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

Mickey Ben-Horin in Potrero Del Sol

But things are not moving as swiftly for the city's other planned skate park, just beyond where Waller dead-ends at Stanyan in the Haight, which doesn't have the same guaranteed funding stream. While bids for a design have been submitted, the Recreation and Park Department needs to get approval for $1 million–$2 million in construction funds before moving forward. The city proposed the 120,000-square-foot cul-de-sac at the end of Waller and next to SFPD's Park Station after the original site near the Golden Gate Park horseshoe pits was found to be too small and lacking the necessary sight-lines for safety. But according to some residents groups, the parking lot is less safe for youths.

Citing police incident reports, Lena Emmery, president of the Cole Valley Improvement Association, told us the Waller park would be in an area with a high number of reported assaults and drug arrests and would add to noise pollution. "This location puts a skateboard park too close to a dense residential area, as well as some businesses that would be negatively impacted by the noise from the skaters," she wrote via e-mail.

While the lot is occasionally used for bicycle safety classes and overflow parking at Kezar Stadium, it sits empty most of the year, although a farmers market will hold its grand opening there April 28. Will Keating, a Waller Street resident and skateboarder who works on Haight Street, is excited about the proposed park. He disagrees with claims that the park would be a negative impact on his neighborhood. "I hear homeless mutants going crazy outside my window every night, I would much prefer skateboards," Keating said of the current noise pollution.

The Haight Ashbury Improvement Association, which is leading the charge for a sit-lie ordinance, conducted a survey on its Web site and found that many of its visitors feel the skatepark would increase noise and safety problems in the Haight. Visitors to the site also said the lot would be better used as a farmers market. Yet city officials say the two are not mutually exclusive, and early designs for the project are said to include a large public plaza adjacent to the park intended for community events.

"We realize this is going to be a multiuse space," said Nick Kinsey, property manager for the Recreation and Park Department. "Throughout San Francisco there are thousands and thousands of skateboarders but only two places where it is legal to skate." Kinsey called the park is "a done deal," citing a 2007 ordinance introduced by Sup. Ross Mirkarimi that mandates the department build a skatepark on the cul-de-sac.

Kent Uyehara, merchant chair for the HAIA and owner of FTC skateshop on Haight, said the community's fears about pedestrian safety are understandable, but that fears of increased violence and drug use are irrational. "If you can't have a skate park next to a police station, then basically you are saying you can't have it."

If the city enacts the sit-lie ordinance, which Uyehara supports, it would be easy to imagine that a skate park would be a magnet for homeless and others looking to escape police harassment. But Uyehara is adamant that the park would not become a haven for Haight Street refugees. "Skateboarders self-police their own areas," he said. "We're not trying to kick the homeless out," he added. "We're trying to make the neighborhood attractive for everyone, whether they're buying something or not."

Uyehara is no stranger to opposition. When his shop first moved to the Haight in 1994, he had to deal with threats from residents and a neighborhood organization, similar to the one he is now a part of, because of what skateboarding represented to them. Since then skateboarding and his business have prospered, and FTC now has four locations worldwide. "For a city that hosted the X-Games, it's pathetic how skateboarding has been treated."


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