Skateboard ban may not happen

Skateboarders may have won a significant victory Sept. 23.

The Parking, Traffic and Circulation Committee eliminated from a proposed ordinance a ban on skateboarding on steep hillside streets such as Park Avenue. The committee's recommendations will be reviewed by the city attorney and the Police Department before going to the City Council for a final decision.

The council is tentatively scheduled to decide on the issue Nov. 16, said Jim Beres, civilian supervisor for the Police Department. If the council approves the ban, the Police Department will enforce it, he said.

In May, Laguna resident John Bernstein requested that the committee ban "speed-boarding," saying it is dangerous when skaters ride downhill at 50 to 60 mph. A PTC subcommittee formed to review his proposal; it also examined, ordinances in other communities, public comment at the May meeting, and comments from the well-attended meeting held July 22 at Thurston Middle School.

About 90 people attended the September meeting, where the committee made its recommendations. Of the 23 people who spoke, one favored the ban.

Bernstein did not attend the meeting because he was out of the country, said city administrative analyst Liz Vasquez-Avila, staff liaison to the committee.

"The committee voted unanimously to remove the ban from the prohibited operations section of the subcommittee's report," Vasquez-Avila said.

Omitted from the proposed ordinance was the prohibition of skateboarding on Park Avenue between Alta Laguna and Donna Drive; Nyes Place between Balboa Drive and Pacific Coast Highway; Summit Drive between Baja and Bluebird Canyon drives; and Temple Hills Drive between Alta Laguna and Thalia Street.

Under the proposed ordinance, the city may periodically grant a permit that would allow an approved organization to skate at otherwise prohibited locations.

The subcommittee considered input from residents seeking full and partial bans; restrictions on skateboarders; and input from skateboarders, parents of skateboarders and other interested parties.

A very small minority of skateboarders pose a threat to the safety of themselves, residents, businesses, drivers, pedestrians and cyclists, the report stated.

Based on public testimony, many residents and skateboarders are amenable to restrictions in Laguna Beach that are consistent with precepts of safety and non-intrusive skateboarding. The subcommittee found that skateboarding is part of the city's culture. It benefits physical fitness.

Further, the report stated that skateboarders in the majority are respectful, courteous and mindful of their own safety and the safety of others.

The committee is recommending that all skateboarders younger than 18 use helmets specially designed for skating, which include a chin strap. Between sunset and sunrise, helmets would be required to have a forward-facing light visible up to 300 feet, and reflectors on the sides.

Other restrictions:

•Skateboarders on any street or sidewalk shall be subject to bicycle laws, reasonably applied and comply with all traffic control signals or properly posted roadway regulatory signs including stop, yield, and speed limit signs

•Skateboarders must yield to pedestrians, but be yielded to in crosswalks by motor vehicles;

•Skateboarders on sidewalks must proceed with due care and at a speed that is safe to the skateboarder and pedestrians; and

•Skateboarders may not pass motor vehicles on the right (in the absence of a special bike or skateboard/scooter lane), and ride as far to the right on roadways as practicable.

The proposed ordinance prohibits activity that would threaten or injure people or property and also bans loud or unreasonable noise, acrobatics or unreasonable speed on public property.

Skateboarders must comply with all posted speed limits or those applicable to bicycles and motor vehicles.

They must not go faster than an ordinary walk in a crosswalk, driveway, or curb cut if a motor vehicle is approaching.

Although the state law regards skateboarders as pedestrians, not subject to the vehicle code, the city presently bans all skateboarding on all sidewalks in the central business district, the ocean side of Cliff Drive, Coast Highway and Glenneyre from Legion Street to Calliope Street.

Fines may be levied for failure to comply with provisions of the ordinance: $25 for the first offense, $50 for the second offense and $100 for a third and subsequent offenses. Parents of 16-year-old-or-younger violators of these provisions will be jointly liable for payment of any penalty.

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