- Question: is it a bust?
- Answer: it seems like it would be because its in front of someone’s house but i have been there a bunch and never kicked out
- Statement: finally went here yesterday shit is gnarly to skate. didnt realize it was like that haha
That fatalist’s take on the situation has definitely occurred to Ryan, the Summit/John park neighbor who shot the videos featured http://www.youtube.com/summitandjohn. But he’s not ready to quit — yet.
“Before I saw your post, I had given up,” Ryan said of CHS’s coverage of the decision by parks officials to institute what they call ‘preliminary steps’ to curb improper and sometimes illegal use of the space by skateboarders:
- Skate stoppers will be installed on the stairway rails (which were not intended for skateboard use).
- Two bollards will be installed at the South West plaza entry from John St. to make the approach to the skatedot safer for all park users and pedestrians
- A sign with a skateboarding code of conduct and hours will be installed.
We know Ryan’s last name and many around the skating community who attended the Skate Park Advisory Committee meeting where he spoke do, too. But when we asked him to speak to us on the record about the situation he asked that we not use his last name for fear of reprisal. He didn’t put the videos on YouTube “to go viral,” he says, but because Parks officials couldn’t figure out how to open the videos as e-mail attachments.
Ryan said the knee jerk reaction to his complaints in the CHS comments hasn’t surprised him but that the people making them couldn’t be more wrong. This isn’t the case of somebody who doesn’t know the city, he says.
“I was born on Capitol Hill, Ryan said. “I grew up on Capitol Hill. I’m not a grumpy old fart. I’ve lived all over Capitol Hill.”
Ryan, like a lot of you, is a renter. He’s got a PR gig and works weekends as a concierge. He’s been in his current apartment for nine months. To say he should have been a bigger part of the public process that created the skatedot is, indeed, kind of ridiculous.
“Capitol Hill is a transient population. If you had meetings on something years ago, there’s a good chance the people don’t live there any more,” Ryan said. It’s hard to argue with him.
But, no matter how many times Ryan calls the police because of noisy skaters using the park after 10 PM — he had called the cops on a noisy group again the night before we talked, he said — skateboarders are going to use the park. The skatedot might be less an attractant than a diversion — skate this curb, please, not the railing thanks.
Matthew Lee Johnston of http://seattleskateparks.org gave us his thoughts on the situation and Ryan’s predicament. Johnston isn’t just a skate advocate — his skatedot paper embedded in this post inspired the city’s move to try to incorporate these features into its parks. The problem, Johnston says, is that, like many things civic, the compromise version of the plan creates problems like Summit and John park:
First off, I really empathize with the neighbor that came to the SPAC meeting, and the rest of the folks who are being impacted by this change of atmosphere in their neighborhood. I also think that based on all the letters I’ve seen, and the conversations that I’ve been a part of, these neighbors have all really taken the high road when it comes to communicating their frustration. Maybe it’s the location, and perhaps I’m just used to the suburban anti-skater lynch mob approach to these issues, but these folks are handling this with class and I commend them for that.
I’ll cut to the issue from my perspective, which is notoriously non-political and usually more straightforward than people prefer.
I was the one who authored the original skatedot concept that inspired the city to build this feature and hopefully others (attached). There were a few things in that concept paper that didn’t happen with this project and I think we’re seeing some negative end results because of it.
In the paper I stated: “Skatepark advocates could help design the layout of walkways, assist with bench placement, identify prime locations for skateboarding, and suggest ways to avoid conflicts between skateboarders and other park users.” This simply didn’t happen. The problem here is that unlike a full-blown skatepark project, the Parks department and the project designers didn’t employ a skatepark expert or involve the SPAC in the design discussions. It’s one thing to try and avoid talking to another contractor to control costs, and I believe that Parks felt like they were acting in good faith, but it’s unfortunate that they didn’t involve the SPAC more in the design discussions around feature placement and orientation. I think we could’ve identified some of the pedestrian conflict issues for them.
Believe me, this is a hot issue for us right now because Seattle Parks is working overtime to hire another unqualified contractor to build the Delridge skatepark. They consistently overlook the considerable effort that SPAC members have been putting in behind the scenes to help them avoid pitfalls on these projects. I think John and Summit is a great example of what happens when they think they can go it alone and not get input from skaters and use qualified specialty contractors, even if it’s just for a few hours of consulting.
Another thing that these neighbors need to consider is that there likely would’ve been skateboarding in this location regardless of whether or not there was a sanctioned spot built here. The fact that it is a sanctioned spot actually gives them much more of a platform and leverage to air their concerns. You can’t skatestop the planet, and skateboarding is not a crime in itself. The silver lining here is that this was a deliberate move to integrate skateboarding into a public space, and so the discussion is about that and Seattle Parks is listening. The unfortunate thing is that this type of integrated feature is new to Seattle Parks and they’re still finding their way. The neighbors at Summit and John are unfortunately experiencing the pain of being on the bleeding edge.
That said, there are many ways to design skateboarding out of a public space through material selection and directing the flow of park users. Honestly, I think the comments I’ve read about the park’s design being flawed are right on in this area. It pits the skatebaorders against the pedestrians, which is not good for skateboarders either, believe me when I say that. We want these features to be successful, and the neighbors need to be a part of that success or these much-needed skate spots won’t fly elsewhere.
The comments about the park being too small aren’t necessarily on point though they hint at something I think makes sense, which is that the feature may be out of scale for the space they put it in. A smaller feature in that same space would’ve required less speed, which means less run-up and landing area, and perhaps less pedestrian-skater conflict potential. Again, this is a design consideration that the SPAC could’ve helped with but we weren’t invited to participate.
The noise is definitely a negative side effect that’s close to my heart as someone who has spent a lot of time in nature as a field recordist, and myself have lived across the street from some pretty offensive sources of errant noise pollution. I empathize. But here’s the hard truth about that: this noise is only offensive to these people because it’s a new addition to the already overwhelming amount of noise pollution in their environment. I’ve done several noise surveys at urban skateparks, and the noise from the skatepark is always equal to or less than other sources like car alarms, overhead air traffic, city busses, and even the human voice. I think context is everything here. These people are irritated by the skateboarders, so they’re focused on them and the noise they create. This noise is new, and it sucks. There’s no doubt about that. But these people are living in a very dense area – they say this themselves – and they need to recognize that saddling these park users with the burden of an increasing noise pollution problem in their neighborhood isn’t necessarily fair.
Finally, I realize that these folks may actually prefer this alternative at this point, but skateboarders actively using the space will drive away activities like drug dealing, public drinking, and other types of anti-social behavior. Things actually could be worse.
In some of the letters I’ve read I have seen some attempts to use skaters as proxies for latent fears about some of these other serious social issues, and I want to state clearly and loudly that we won’t tolerate being painted as criminals in an effort to deal with this issue. This is about the valid use of public space, integrating the needs of park users in a way that works for everybody, and avoiding injury and conflict. We are totally engaged in the process to make this work and welcome any and all opinions/discussion around those issues.
Again, I am just one person with an opinion here and I recognize that my opinions may not be super popular with the people being negatively affected by this new skatedot. I understand why that’s the case. I just hope that in the same way I can empathize and understand their arguments, they can also see the other side of the argument and at least try to understand the bigger picture here.
Here’s what I recommend:
Skaters using the park after hours is unacceptable and neighbors need to continue to call the police as soon as they see skaters aren’t respecting the park hours.
Skaters behaving like idiots is also not acceptable and neighbors should also call the police immediately if they see anything illegal happening in the park, regardless of who’s doing it.
Stay engaged with the Parks Department and continue to reach out to the Skatepark Advisory Committee. Parks is listening, and seem to be responding to these concerns.
Avoid suggesting that this is not the place for skateboarding, but some other place is. We hear that in every neighborhood, and it’s not a workable approach. There are skateboarders in every neighborhood, and while this implementation has issues, there is a way to provide something for these park users that works. We just haven’t gotten there yet.
Talk to the skateboarders. Has anyone actually spoken to them?
Here’s what the SPAC is doing:
We are talking with the Parks Department. They are sharing the complaints with us and we’re aware of the issues.
We’re reaching out to the skate community in Seattle and getting the word out that skaters need to respect this spot if they want more of them to be built.
Parks has not asked for our input on how to mitigate these issues but they have sent us the list of mitigations that they are putting into place and they seem reasonable to us. However, I agree with some comments that a sign is probably a waste of time and resources. Again, the best thing to do is stay on top of the enforcement situation and that will establish a pattern of behavior.
Ryan says that beyond these potential community benefits, he and others in the area are simply already tired of the noise. “They put a skateboard park in my apartment,” he said. Ryan said he has continued to communicated with Seattle Parks about the situation and he will continue to call the police for late night skating. But he is also ready to move and thinks his landlord will have to deal with an increase in turnover because of the racket. Parks hasn’t said how many complaints it has received and Ryan is the only resident of the area we’ve heard from.
In the meantime, maybe these stormy downpours are a blessing. Statistics show that skateboarders prefer not to skate in torrential rain by a ratio of 25,000:1. The rain will stop eventually, though. Hopefully by then we’ve figured out a way to live — and skate — together.