skatepark
(Photo by Andrew Stelzer/KQED)

The city of Oakland says skateboarders need to immediately stop using a homemade skate park in order for the park to possibly gain legal status in the future.

A group of skaters last year built the park, where Ninth Street dead-ends into Interstate 880 in West Oakland.

Jennifer Riggs, one of several supportive residents, says it’s been a positive development in an area blighted by trash dumping and other dangerous activity.

“Do we want a skate park there, or do we want what happened to the skate park that used to be under the highway?” she said. “It’s a homeless encampment, where disgusting, terrible health hazard dumping occurs every single day.”

On a sunny Thursday afternoon, a half-dozen skaters used the homemade park — most of them said they helped build it and that they come here nearly every day. The overwhelming sentiment was one of pride, both for cleaning up an eyesore and helping to build something of value.

“We put our own blood, sweat and tears into this place,” said Kevin Jenkins. “We stopped graffiti, we cleaned up a dump. We gave kids skateboards. I’ve never built a skate park in my life. I built one, I wanna keep it.”

Said Rich Bogard: “Building something with my own hands means way more than somebody else taking charge and doing what they wanna do. It’s a waste if the city wants to come tear it down. All this is doing is adding fun for kids so that they’re not out skatin’ schools and financial districts over in San Francisco and here in Oakland. It’s a safe haven for cats. I don’t think the city sees it like that. I think they see it as a danger or a liability—insurance problem.”

Indeed, assistant city administrator Joe Devrees acknowledged that legal concerns are driving the city’s attempt to immediately stop the skating.

“If a kid cracks open their head and is permanently injured at that skate park, the city will be sued,” Devrees said recently at a Prescott neighborhood meeting.

“And even though we’ve said no trespassing, because of the high cost of legal expenses, the city will pay out a huge settlement.”

Still, Reese Jordan is hopeful a solution can be found. He was the only skater at the park Thursday afternoon who made it down to the neighborhood meeting.

“You want something, you’ve got to do it yourself. It’s kind of the American way.”

City Councilwoman Lynette Gibson-McElhaney said she initially offered to help legitimize the project, but promises to halt further construction were broken. She said skaters need to pay for a property assessment and inspection, and show the ability to provide insurance and buy or lease the property.

  • jmundstuk

    Hey1 Oakland! Leave those skaters alone!

  • Phrank

    All other crimes have been solved in Oakland, so they gotta keep themselves busy somehow. Idle hands…

  • eat_the_rich_0

    ” Hey kids – you gotta pay – just get the money from your parents like they did in Danville”

  • Imskeptical

    Are you KIDDING ME??? The kids should NOT have to stop using the skate park while the City is getting its act together!! (Hopefully these kids are still young when City officials get themselves all headed in the same direction.) The kids can PAY for the insurance but should NOT have to get their own; City already has vendors, etc. City should rent the land to the kids for $1 per year. This is EXACTLY the kind of initiative and positivity we want from kids around here! So if the City can’t help these kids, at least get out of their way.

    • Mike Lemmon

      Exactly!

      • Imskeptical

        I’m not even sure the kids should have to pay for the insurance, frankly. Insurance has got to be cheaper than what those kids might be doing if they were not skateboarding. We should be doing everything we can to encourage kids to do positive stuff that does not involve guns or drugs. Athletics is good for people, and the kids are having fun.

  • Naomi

    Seems like the S’klallam Tribe figured out. Maybe they could advise Oakland!

  • PeterD

    What a joke… these kids got over $40,000 – yes, 40K in donations and their own money together to build this park.. the city itself built one of the worst skateparks in the entire bay area in east oakland, it’s tiny and all the features are half assed and it just looks like they built the cheapest smallest thing possible.. ironically it looks like amateurs built the city made park in east oakland and professionals built this one in west oakland! It’s so sad that when the community come’s together and does something incredibly positive, that will help and influence other young people in oakland for years to come, the city leadership isn’t thinking about how to try and do everything in thier power to keep the park, to pass legislation that would prevent people from suing the city when using the park, or how about matching just 25% of what the skateboarders were able to gather ($10,000) and make the park completely legal in terms of permits/regulations and insurance.. First thing they want to do is try and tear the thing down.. horrible and sad and completely demoralizing..

  • Josh Kaffer

    So the city is not liable for the thousands skating in the streets competing with traffic? They already have one skatepark, so they should know that the liability issue is BS. The City has plenty of public parks that encourage more statistically dangerous activities (baseball, soccer, basketball). Do those athletes pay to insure their spaces? Did those athletes help construct their parks? Oakland will be throwing away another $200K worth of park for their stupidity.

    Make it a public park and it will be covered by the liability plan. Get your city engineer to meet with the professional skatepark builders that helped build this. If code issues come up they will fix them.

  • Mike Lemmon

    KICKSTART CAMPAIGN!

  • Buddy Gripple

    Do the users of other parks need to purchase insurance? If this is city land there should be no more liability than any other city park. ButI get the feeling that the city is just chapped that these kids took the initiative and went around their red tape.

    LET THEM SKATE!

  • Daniel Boyer

    Ummm…Santa Clara County says….”skate at your own risk” here are the rules on a stupid sign, we won’t enforce them…that much at least…

  • John

    Not like going to happen but If someone got hurt AND tried to sue, can’t a judge just tell them to kick rocks, heal up for a couple weeks and try to nail that dark slide this time? This ain’t your kiddie’s neighborhood razor scooter park.

Author

Andrew Stelzer

Andrew Stelzer has been reporting for KQED since 2010.  His work has been featured on programs including NPR’s Weekend EditionPRI’s The World, Studio 360, Marketplace,Living on Earth, On the MediaLatino USA, Radio Netherlands, World Radio Switzerland, and Radio France International. He also works as a producer at Making Contact in Oakland. Andrew has written publications including for In These Times, The Progressive,  Interpress Service, The St. Petersburg Times, and The East Bay Express.

Andrew’s work has received numerous awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, and the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

From 2004-2006, he was the senior reporter and anchor at  WMNF radio in Tampa, FL.  From 2001-2004 he was  based out of KBOO community radio in Portland, Oregon, where he also worked as KBOO’s youth advocate, supervising the stations’ youth collective. Andrew has conducted radio production trainings in Algiers, Algeria; Bolivia; Southern Jordan; Mexico; New Orleans; Tampa; Hattiesburg, Mississippi; Immokalee, FL; and Portland, OR.

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