Council bans Skyline Drive to skateboarders

Time ran out Tuesday for skateboarders who wanted to preserve Skyline Drive as a course for downhill speedsters.

The City Council voted 4-1 to add the narrow, twisty drive to the list of Laguna Beach streets closed to skateboarding, with almost no objections from the usually vocal youth and adults who support the sport and not much more input from folks who want the ban.

Pro-skateboarders were given 60 days at the Feb. 28 council meeting to deal with violations of city regulations.

Even with about another 30 days, supporters failed to curb the conduct that makes Skyline Drive residents wretched with fear, or to involve parents in the effort.

"Don't ban the street, ban the conduct," pleaded Kimberly O'Brian Young, one of two speakers opposing the ban. "I was naïve when I asked for 60 days to get a handle on the situation."

She said 75 kids had turned out for a meeting regarding problems on Skyline Drive, but only 10 parents attended.

"That was a disappointment," O'Brian Young said.

It was more than a disappointment for council members. It provided the impetus for policy changes that could include a ban on all hillside streets above a certain grade, anathema to kids who aren't interested in what Councilwoman Toni Iseman called a bunny slope.

But something has to change, the council agreed.

"What we are doing now is just not working," said Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson. "We need to do something different."

The police department received 31 calls about skateboarding activity on Skyline between Feb. 28 and May 17 — the grace period allowed by the council to improve conduct on the street — and four after that berating the council and the department for not taking more action, Police Chief Paul Workman said.

"Enforcement hasn't been what I would like," Workman said.

Workman said part of the problem is that by the time police arrive at the location of a complaint, the activity has stopped.

Council members have also received complaints.

"We get accosted by people who think we are not doing our jobs," Iseman said.

Iseman said fear of injuring, or worse, killing, a skateboarder nearly always is part of the messages she receives.

"People don't want to kill people," said 9-year-old Skyline resident Samia El-Erian, whose mother also spoke at the council meeting in favor of the ban.

"The city knows it is dangerous," said Jamie El-Erian, an attorney. "You are on notice and you can be found liable."

She said lawsuits arising from deaths could bankrupt the city.

"I do not agree with her assessment of the situation," said City Attorney Philip Kohn.

Skyline is not the only street that city officials get phone calls about regarding hazardous conduct, but it accounted for 35% of 79 hazardous complaints, Workman said.

"Kids just aren't getting it and their parents are letting them," said Councilman Kelly Boyd.

Iseman said there has to be consequences for violations.

All five council members agreed that more enforcement is needed, including Mayor Pro Tem Verna Rollinger, who opposed banning Skyline Drive.

"It just moves the problem," she said.

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