'Speedboarding' opponents want ban

Opponents of speedboarding on Laguna's steep streets papered the city this week with leaflets seeking support for a ban on skateboarding's "more dangerous cousin."

A group, identifying itself as SNAG — Speedboarders Neighborhood Action Group — is urging residents to support its proposal to outlaw the sport in Laguna by transmitting their concerns to city officials and attending the Feb. 1 City Council meeting.

"We are participating because of so many close calls where cars and skateboards almost meet," said Ann Weisbrod, a SNAG supporter. "It is frightening to see them on Temple Hills Drive."

The city Parking, Traffic and Circulation Committee crafted a draft skateboard ordinance in September after public meetings were held, with speedboarding supporters in the overwhelming majority. The draft, which must be approved by the council, did not include a ban on speedboarding but did recommend fines for infractions, such as skating without a helmet.

"Recommendations by the PTC and modifications by the staff will be presented at the Feb. 1 meeting," Public Works Director Steve May said.

Staff modifications had not been prepared as of Thursday.

Critics of the omission of a ban claim to have no interest in banning skateboarding per se, only speedboarding on streets with steep grades, citing concern for the safety of skateboarders, as well as drivers and pedestrians.

Near misses and property damage attributed to skateboarders prompted complaints to the Laguna Beach Police Department by 436 residents, according to a report presented by Police Chief Paul Workman in September to the city's Parking, Traffic and Circulation Committee.

Workman said the number was significant and suggested decision-makers should review the calls. He also called attention to Laguna's hilly terrain, also significant.

The chief reported that since Jan. 1, 2008, eight traffic collision reports were taken that involved skateboarders and cars; there were two accidents where the skateboarder fled prior to the officer's arrival; and five skateboarding injuries not involving a vehicle.

Under state law, skateboarders are pedestrians, not drivers, but that doesn't mean laws cannot be passed to regulate them as other cities have done.

Workman reported that several jurisdictions, such as Laguna Niguel, have prohibited street skateboarding on streets altogether, but the city has a large public skateboard park.

Other cities, including Dana Point, Newport Beach and Mission Viejo, which also has a park, have the authority to prohibit skateboarding on specific streets.

Certain streets in San Clemente are closed to skateboarders, and speed is limited to 20 miles per hour. Skateboarders are restricted from coming within three feet of a pedestrian and within 20 feet of the entrance to any shop, store or commercial building.

Laguna Woods allows skateboarding only in a cul de sac of 500 feet or less.

Liability issues are also a concern mentioned in the SNAG leaflet: personal and civic, with the possibility of tax increases to pay for costs and awards of legal action due to skateboarding accidents.

The group is urging opponents of speedboarding to e-mail support for the ban to the city clerk at manderson@lagunabeachcity.net for distribution to the City Council. It also encourages calls to individual council members and attendance to the Feb. 1 council meeting.

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