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.