A Newport Beach City Council resolution passed Monday night may put the skids on skateboarding around Balboa's Fun Zone, where sidewalk surfers tend to congregate.
After a brief public hearing, the council voted unanimously to impose the ban along the boardwalk, an area heavily traveled by tourists and beach-going locals, especially during the summer months.
According to some local merchants, the skateboard ban is long overdue. But whether the ban will be effective is uncertain, according to city traffic engineer Jim Brahler.
"You can ban just about anything," Brahler said, "but without enforcement, it doesn't do much good."
But a Police Department spokesman said he expected that enforcement would be increased somewhat. "Police may step up foot patrols or take whatever appropriate action is necessary, including citations," said Lt. Paul Henisy, traffic services commander.
Officer Howard Eisenberg, who heads the Police Department's community services division, said he is concentrating on other Balboa Peninsula problems, such as party houses. There have been no specific skateboard incidents or accidents reported in the area, he said.
"We do have a skateboarding problem, but not in the malicious sense," Eisenberg said. "Even if some of these kids are very skilled and well intentioned, these (skateboards) are like guided missiles."
The city already has no-skateboard signs posted in the area, but many of them have been covered with stickers and are often ignored. The signs were posted without the City Council's actually banning skateboards. Monday's resolution now gives the signs legal force.
The skateboarding "started as fun, but it sort of feeds on itself, seeing who can get wilder," said Mike Donegan, who works in the Pavilion Queen offices in the Balboa Pavilion at one end of the boardwalk strip.
"There are two kinds of skateboarders: those who use the boards for transportation and those who are showing off, and they (the showoffs) can get almost destructive, really," Donegan said.
Daytime skateboard traffic usually is moderate, but locals say that the skateboard traffic becomes thick and sometimes rowdy between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m.
"It's kind of annoying, mostly in the summer and during busy weekends," said Mike McKibben, who sells harbor cruise tickets from a booth in the Fun Zone. He works directly across from the small stretch of Washington Street at East Bay Avenue that has been closed to motor traffic and attracts skateboarders.
Goody Constantino, who works nearby at Pete's Pizza, said he would welcome the ban because "the kids have got no courtesy and no respect."
Jack C. Precibin, president of the Rendezvous Condominium Assn. at 600 E. Ocean Front, requested the skateboard ban in a letter to the council. In the letter, he contended that "the health, safety and welfare of pedestrians, motorists, or persons operating skateboards" is being jeopardized by skateboarders repeatedly running their boards up a low concrete wall next to the condominiums.
"This pops up every summer," said Mayor Philip R. Maurer. "It's a summer epidemic that disappears as soon as September rolls around."
Maurer said only some of the skateboarders are a threat. "The experienced riders don't give you any problem. It's the inexperienced ones who run into old ladies," he said.
Karen Kilstrom, who owns Ozone Surf and Skate on Newport Boulevard, said the resolution is an overreaction to a relatively small problem.
"It would really be a shame (if the resolution was passed)," said Kilstrom earlier Monday. "Most kids have control of their boards. It's the pedestrians who freak out and jump around."
The resolution takes effect immediately and prohibits skateboarding specifically on the sidewalks on Main Street, on Washington and Palm streets between Ocean Front and Edgewater Place, on Edgewater Place between Coronado and A streets, on Bay Avenue between Main and Palm streets and on Ocean Front between Adams and A streets.