Skate park plans go forward

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The City Council approves spending up to $40K to solicit bids and designs for a permanent skate park in Bluffs Park.

By Knowles Adkisson / The Malibu Times

Plans for a permanent skate park in Malibu got a boost Monday when the City Council voted unanimously to spend up to $40,000 to solicit bids and designs for a site in Bluffs Park. The move was not without controversy, though, as a Tai Chi class that meets regularly in the park objected that the park was already crowded and parking would be affected.

Malibu resident Hope Berk said Bluffs Park was a poor choice because it would add traffic to the park when skate park parents were added to the parents taking their children to baseball or soccer games. Another opponent said that if councilmembers saw how many walkers and dog-walkers use the park, “you would know this was an impossible place to put a skate park.”

Berk said a better choice would be in west Malibu where there is a greater concentration of Malibu youth and where parking would be less of an issue, such as Trancas Canyon Park. Berk added that her Tai Chi class had only heard about the choice of Bluffs Park recently and that there had not been enough notice given to the community.

But Hamish Patterson, a city council candidate whose primary issue is getting a new skate park, said there were multiple public meetings where other sites were discussed and found not to be adequate. Patterson said the skate board community is large and growing and that it deserved a permanent location.

“To deny them access just because one group says they don’t belong there and should be shelved in another location is absolutely unfair,” Patterson said.

Kristina Kell, another supporter, said that the Malibu Little League and AYSO soccer organizations had been consulted about the Bluffs Park site. The leagues wanted to see the designs for the skate park first, but agreed they would not oppose it as long as no current field space or parking was taken away, Kell said. Kell said there are no plans to do either.

There did appear to be a generational breakdown in the dispute, as most of the Tai Chi participants appeared to be senior citizens, while the skate park supporters were by and large young skaters and their parents.

Two general options for the skate park were presented in the staff report. One is a “mixed-use skate plaza” along the park’s southern edge, which “would combine challenging skate features with pedestrian family pathways, and landscaping amid a skate park layout.” This design would allow for BMX bicycle and rollerblade uses in addition to skateboarding.

The other is a traditional skate park in the southwest corner of Bluffs Park that would be used only for skateboarding.

The council voted unanimously to approve the item. Bids and design plans will be distributed directly to approximately 10 landscape design firms that specialize in skate parks. While the council allocated up to $40,000 to solicit bids, it retained the option of spending far less-about $7,000-on a conceptual design of the park that would be more general in nature. Both options involve public meetings to garner community input.

City Manager Jim Thorsen estimated that the entire process of getting a skate park through the permit and design process would take a minimum of 15 months and up to two years. Funding would also have to be raised either privately or with city tax dollars.

In the interim, Thorsen said the temporary solution of putting the former Papa Jack’s skate ramps in the Bluffs Park parking lot should happen within 90 days.

Regan Schaar, a former Parks and Recreation commissioner whose son is a professional skateboarder, offered a word of caution about the permanent skate park plans. Schaar said the two sites being looked at in Bluffs Park looked to be small, and may not be big enough for a top-class skate park. Schaar said she and her son had been to skate parks around the world. They have seen parks done right and parks done wrong, she said, and warned that a smaller park would not be worthy of Malibu’s place in skate culture.

A world-class skate park can help pay for itself with corporate sponsorships and by holding events, Schaar added.

Several councilmembers noted Schaar’s advice before voting, stating that the Malibu skate park should not be done halfway so that Malibu has a skate park worthy of its place in skate culture.

Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich said Malibu should have “not just the best skate park in California, but the northern hemisphere.”