The message on the top-selling bumper sticker at the main skateboarding shop in Pacific Palisades is defiant: "Skateboarding is not a crime."
Actually, there is no law against skateboarding on sidewalks. There is a law against blocking pedestrians on sidewalks, however, and police say they are going to begin handing out tickets in the 4-block-long business district.
Los Angeles Police Officer Ralph Strand said last week that sidewalk surfers have ignored the warnings that police began issuing last November. Tickets carry a $65 fine.
Strand said he has never cited skateboarders because he thought it would be enough to warn them.
"The kids have obviously made it apparent to me and the community up there that they skateboard where they want to, so I think citations are in order," Strand said last week.
According to the skateboarders, the threat of tickets is nothing new. "It's kind of stupid," said Scott Allen, 14. "It's not like we're going out and running into people. It's not like we go around putting graffiti on everything."
Chris Deleau, 16, said skateboarding downtown is too much fun to quit, regardless of the possible consequences. "Skateboarding is like healthy heroin for kids," he said. "It's addictive; you can't stop no matter what."
Merchants, for their part, said the skateboarders scare elderly customers and destroy landscaping with their acrobatics.
Jeff Boyer, assistant cashier at Santa Monica Bank's Pacific Palisades branch, said that two patrons have been hit by errant skateboarders in recent months and the bank fears it will be held liable for injuries both to customers and skateboarders.
The bank is planning to redesign its terraced plaza "so it's not so tempting" to skateboarders, Boyer said.
"Sometimes five or 10 times a day we tell them to go elsewhere," he said.
Attempts to curtail skateboarding in the business area began last winter after the Pacific Palisades Chamber of Commerce complained to police that the skateboarders using the sloping streets were hazardous to pedestrians.
"No one in the Palisades is against skateboarding," said Ann Pritchard, executive director of the chamber. "It's just skateboarding in this tiny, compact business area. If they want to skateboard in the residential neighborhoods, that's fine."
Deleau, who works part-time at the Olliepop Surf Shop, the area's main skateboarding outlet, said the neighborhoods don't have challenging enough structures. Hard-core skateboarders like the difficulty involved in going down railings or along picnic tables downtown, he said.
Police will be issuing citations under a section of the Municipal Code that enables them to cite pedestrians who block sidewalks, or "unreasonably interfere" with others. Skateboarding is allowed in Los Angeles. Other cities, including Beverly Hills, Hermosa Beach, Long Beach, and Santa Barbara have passed ordinances regulating skateboarding.
Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores has proposed a city ordinance banning skateboarding and bicycle riding in part of San Pedro's business district.