Special needs playground in Malibu vandalized

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These security-camera images show a group of skateboarders at a special needs playground at the Park at Cross Creek. Park developer Steve Soboroff said the skateboarders were seen on video vandalizing the playground. Photos Courtesy of Steve Soboroff

Amnesty offered to teens involved 

An accessible and inclusive children’s playground dedicated to first responders that was damaged by a group of teenage skateboarders is in the process of being repaired. Now the owner of the shopping center where it’s located is asking the youths responsible to step up and apologize.

“It’s important for us at that property, as a community hub to keep it clean and safe,” said Steve Soboroff, the developer of The Park at Cross Creek.

Playground equipment was broken by skateboarders at the property on Wednesday, Nov. 22, at 5:30 p.m. At least six skateboarders were caught on surveillance.

“When we decided to build the playground there, the community said, ‘We’d really like you to dedicate it to people we care about: sheriff’s, firefighters and lifeguards.’” Soboroff said about the themed playground, which has play structures featuring a police car, fire truck, and a lifeguard tower. “We went further. There are a number of special needs kids in the greater Malibu area, but there wasn’t a playground that special needs kids could use for 15 miles around. We did that there. It’s been widely accepted as one of America’s beautiful playgrounds and is very, very busy with kids with and without special needs. They all play together. It’s really wonderful.”

Soboroff sighed and stated, “There’s a lot of big problems in the world, in our country, and in Malibu today. Some of our friends are at war. You would think there’d be better things to do for a group of kids with all this energy, teenagers from our community, than to skateboard and break things in a playground built for special needs kids that’s dedicated to first responders in Malibu. Get a grip man. Do something else. It irritates me.”

Security cameras, 28 in all, captured the teens in time-stamped images. Soboroff, a former LA police commissioner, claims this is not the first time this group has been captured digitally. 

“This time we got really clear photos,” he said. “We know who they are.” And he would like their parents to know too.

Vandalized suspects at playground
These security-camera images show a group of skateboarders at a special needs playground at the Park at Cross Creek. Park developer Steve Soboroff said the skateboarders were seen on video vandalizing the playground. Photos Courtesy of Steve Soboroff

But, the property owner is offering amnesty under one condition — an apology. 

“I think one of two things should happen here. These kids should apologize and learn a little life lesson,” Soboroff said. “You know, it’s no problem; a lot of people do dumb things. If they don’t, I believe I should turn all the information over to the Sheriff’s Department.”

Soboroff stated that if he did receive an apology from the skateboarders, he would not press charges or even seek reimbursement for fixing the damage to the playground.

“It’s a life lesson. Whether you’re in Malibu, East L.A., or South L.A., wherever you are, these kids can do a lot of good,” he said. “There are homeless. They can feed people. They can get involved with charities. They can do all kinds of stuff. Skateboarding in a special needs kids’ playground is ridiculous.”

Most of the damage has been quickly repaired. 

Soboroff, who can often be seen picking up trash or tending to various needs at The Park at Cross Creek, the shopping center he developed, said, “I can’t have that playground be down.” 

Soboroff stated he didn’t want any child to play on broken structures intended for the development of sensory motor skills. 

“There are little picnic tables intended for special needs kids and they skateboard down those and snap them,” he said. 

New tables made specially for this playground have been ordered. Not only was playground equipment broken, but damage from skateboarding was caused to chairs near the playground intended for adult supervisors.

Years ago, the multi-millionaire Soboroff donated $25,000 to the city of Malibu for the construction of a new skate park after the shopping center displaced the old Papa Jack’s skate park. 

“Look, skateboarding is fun. I’ll do it with them,” he said. “I’ll buy them dinner, but I won’t let them skateboard on a special needs kids’ playground. I will not allow it. And neither should their parents.”

Soboroff says he will forgive any kid who was involved in the latest vandalism. He can be reached at (310) 451-9877.  

“I promise I’m not going to do anything,” he said. “I’m going to accept their apology and invite me and I’ll go skateboarding with them, but what I’m not going to do is let this stuff go on. I’d like to harness this energy for the good of people in Malibu, not for the bad. If this can teach a lesson to a 13-year-old then it’s a good thing. I think it’s an important life lesson. Call me.”