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Hot Wheels

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A proposed $150,000 Glendale facility for skateboarders, planned for a location in Montrose Park that has yet to be decided, has divided the surrounding community in a debate that many argue has little to do with skateboard riders and much to do with how the riders are perceived.

Many neighbors worry that skateboarders will irrevocably change the neighborhood--for the worse.

“Montrose is a lovely little park with young mothers and older people,” said Jeanette Hulsebus, whose home borders the park.

“It seems the traffic that skateboarders bring wouldn’t suit the atmosphere. I don’t hate skateboarders. I’m just concerned about safety and noise. Noise is a big problem.”

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Hulsebus emphasized that she has nothing personal against skateboarders. “I have children and grandchildren who used to skate,” she said. “But I’m concerned about safety. Skateboarders speed down the sidewalk through the park and only by the grace of God no one has gotten hit by them.”

There are no skateboard parks in the San Fernando Valley, according to skateboard enthusiasts and city officials.

“They need somewhere to go, at the very least to get them off the street,” said Chris Kuehnel, a salesclerk at Rat City Skateboards in Burbank.

“There’s a strong need for one in the Valley,” he said. “Especially in Glendale and Burbank, where they don’t give you many options. It’s illegal to skate on sidewalks if anyone else is on them and the police will cite you almost everywhere.”

There’s no question skateboards generate noise, said George Balteria, park development coordinator for Glendale’s Parks, Recreation and Community Service agency. But by creating an attractive place for skateboarders in Montrose Park, away from homes and streets, noise can be kept to a minimum, Balteria said.

“Skateboarding is not illegal, though you can’t skate in so many places in the city,” he said.

Balteria, who is coordinating development of the skateboard park, which has not been designed or scheduled for construction, said the park would decrease skateboard traffic in the surrounding neighborhood and allow the city to effectively regulate skateboarders within the park.

“Personally, I don’t want it,” said Jim Barrett, president of the Montecito Park Homeowners Assn. Skateboarders ride through the neighborhood with reckless abandon, narrowly avoiding being hit by cars or hitting pedestrians, he said.

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Although the Glendale Police Department, which regularly cites skateboarders for skating on public sidewalks, remains neutral on the park issue, officers involved in park development discussions caution both sides not to let perception drive the issue.

“There’s really no area for these kids to skateboard legally now,” said Officer Tahnee Lightfoot, who represents the Police Department in city meetings on the park.

“The park has to be looked into because these kids are being cited and arrested for doing something constructive. It is a sport,” she said.

Drugs, primarily marijuana and LSD, are a continuing problem at Montrose Park, Lightfoot said. “But the drugs are with kids who just go to the park to use drugs, not necessarily the skateboarders.

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“The skateboarders have a reputation that is not great,” she said. “They are seen as disrespectful to the elderly. They sometimes ignore warnings to leave areas where they’re disruptive. But they’re not criminals. The park wouldn’t bring in more drugs, simply more skateboarders.”

“The [skateboard] park has nothing to do with drugs and troublemakers,” said skateboarder Derek Rue, 15. “They’re already there.”

Marilou White, who lives a few blocks from the park on Sparr Boulevard, a main route to Montrose Park, said skateboarders are simply the newest incarnation of “bad boys who look threatening.”

“I’ve raised my five kids here, and three are boys and they ended up as surfers,” White said. “The same attacks were made on them in the 1950s and ‘60s. Now the skateboarders are the so-called bad guys.”

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Skateboarders said they obey the requests of neighbors when complaints are made about skateboarding in driveways. But there are always “a few bad apples who ruin it for the rest,” Lightfoot said.

“I’m in favor of the park because I presume it will be situated away from homes and they will be able to regulate the hours,” said Jim Lawlor, who lives near the park. “Currently, the noise is chronic. It’s an incredibly obnoxious clap and clatter they generate.”

Further, he said, skateboarders sometimes “mouth off” to residents who complain of the noise. Lawlor added that many elderly residents are too scared to confront skateboarders to complain about noise or property damage.

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“If the skateboarders can be given a place to skate, a regulated place with closing hours and if traffic can be routed properly, this park could solve a lot of problems, not create new ones,” Balteria said, noting that the issue is far from being resolved.

Until it is resolved, skateboarders such as Eric Rosendahl will continue skating on sidewalks and streets.


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