed bans. He was one of 47 speakers opposed to the ban at the standing room-only, almost three-hour hearing

"We understand that safety is a big concern for the council here tonight, and we appreciate that," opponent Peter French said. "On the subject of safety, Ben Franklin said, 'Any society that attempts to sacrifice its sacred liberty for a small amount of safety winds up with neither and loses both.'

"We believe that this is exactly what is being considered in this ordinance: the exchange of liberty for safety."

Seventeen speakers favored the ban.

"Freedom is precious to all of us," Julie Brinkman said. "But with freedom comes responsibility. Laws come into being because people exercise freedom at the expense of others."

Iseman said that tales of near-misses — and the trauma it caused — predominated in the e-mails and telephone calls she received related to skateboarding.

"The council has to consider this," Manfred Wolff said.

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