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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

Uyehara says the Waller park, along with the Central Freeway and Potrero del Sol parks, are part of a plan developed by the San Francisco Skate Task Force, created in 2002 by then-Sup. Gavin Newsom to address the growing friction between the city and its skateboard population. The task force envisioned "a series of five parks located in a star pattern, and one in the middle of the city, [that] would make it possible for users to easily get to a park within at least two miles of their home."

All the meetings and fundraising will be in vain if the park is poorly designed and built, said Jake Phelps, editor-in-chief of Thrasher Magazine. He says locals should design the park "so we have no one to blame but ourselves," and avoid another flawed park like Crocker Amazon in Sunnydale where, he says, "the fence costs more than the skatepark." Unimpressed with preliminary designs for the park on Duboce, the notoriously blunt Phelps says, "They're going to come to our town, drop a turd, and leave."

The veteran skater is wary of "landscape designers" with grandiose ideas. "There are people who get too involved. They don't skate. Who are they to tell anybody what it is?" Newer skateparks are too crowded with obstacles trying to please all different kinds of skaters, he said. Instead, he urges a simple design similar to the streets of downtown. "The whole idea of skating is being utilitarian with your environment." Regardless of the design, he believes it won't have a dramatic effect on the Haight community: "Homeless people are gonna sleep there," he said. "People are gonna tag on it and think it's theirs."

"The whole city's a park, but people need somewhere to go when they get kicked out of everywhere," says pro skater Tony Trujillo, who is able to skate to the Potrero park from his house and thinks others should have the same proximity to hassle-free skating. Julien Stranger, another local pro, feels a park in the Haight would benefit youth in the area by giving them a healthy, creative outlet, something the Haight symbolizes to many. "I don't think that the neighborhood should be complaining about the energy a skate park will bring," he said. "Skate parks are pretty positive."

Earlier this month, an informational meeting hosted by the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council, Kinsey, Hornbeck, and other residents raised concerns that noise pollution and property damage would increase because of the skate park. "There's been no public outreach," said Martha Hoffman, who lives across from where the park is slated to be built. "If we'd known about it sooner, we would have opposed earlier."

Thuy Nguyen of the SF Skate Club, an after-school program that promotes skateboarding as a safe and positive activity, urged residents to look beyond their property values and consider the benefits for the city's youth. "It's important for kids who feel that traditional sports aren't for them." Her partner, Shawn Connolly, added that skateboarding has grown in popularity with children. "It's right after baseball," he said.

"If the city doesn't have a skatepark, the city is the skatepark," Hornbeck said of the Waller Street lot where he often hosts skate events with donated ramps to ease the community into the idea of skateboarders using the area. But until the city budget can provide for skateboarders, the debate over the park will rage — and the underused parking lot at the end of Waller will remain just that.


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