Friday, June 27, 2014

Commission Stiff-Arms Chairman On Skate Park

It was an interesting meeting of the Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission last night, to say the very least.  You can read the entire staff report HERE.

The commission voted to deny all three of the tree removal requests presented to them, but not without some serious discussions and a botched vote that had to be re-done.

Item 9a, the tree removal request on Bismark Way, HERE, was rejected unanimously by the commission.

Item 10b, for the removal of a tree on Coolidge, HERE, was first passed on a 3-2 vote, then commissioner Bob Graham - apparently asleep at the switch - requested a re-vote and reversed his vote, which resulted in a denial of the removal request.

Item 10c, a request to remove a tree at the Orange County Model Engineer's facility in Fairview Park, HERE, was quickly denied unanimously.  Nobody from the OCME group was present to argue the case.

The hot item on the agenda, the discussion of the Volcom Skate Park, HERE, went about as expected.  The staff report presented three alternatives for the commission to consider and recommended Number 3 as the appropriate move at this time.  Here's what those plans looked like, summarized from the staff report: (click on image to enlarge)

Recreation Supervisor Lisa McPherson led the presentation and outlined each of the alternatives for the commission.  She was aided by Baron Bettenhausen of Jones & Mayer, our contract law firm.

At one point during the discussion mention was made about security cameras being scheduled to be installed at Volcom Skate Park in the near future.  Each successive speaker and commission member thought that was a good idea.  (Those cameras are on the agenda for the City Council meeting on July 1st.)

Park Ranger Ann Harkey, who is the tip of the enforcement spear for the Skate Park and who has born the brunt of the unpleasant behaviors that are driving this discussion, reported that not much has changed at the Park.  There continue to be a few people who act disruptively, both inside the park proper and around the perimeter.  She described incidents where she attempted to enforce the rules but the offenders scattered and laid low nearby until she left.  Not described last night was an incident where she was actually attacked by a skater.  She described drug use in and around the park and general disregard for the rules about using safety equipment.  She also indicated that many of those who make trouble are from out of town. 

Harkey mentioned the security cameras, but indicated that she could not arrest someone just because the camera caught them apparently violating a rule - she had to personally witness it herself.  Mention was made of a recent injury at the park - a young man not wearing a helmet fell backwards onto the floor of the bowl and cracked his skull.  Later it was acknowledged that no claims have been made as a result of incidents at the skate park.

Jim Gray, a legend in the local skate world, spoke with passion about the issue. He thought the cameras were a great idea.  At one point he said, "You're not going to get the skaters to follow the rules by bullying them."  I understood what he meant.  The skate culture has a kind of "rebel" persona.  Gray thought less time should be spent making them wear safety equipment and more attention should be given to expanding the park - it's too small for the number of skaters and the mixture of skill levels.

Newport Mesa Unified School District Trustee, former City Council member and President and founder of the National Interscholastic Skateboard League, Katrina Foley, spoke eloquently about the sport, the culture, the rules and the need for cooperation between the City and outside groups - like hers.  She used as a positive example a young man named Jesus Acevedo - valedictorian at Estancia High School and captain of his school's skate board team.  Because the use of required safety equipment was central to the discussion, she was asked what was the minimum safety equipment she thought skaters should be using.  She answered, "a helmet".  She said elbow and knee pads are hindrances, except in the case of knee pads where sliding down a bowl in the park happens.

Rene' Prospero, a frequent skater at the park, agreed about the cameras.  He also thought the skaters themselves should be doing a better job of policing improper activity.  He did say that you will NOT find any photograph of any professional skater in any magazine wearing safety equipment - not even a helmet.  He thinks those stars are being emulated by younger skaters.  He blamed the problems at the park on a few bad apples who are spoiling it for everyone.

Speaker Anna Vrska thought #1 was too expensive, suggested a few people are the problem and wondered what other jurisdictions are doing to solve this problem.

Eventually Chairman Byron de Arakal attempted to cobble together a motion for the commission to consider using Alternate #2 as the foundation.  Take a look at that one up top again.  However, he also added an element of #1 - the need for a waiver to be signed BEFORE any skater could use the facility - a key card to permit entrance to the park would be issued once the waiver is signed.  After painstakingly trying to craft just the right verbiage his motion died for lack of a second.

Vice Chair Kim Pederson offered another motion - to basically use #3 - the staff recommendation - but to include a proviso for the staff to collaborate with skate groups - like Foleys - to develop more programs for the park and require it to come back for a review in a year.  Commissioner Don Harper seconded, but asked that the review be in six months.  It passed, 4-1, with de Arakal voting No.

Next up was Interim Parks and Community Services Manager Penny Loomer, who put on a smiley face and told us all how wonderfully things were going at the Costa Mesa Senior Center since the City Council voted two weeks ago to evict the current operator - the Costa Mesa Senior Corporation - and replace it with city staff members.  According to Loomer, everything is just dandy, with 496 new members signed up.  When asked how many members the Center had she couldn't answer because the Senior Corporation Board will not share the membership list, so the city staff is building a new one from scratch.

Loomer used a PowerPoint presentation to tell the commission and all of us in the audience - me - about the progress being made and the plans for the future following the completion of the takeover on September 7th.  I'll provide you with the images of her slide show, which are self-explanatory.  If necessary, I'll inject a comment or two.
Loomer indicated that the first two on this image donated $750.00 each for the July 3rd event.  Here's the flyer about that event.  So far, 140 people have signed up for it and will be served food by members of the Costa Mesa Public Safety organizations.  The hours are 11:00 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Chairman de Arakal, choking on a lump in his throat, adjourned the meeting in memory of Kyle Johnson, husband of Costa Mesa High School Cheer Coach Kori Johnson, who died tragically in a car accident almost two weeks ago.  He cited the outpouring of love and support for Kori and her family by the community as a perfect example of what a caring city this is.

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Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Perhaps the city should invest in a full time officer at the skate park. You know, maybe borrow some of Rig's campaign donations, and hire a guy to make these kids behave. Beat em' into submission.

They might as well get used to it. After all, its being done to the residents by city hall.

6/27/2014 07:01:00 AM  

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