Group sways council to delay Skyline skateboarding ban

Law-abiding, experienced skateboarders and their parents have 60 days to bring unskilled rogue boarders up to speed on the rules of the road in Laguna Beach.

The City Council delayed a ban on skateboarding on Skyline Drive, acceding to the pleas at Tuesday's packed, hourlong hearing of more than 20 speakers, most of them boys younger than 16.

They claimed it was unfair to restrict skateboarding on that street because of the conduct of younger, less-experienced boarders — dubbed "groms," a term cribbed from surfing.

"The problem is younger kids who think they are ready for bigger hills like Skyline," said Nathan Meier, 14. "We need to teach these kids how to do it right."

Doing it right means following the rules established by the City Council in April 2011 and only in approved locations, including Skyline.

The regulations restrict skateboarding to daylight hours, and boarders are required to wear helmets. They are prohibited from acrobatics, sitting or lying on the boards, and they must obey traffic laws such as not crossing the double yellow line.

"I'd get grounded if I crossed the road," said Elijah Vinograd, 13.

Tuesday's hearing was triggered by complaints about skateboarders.

Police Chief Paul Workman reported that complaints from Skyline Drive were of the most concern: There've been 19 reports of serious violations and seven calls from concerned people, prompting city staff to recommend the ban.

"It is a matter of safety," said Carole Livitsky, a 13-year resident who said she had never before called the police.

Council members also have been contacted.

"People on Skyline Drive are frightened," said Mayor Jane Egly.

Skyline winds a mile downhill from Thurston Middle School to Park Avenue. The 8% grade drops 518 feet. There are 10 intersections and 122 driveways along the street.

"I live on a street that comes into Skyline, and we are scared every day that we might hit someone," said Samia El-Erian, 8.

Her mother, Jamie Walters El-Erian, said the city has been put on notice of a dangerous condition and will be held liable.

The street shouldn't be blamed, Kimberly O'Brian Young told the council. There has been a huge influx of newcomers to the sport and the new group doesn't have involved parents. She said attempts will be made to contact parents to correct their children's actions.

"I think you will see an improvement, and you won't have to take the serious step of banning Skyline," O'Brian Young said.

Resident Vicki High said the parents of this new crop of young skateboarders don't know their children are boarding on Skyline and Oak Street every day.

"We are not a city that tolerates rogue skaters," High said. "Set up a speed trap so they know they won't get away with it."

Judson Vandertoll, 11, said he had the benefit of being mentored by older, more experienced boarders.

"I had all these guys, better than me, beating down on me because I wasn't ready," Vandertoll said. "Then they took me to the bigger hills.

"There used to be 15 or 20 kids, now there are 100, and they need to be respectful."

Speaker Kristen Fast said if the less-skilled boarders won't pay attention to the rules, their parents would respond to a $50 fine.

"Ticket, don't ban," said Jude Young, 5, who had to be lifted up to the microphone, but was able to print his name on the speakers' sign-in sheet.

Councilwoman Toni Iseman complimented the audience of young people on their polite conduct and poise throughout the hearing, but emphasized the council's concern for their well-being.

"It would break our hearts if anything happens," she said.

"Ours too," piped up a voice from the audience.

Twitter: @CoastlinePilot

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