Mailbag: Speedboarders are a hazard

My wife and I were on our way to see the doctor, when speedboarders were on our hill at Crestview Drive again. They usually visit our hill, between a dozen or so, their groups getting more and more numerous in recent weeks. Yesterday we witnessed another accident between a speedboarder and a sidewalk.

I'm a former skateboarder, having skated with Steve Caballero in the 1980s in Eagle Rock. I'm in my 40s and my wife is in her 30s. In my opinion, speedboarding on narrow Laguna Beach streets is inherently dangerous. We're not skating on a ramp, a closed course, or a park.

The idea is to intentionally mix with traffic for the thrill of it. This is simply too dangerous for the kids and brings about much liability for an unsuspecting vehicular driver.

While speedboarders and their parents would advocate how wonderful, safe and friendly they are (as they have often left mail on our front door and mailbox), not so. We've often encountered their rudeness and lack of consideration to our surprise, let alone disruption of traffic, and have often advised the Police Department when too many of them simply block our narrow street.

Their demeanor isn't the issue — safety is. We drive at 5 miles an hour on the hill (as opposed to the posted 20 mph), not because of oncoming traffic, but because of the constant concern and danger of speedboarders who cannot control their speed, turns and simply don't know how to brake. Far beyond inconvenience, boarders have become a dangerous nuisance to residents.

Consider the accident that took place recently — no different than the usual accidents that speedboarders experience here, often unreported.

"Elijah" was speedboarding on the hill, with a "newer board," when he "took the outside line" (as reported by five of his closest friends who stuck around after the accident), resulting in Elijah breaking his leg/ankle against the curb.

The end result? My wife and I missed a doctor's appointment on Saturday, as the street was closed for more than an hour with traffic unable to move. The use of an ambulance, at least two fire engines and several police resources resulted because skaters (and often their parents) show poor judgment in where they choose to skate.

We now have boarders coming from as far as Los Angeles and San Diego counties as well as the Inland Empire to visit our hills and create exposure to drivers. Is this really what we want as residents looking for tranquility and comfort?

Boarders and vehicles don't mix. No amount of responsibility on the part of a car driver can prevent the kind of accidents that happen when recreational and professional speedboarders use Laguna Beach streets.

If a speedboarder can't keep from injuring him/herself against a "stationary object" like a sidewalk, such as Elijah demonstrated, how can he or she possibly be safe around moving vehicles in narrow streets?

Today, Elijah is an injured teen. Tomorrow, an encounter between Elijah and a moving vehicle and Elijah may not have lived. Stop the insanity before blood spills and a more serious tragedy ensues.

Lloyd Kasakoff and Shawna Snukst

Laguna Beach

Editor's note: The above letter was initially addressed to the City Council

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The ban on skateboarding in Laguna Beach must be lifted. When man created the law banning women from their right to vote, women did not get their say. This ban on skateboarding down Bluebird Canyon has happened much the same way.

The skateboarders did not get their chance to speak out. When we did speak our peace, the mayor, City Council and SNAG either walked out or turned a deaf ear. Due process has been completely ignored. There has been no compromise or real discussion about the new law. It just happened.

I would hope that the council, when deciding to create something as serious as a new law, would be open to hearing both sides. Instead they have chosen to support the 1% who are anti-skateboarding, namely SNAG. The members of SNAG don't skateboard and therefore cannot relate to the skills required to ride a board.

What might appear to SNAG as out of control and reckless, is actually skilled athletes using perfected techniques. It's ridiculous to judge something that you know nothing about. This ban on skateboarding is equally ridiculous and totally unfair.

When the council created this law, it completely ignored the basic principles of democracy and our rights as American citizens. What we need is a real solution. But first we have to remove the emotions and approach this issue with clarity and understanding.

Here is my idea: the Skaters Permit Program.

My idea is to utilize the same template as a skier's mountain resort. When a skier or snowboarder purchases a lift ticket, they automatically agree to release the resort from liability and basically hold themselves accountable for their actions.

Much like a lift ticket, the Skaters Permit could be purchased for a nominal fee, which would then release the city of Laguna Beach from any and all liabilities. This idea is beneficial for both sides. With the Skaters Permit Program in effect, every responsible skater would be registered bringing in much-needed revenue for our city.

Darren Madrigal

Laguna Beach

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I am writing in an ongoing effort to get the word out — there is a new Saturday skate park in Laguna. It is just like the one proposed in last week's letter, "City should foster skateboarding as a sport" [Coastline Pilot, Feb. 25.]

It is in partnership with Basics of Skateboarding Camp, which provides programs for Costa Mesa and Ladera Ranch, and Laguna's own local youth development experts, the Boys & Girls Club.

In direct response to this community's needs, the club set out last year to raise funds and built a set of ramps that would be challenging for skaters and have the flexibility to be rearranged into new configurations to keep kids interested for the long haul.

Chad Shelter designed and built the first set of ramps (two quarter pipes and a fun box for intermediate/advanced riders) and then Matt Sheridan of Basics of Skateboarding matched the set up with two more quarter pipes, a more transitional fun box for beginners and a launch ramp. This created Laguna's first official semi-portable skate park.

Both the Boys & Girls Club and Basics of Skateboarding provide the oversight of trained experienced adults who provide guidance in terms of skills and character. We feel it is our responsibility to nurture the legacy of the surf and skate culture rooted in Laguna and preserve its combined essence of creativity, camaraderie and environmental awareness in our community.

With all of the animosity that kids are affronted with in the world around them (including that stemming from the downhill issue), we are doing our part to teach kids from the start that safety, respect, confidence, creativity and kindness to enhance the skating experience.

We believe infusing these qualities into the natural flow, connection, freedom and excitement derived from skateboarding can benefit our kids, our community and our future in meaningful ways. We welcome with open arms community support.

Although at this point access is limited to Saturdays, if demand and resources grow, so will the availability. Please help spread the word about this great opportunity for more young people to discover and practice the art of skating at a place they can call their own. For more information, call the club at (949) 494-2535 ext. 100.

Pamela Estes

Garden Grove

EDITOR'S NOTE: The writer is executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach.

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Reading about the various Laguna Beach neighborhoods and their nighttime parking/noise issues brings to mind a question: Why not some cool acoustic jazz groups? World music? A varied menu of acoustic music at the same place(s)? Evening chamber group offerings?

This is America, people. We get choices … don't we?

Laguna Coffee on South Coast Highway has been the template for what I describe — offering live jazz on Saturday mornings at 10 a.m., a ghastly hour, but they've been doing it successfully for some time now. People will even get up on Saturdays to go hear good acoustic music. There are so many great players in town, these venues might even save money with more civilized offerings.

Rather than having neighbors coming to city hall for months at a time complaining, they would come to the restaurants in question, enjoy good food and enjoy the ambiance created by music one can converse over. The restaurants would prosper all year, not just in summertime. Tourists could become the frosting on the cake.

Having been a "club kid" in the '70s here, I know I would enjoy that kind of environment at night these days, rather than three loud rock 'n' roll clubs on one block with scary-looking bouncers, or being assaulted by some over-zealous party mammal in some of the other nightclub areas in town.

Jheri St. James

Laguna Beach

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