Proposed ordinance targets skateboarders

Skateboarders caught bombing down Laguna Beach hills or maneuvering city streets without wearing a helmet will have their boards temporarily confiscated under the terms of a proposed ordinance.

The City Council on Tuesday set the wheels in motion to grant police the authority to do so.

"It's nuts for these kids to be playing in the street without helmets," said Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson. "And I saw them yesterday going down Temple Hills Drive. It's crazy."

The catch is skateboarders without helmets must be caught in the act.

Skateboarders who flout city regulations are reported to police, but by the time the officers arrive, illegal activities have ceased, according to Police Chief Paul Workman.

"The kids are all just standing around at the bottom of the hill," Workman said on Wednesday. "And if they are just standing there holding a skateboard, we wouldn't enforce the proposed ordinance. We can't enforce unless we actually see a violation.

"We have two civilian officers chasing kids around the hills, but even they have trouble spotting violations like bombing down the hills."

Council meeting habitué Bruce Hopping objected to the proposed ordinance.

"For 30 years, the city has had a war on skateboarding," Hopping said. "We have better things for our police to do than chase 10 year olds."

Councilwomen Toni Iseman and Pearson suggested confiscation as a means to reduce violations of city regulations enacted April and in effect since May.

"It is hard to catch a kid violating skateboard laws," Iseman said. "It is easier to spot a skateboarder without a helmet."

Of the 82 citations issued by police since Feb. 1, 60 were for not wearing a helmet, Workman reported.

"It is the most common violation," he said.

Besides the helmet requirement, regulations include a ban on acrobatics, sitting or lying on a board — called luging — and traveling in excess of the speed limit.

The summary of the proposed ordinance included confiscation for all violations, but enforcement was scaled back at the meeting.

"Let's start with the helmet and see if it helps reduce violations," Pearson said.

Skateboards would be confiscated and held by the Police Department's property clerk for a minimum of one week on the first violation and a month for the second, Iseman said.

Parents would be required to accompany the violator to the department to pick up the board.

"This is kind of a fix-it ticket," said Iseman, who believes that enforcement will change behavior. Councilman Kelly Boyd thinks the proposed ordinance is an exercise in futility.

"The kids will just go to their garage and pick up one of the other four boards they have and start skateboarding again," said Boyd, who voted against the ordinance. "I don't think there is a kid in this town that doesn't have at least two skateboards."

Legal action taken against the youth violators is a separate issued handled by the city's juvenile officer.

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