Rolling forward

City plans to open two new skateparks, but Haight site sparks concern from neighbors

Mickey Ben-Horin in Potrero Del Sol

By Adrian Castañeda

San Francisco's Potrero del Sol Skatepark is often packed with skaterboarders, a testament to the sport's popularity and to the dearth of places in the city where it's legal to skate. But that will soon change with the city's commitment to build two new skateparks: one in SoMa and the other in the Haight.

Both have been tentatively approved by the Board of Supervisors. But before any concrete is poured, the skaters will have to overcome budget crises, angry homeowners, and their own bad reputations, particularly in the Haight, where the proposed park has gotten caught up in the furor over vagrants and the proposed sit-lie ordinance.

San Francisco has long been a skateboarding hub, yet there's always been friction with police, businesses, and everyday city life. Even though it's legal, there just aren't that many places to do it anymore, partially because the city and property owners routinely attach barriers to any surfaces that might be appealing to skaters.

Skateboarders, long accustomed to being ignored and disenfranchised, have responded in their usual DIY fashion, such as building a few obstacles in an empty parking lot under a freeway overpass. The city took notice of the demand and after three years of planning and meetings, the newest of San Francisco's skate parks has finally been allotted the necessary funds to begin construction around the end of summer.

The Central Freeway Skate Park will be located in what is now a parking lot at the intersection of Duboce and Stevenson streets in the north Mission District area. With $2 million collected through the Central Freeway Corridor Housing and Transportation Improvement Act of 1999, which provides for the sale and lease of parcels of city land that were under the now-demolished freeway, officials plan to develop the park to eventually include basketball courts and a dog run.

Rich Hillis of the Mayor's Office of Economic Development said the city is considering a variety of improvements, but confirmed that "we think the skate park is the priority." He attributes the park's relatively unopposed approval to the demands of the city's skaters and to the community as a whole. "They embraced the idea of a skatepark early on," Hillis said of the forward-thinking residents of the area. He jokingly adds that the park should be named "Hornbeck Park" after Bryan Hornbeck, director of the San Francisco Skateboard Association. Hornbeck and his associates started the SFSA to push the city to build new parks designed with skaters in mind.

"San Francisco has to have a world-class skatepark," Hornbeck said at one of the many skate events his group organizes. Hornbeck said the city has been receptive, working with skaters on the design of the park, but left SFSA to organize skaters and raise the funds. "It's bake sale; it's lemonade stand; it's the best we can do," Hornbeck said. "We're not trying to take anything, we're trying to make our own thing."

Plans for the park, drawn up by notable skatepark design firm New Line Skateparks, are currently under review by civil engineers. After the plans are finalized, the project will be bid out to find a contractor. Tentative 3-D renderings have been online for months, sparking heated debate on skateboarding Web sites.

When the acclaimed Potrero del Sol Skatepark opened in 2008, many skaters felt that while it was well-designed and enjoyable, it didn't have enough terrain that mimicked street riding. New Line has designed a number of skating plazas, most recently in Los Angeles. Its involvement gives many skaters hope that the new park will incorporate obstacles that represent the city's rich street skating history.


HAIA did not conduct a survey on the web site. We surveyed the membership. Of those who responded, there were a wide variety of opinions about a skatepark at this location. The largest single group, while not a majority, expressed reservations about the site, primarily due to the alleged noise it would create. Others felt the City has an obligation to provide recreational opportunities to all, and thought the site was suitable, albeit close to their homes.

Skateboards don't make noise above ambient levels when on solid concrete features. Many skating events have been held at the site over the past 3 years without a complaint about the noise from skating. Last year, Red Bull sponsored a skate jam there, and brought a motherf*&%$#g sound system that was inappropriately turned way up, by the promoters of the event. Rec & Park failed to enforce the sound ordinances and quell the noise. Some neighbors became understandably upset. However, it was not the fault of the skaters, who came to have a good time. Negligent promoters need to be held accountable for their irresponsible actions. Skaters need a place to skate. The Waller site will be a world class venue they can enjoy and be proud of. NIMBY neighbors need to address the athletic needs of our young people rather than scream, "Hey, you kids. Get off my lawn."

Posted by Guest on Apr. 21, 2010 @ 3:54 pm

For a year and a half it was such a struggle. We finally got it passed through Council but now we have to raise the funds. A lot of energy was wasted going back and forth when we should have been putting all our efforts into fundraising!
But now the push is on! These kids dont have a skatepark for miles around and are using our dangerous city streets, parking lots, light rail transit stops as a skate park! See our website and also read:
Hey we will help you guys in any way we can...if you help us too!
Gotta stick together to get these parks done!

Good luck! and may the children win!

Posted by Guest Mary on Apr. 21, 2010 @ 4:46 pm

Ya gotta love the hypocrisy of a guy like FTC skateshop owner and merchant chair for the HAIA, Kent Uyehara.
On one hand he makes his living selling t-shirts and skateboards to kids who take off ripping down the sidewalk.
Then he turns around and joins a crowd of angry old people, real estate agents, and property speculators, railing against the incivility of people who dare to take a seat on a public sidewalk.
Could we perhaps find a middle ground with this character, by proposing that people not be jailed for pausing anywhere on the sidewalk, say if they sit on a skateboard?
Seriously, any skater who gives their hard earned money to Kent Uyehara is cutting their own throat a little.
The crackdown on people using public property to sit is going to be extended to further hassle skateboarders as soon as it passes.

Posted by Moonie on Apr. 21, 2010 @ 5:31 pm

do you even live in SF? your a toy

Posted by Guest on Apr. 24, 2010 @ 8:23 am

It's "you're."

Posted by Adolf on Apr. 28, 2010 @ 9:46 pm

Which part of the opinion did you disagree with?

Posted by Moonie on Apr. 22, 2010 @ 7:39 am

I have lived and skated in this city for more than a decade. I moved from a small town in the midwest to SF to enjoy and shred one of the finest places in the world to skate and live. Quality of life issues come up a bunch here and it usually is brought up and taken to extremes by NIMBY type organizations. The no drinking at Haight street fair, no drinking at the Bay to Breakers, howling at the moon, Delores Park being shut down, cops roaming Alamo square to kick you out after hours unless you look like a yuppie couple or dog human, not to mention the crack down lately of skateboarding anywhere in SF. Not that I think drinking in public is the only way to have fun but the things I always enjoyed about the city are slowly disappearing under the notion that a dozen or so home owners in a neighborhood can literally turn it in into a shitty midwestern town, devoid of noise, devoid of culture and devoid of the things that make SF SF. I moved to the city for a reason, because it was a city. I don't want to live in the suburbs or some Nazi police state, I already have and that's why I came here. Shit people, we pay crazy rent and we live here too. Time to start our own NIMBY and drown out the voices of the few who somehow get their way. Property value is not an excuse for slowly sinking this city into dreary Midwestern doldrum fit for only lobotomized yuppies who are in bed or watching Lost by nine o'clock or the geriatric. If things don't change and the city slips closer into sanitized disneyland, well................ Cincinnati might be a great town but fuck if i'd wanna live there.

Posted by Guest Mattnova on Apr. 23, 2010 @ 7:24 am