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Mid-City CAN Blog

Skatepark supporters rally to push project forward

Skatepark supporters overflowed the room at the City Heights Recreation Council on Nov. 18 and were forced to watch from outside. Photos by Adam Ward
Skatepark supporters overflowed the room at the City Heights Recreation Council on Nov. 18 and were forced to watch from outside. Photos by Adam Ward
On Dec. 4, despite meeting in the Mid-City Gym where signs were posted on the walls forbidding skateboarding -- or wheels of any kind -- skatepark supporters attended a meeting that lasted more than two hours and involved polling a crowd of more than 150 people individually about their thoughts on Park De La Cruz's suitability for a skatepark site.

The City Heights Recreation Council announced the meeting after a Nov. 18 council meeting where more than 50 skatepark supporters showed up and were forced to watch most of the meeting from outside near the tennis courts after overflowing the meeting room in the City Heights Recreation Center.

At the November meeting, Chairman Ricky Franchi said only two speakers from each side of the skatepark debate would be allowed to give public comment. Franchi complimented the anti-skatepark group for "the courage it takes up here to talk about it, because there is an overwhelming majority of skateboarders here," he said.

Erick Hernandez, 15, Hoover High student and City Heights resident, spoke for the skatepark supporters at the November meeting.

"All the skateboarders here, we've all been kicked out of places, and we finally want a place where we don't get kicked out," Hernandez said during public comment.

After Franchi denied the remaining speakers the opportunity for public comment at the November meeting, skateboarders left, chanting outside, "What do we want? A skatepark. When do we want it? Now."

They then took to 44th Street marching with signs and banners, one of which said that if the community doesn't build skateparks, the whole community becomes one.

The demonstration stopped at the end of the pedestrianized street, near the City Heights Weingart library after being surrounded by multiple police cars with lights flashing.

Skate supporters rallied peacefully to cries of "Save the skate. Stop the hate," and "Youth power."

Mid-City CAN Youth Council member Kasey Souvannaleuth was surprised by the strong youth showing at the meeting and the protest afterward.

"I didn't know that many people were going to show up," the 16-year-old, City Heights resident and Altus Charter School student said. "We won as youth. We came together."

The City Heights Recreation Council changed the Dec. 4 meeting from a design meeting to a meeting to address community concerns.

Most of those opposed to the park were upset about giving up existing park and picnic area for the skatepark.

At the December meeting, City of San Diego Program Manager Brian Schoenfish moved from person to person, asking them their thoughts on the site as City Heights Recreation Council members watched silently.

Before questioning the audience Schoenfish described some of the history of the skatepark advocacy effort.

"This project was spearheaded by a group of public spirited individuals, primarily a community youth-led campaign to create a safe place for kids in the community to skateboard," he said. "This really is the tale of people in the community coming together and approaching the city wanting to bring about something positive for the youth – a grassroots driven planning effort."

He informed the crowd about project updates in the form of frequently asked questions, which included the skatepark being unsupervised, like all City of San Diego Parks and Recreation skateparks since Jan. 1, 2009, unfenced and unlighted.

Some residents asked whether the site could be changed. Schoenfish said the $1.46 million State grant which is funding the project, in addition to a $40,000 grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation and $250,000 from the City's Fiscal Year 2015 budget, is site specific and cannot be used at a different site.

Miki Vuckovich, executive director of the Tony Hawk Foundation, also attended the meeting and spoke.

"I really want to commend the youth of City Heights and Mid-City CAN in particular for the advocacy they have been doing," he said. "We worked with over 500 communities in the last 12 years around the country and we have not seen such a great and well-organized group."

Zubin Eggleston, a City Heights resident, revisited comments made at the November meeting by critics who said they opposed the skatepark because they didn't want pot smoking and graffiti in the park.

"I think all the inspiring young people here deserve an apology for that comment, because what I see here is several dozen young people that are learning a valuable lesson by getting involved in the civic process," he said. "When they succeed in building that skatepark, everyone is going to take that lesson and use it for the rest of their lives."

At the Dec. 4 meeting, City of San Diego Program Manager Brian Schoenfish asked more than 150 audience members their thoughts on Park De La Cruz as the site of a new City Heights skatepark as the City Heights Recreation Council watched.

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