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Skating, Bicycling Ban Sought for Downtown

June 11, 1996|TRACY WILSON and SCOTT STEEPLETON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

VENTURA — The clattering of skateboard wheels could be silenced downtown as a result of a regulation aimed at curbing all curb-grinders from the spiffy new sidewalks in the business district.

The City Council was discussing a ban late Monday that would prohibit skateboards, bicycles and in-line skates from sidewalks in an eight-block section of downtown Ventura.

For years, the area has been a popular skateboarding spot for local youths, who congregate in downtown parks to flip their boards off wax-slick curbs and benches.

But police and business owners say the skateboarders are causing property damage to the downtown area and are to blame for an increasing number of near-miss collisions with pedestrians.

"It is a safety issue for sure," Police Officer Terri Vujea said. "I think we are trying to prevent a lawsuit from happening."

Ventura is not the only city in the county to consider such restrictions. Thousand Oaks, Camarillo, Fillmore, Simi Valley, Ojai and Santa Paula all prohibit skating and bicycling in designated areas.

The no-skate zone under consideration in Ventura would extend from Ash Street to Ventura Avenue, and from Poli Street to Harbor Boulevard. Violators would be ticketed, and infractions would cost around $25.

The new ban would only apply to sidewalks--not streets--so bicyclists could still ride downtown as long as they stay off pedestrian walkways, officials said.

Skateboarders, however, would be required to step off their boards and carry them.

The city approved a similar ban last year for the California Street Plaza after skateboarders irreparably scratched and scraped the steps of the $800,000 thoroughfare.

And just a few weeks ago, the city banned skateboards at the mini-park at the corner of California and Santa Clara streets, where they have damaged the concrete benches and come dangerously close to slamming into pedestrians, police and business owners say.

Since the mini-park has been posted off-limits, the number of skateboarders has dropped off.

"A few still go there, but not as much as before," said Frank Parong, owner of California 66, a restaurant next door to the park. Parong is among the downtown business owners who recently asked the City Council to impose the ban.

The proposed skate-free zone has frustrated some skaters, who say the city should provide a place for them to practice their sport.

"I think there should be designated areas where we can skate," said 22-year-old Tim Delaney of Ventura. "There are worse things we could be doing."

The city agreed to pursue plans for a skateboard park last year, but the proposal has been stalled for months.

Police, council members and some downtown merchants say they are sympathetic to the skaters' requests for an place to spin their wheels. But the downtown business district, they say, is not the right place.

"I think their legitimate problem is that they want a place to go," Vujea said. "We support the fact that they should have a place that is safe and designed the way they want."

Councilwoman Rosa Lee Measures said the city has bike paths and other areas where skating and cycling are allowed. And she said the city would continue to pursue plans for a skateboard park.

"I believe we have pursued other avenues of opportunity for the skateboarders, and it is our intention to locate a park within an appropriate location," Measures said before the meeting Monday.

The restrictive regulation before the council Monday night must come back for a final vote next week. If approved, the ban would go into effect in late July.

Tracy Wilson is a Times staff writer and Scott Steepleton is a correspondent.

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