No more skateboarding downtown

After months of complaints by several downtown businesses about skateboarders damaging property, city supervisors Thursday approved an ordinance banning skateboarding from those areas.

The ordinance is intended to deter those on skateboards or in-line skates from damaging property, but officially it can prohibit the use of skateboards or in-line skates on sidewalks or streets in designated areas throughout the city.

"The intent is to prevent public and private property damage," said supervisor Robin Williamson. "To be enforced you have to call the sheriff to get it in, it has to be posted, there has to be a complaint from someone.

"The message is that the world is not fair game and open to skateboarding. We thought we created an option with the skateboarding park, that obviously didn't help."

Redevelopment Director Rob Joiner said the parameters set for downtown enforcement are Washington to Fifth streets and Nevada to Plaza streets.

"If we're trying to generate dollars to draw people downtown, we should be able to say, Not here, not in these few blocks," Joiner said.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Mark Forsberg said after April 24 the law can be enforced anywhere in the city. However, someone will have to ask the sheriff to designate the area as a no-skating zone first.

Then notices would have to be posted in the area. Anyone caught in the area on skateboards or in-line skates could be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine - although neither of those are likely to ever happen, Forsberg said.

"What this means is that if a person is in one of those zones and it says no Rollerblading, you can get a citation even if you're Mother Teresa on her way to church," Forsberg said. "It's a little bit broad, but as a deterrent it may be effective.

"If those people who Rollerblade or skateboard know they're in an area and they can get a citation even if their intentions are not bad, presumably those who are doing the damage will not hang around in that neighborhood."

Supervisors debated whether the ordinance would fix the problem or would be a patch to a larger problem: children outgrowing the city's skate park and looking elsewhere for a bigger thrill.

"We've got to take a position somewhere," Supervisor Kay Bennett said. "Let's take the first step and we can change it if we have to."

Several businesses in areas such as Telegraph Square have complained of property damage and danger to pedestrians by careless skateboarders.

Aleta Murphy, Cal Fed bank branch manger, has watched skateboarders slowly destroy her building by "grinding" across the planters or jumping off the ATM machine.

Windows and handrails have been broken and customers have complained to Murphy that they are afraid to use the ATM machine.

"That prevents my ability to be available to my customers 24 hours a day," she said.

The building is her company's problem, she said, and the bank has taken steps to make the building less attractive to skateboarding thrill seekers.

She knew it was time to take action when planters recently installed at Telegraph and Curry streets became the target of skateboarders.

"When the planters were used as a recreation site, I said we have to sit down and do something about this," Murphy said.

"Since this has been so public, we have seen a decrease in skateboarding. It's not a bad sport. I just want them to be responsible to the property owners."

Doreen Mack, owner of Lofty Expressions on the corner of Curry and Telegraph streets, said it was good move that the city was taking a stance to stop property destruction.

"Now someone needs to go to the schools and say, 'You can't be doing this,'" Mack said.


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