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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Future of SF Skatepark in the crosshairs of city budget battle

Posted By on Tue, Feb 19, 2008 at 5:24 PM

As San Francisco enters into its annual budget crisis the city is going to have to make some tough choices about some important programs:

Police. Homeless shelters. Hospitals. Skate Parks.

Wait wait wait … skate parks? Like with the kids on the wheels scaring old ladies? That’s still on the agenda?

Turns out maybe yes, because supporters like Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi say it’s not just a way to make the kids think you’re a hard core legislator (district elections are so PUNK!) … it’s also a serious money saver for SF.

“It would address the mounting damage to public property by skaters,” Mirkarimi said. “That’s an incentive to keep it on the table.”

Wait a minute, wait a minute: skateboarders do so much damage to public property that it actually makes a dent in the city budget? No one in the city’s budget office would tell me that, and Mirkarimi admitted that “we’re still compiling those figures,” but Golden Gate Park officials did go on record last year (in October) as saying that damage to the park public structures by skaters was “extensive.”

Look at it another way, Mirkarimi said: the city estimates there are about 10,000 serious skateborders in its boundaries … and right now there’s only two sanctioned places for them to go, both on the east side of the city. That means Golden Gate Park is a prime target anyway, and the city is going to have to clean up after these kids anyway … so why not spend some money up front and keep everybody happy?

But how much money? The city’s Rec and Parks department is expected to be coming out with a study around the end of the month that might provide some answers. However, we are clearly talking about a large scale project here: right now the basic proposal calls for 5 – 10 thousand square feet in the cul-de-sac of Waller and Stanyan. (An earlier proposal to put it in the Golden Gate Park Horseshoe Pitsfell victim to the city’s incredibly powerful horseshoe lobby).

That location – a currently dead area near a very popular Haight Avenue stretch – could also serve as an attraction for economic activity, yet another reason proponents say this skate park could fly.

But, seriously, a skatepark in a year when we’re talking about big cuts to everything but the mayor’s valet service? Really?

Mayor Newsom’s office offered no comment when asked about the skate park’s chances in this year’s budget, and even Mirkarimi wouldn’t give it a 100% endorsement.

“It needs to be calculated with other priorities,” he admitted. “If there are critical services that need attention before the skateboard park, that is exactly what they’ll get.”

Still, that’s bureaucratese for “let’s roll!”

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Benjamin Wachs


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