| Mission, Castro Residents Happy About Skate Park Plan
By Jonathan Farrell Apr 16, 2009
Residents applauded when they heard the news that a world-class skate park is in the planning stages at Duboce and Mission streets. San Francisco Skateboarding Association hosted two community meetings on March 5th and April 2nd to discuss the proposed plans and to receive public input from residents and merchants.
Both meetings at the LGBT Center at 1800 Market were well attended much to the delight of Ted Loewenberg, vice president of the SF Skateboarding Association.
“This will be so positive for the area, as it is making another venue open to the public and it will be a venue accessible by public transit,” said Loewenberg. The skate park will be build on a spot of land that is underneath the over pass of what is now Octavia Blvd. but had at one time been part of the Central Freeway.
Because of seismic damage from the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989, the Central Freeway was taken down and in its place a new access to Highway 101 and I-80 via Octavia Blvd. was completed in 2005. The result has been a revitalization of Octavia Blvd. This has enhanced not only Hayes Valley but the Mission and Castro areas as well.
Many agree that building a skate park is another very feasible way to keep the revitalization of the area going and make exceptional use of urban space.
The California Department of Transportation (or CalTrans) manages all freeway, highway and road property in the state. The space underneath the overpass is owned and maintained by CalTrans.
“Where possible, the Department, via a public auction process, offers the state operating right of way under an elevated freeway [referred to as “airspace”] for lease for its highest and best compatible use,” explained Steve Williams, media rep for CalTrans.
“As parking is in high demand in the neighborhood, the available parcels under the Central Freeway have historically been leased to either private parking lot operators who have made the space available as paid public parking, or other businesses that use the parcels for customer and employee parking,” he said.
This is why community organizers like Loewenberg and Bryan Hornbeck also of SF Skateboarders Association see this as an important opportunity to the community. And, as some residents see it, this is the best use of space for the neighborhood.
“It's going to be a million-dollar world class skate park," said Bryan Hornbeck. He hopes that all will move along smoothly as CalTrans, and City officials are working together with New Line Skate Parks, Inc. the company that will be making the designs.
The Mission Dispatch talked with Kyle Dion, founder of New Line from headquarters in Canada. Dion who attended the meetings was also pleased with the turn out and was happy to have such positive support. “We do a lot of research and merge the best aspects of each design format for that particular setting we work upon."
Dion is confident that New Line will not only reach the goal of creating a world class skate park at Duboce and Mission at Market Streets but will surpass it.
"We have 125 skate parks under our belt," he said. New Line Skate Parks, Inc. has received awards for design and is distinguished as a leader throughout Canada. "We love what we do and we're out there to change the approach to skate park design and architecture," he said.
Yet Dion was taken aback by the fact that as a “Mecca for skateboarding," San Francisco as of now only has two official skate parks.
Potrero del Sol/La Raza Skatepark is one of the two, it opened in the Mission District this past summer and took five years to complete. "I am really shocked and surprised by that, said Dion, because in (the area of) Canada where I am from we have about 60. It amazes me how skateboarding has survived in San Francisco," Dion said.
Loewenberg agreed as he said, despite its Mecca-like status unfortunately, "San Francisco is woefully lacking in world class skateboarding facilities."
This is ironic because as Loewenberg points out, "Skateboarding got established in California back in the 1960's. Since that time it has continued to grow as an activity as well as a sport."
According to some sources The Mission Dispatch researched the first national skateboard competition was held in California in 1967. Yet, exactly when skateboarding was invented is not clear. Some say it was in 1959 when the Roller Derby Company introduced its very first flat wood board model. Others speculate that it was as early as the late 1940’s, when skateboarding evolved as an off-shoot of water surfing.
According to skateboard enthusiast Dalvin Rumsey skateboard design by the 1970’s “were more surfboard shaped.” This paved the way to better designs that allowed skateboarders to do more jumping and aerial moves like “the Ollie.” “The introduction of the ‘Ollie’ or ‘no-hands aerial’ transformed skateboarding almost completely,” notes Rumsey.
This is the type of movement maneuvering we see on the streets today and with the advent of ramps and inventive terrain spaces, skateboarding continues to evolve and grow.
According to skateboarding fan Duke McCallister of Ezine Articles “of all active skateboarders in the United States, more than half of them live in California.”
And according to Loewenberg, Hornbeck and others San Francisco continues to be a magnet for skateboarding regardless of the lack of skate park facilities.
"We estimate that anywhere from 20,000 to 25,000 skateboarders are in the City at various times with an age range of about 15 to 40 years of age," said Loewenberg. "Just go on the web to and see the displays on 'You Tube' there are lots of postings of skateboarders who have clips of their experience in San Francisco," he said.
Loewenberg hinted that some city officials like those at Rec and Park don't seem to get the picture. as he said, "Rec & Park has no problem making plans for spaces and parks to accommodate traditional sports like basketball, baseball and tennis. “But ask about establishing a skate park and they are reluctant," he added.
Reps from SF Rec & Park did not respond to the Mission Dispatch and did not offer comment.
Meanwhile the project endeavor is being coordinated by Mayor Newsom’s Office of Economic Development under the direction of Rich Hillis. He and his staff are working with CalTrans to get the park completed. “We are excited about this location for a skate park. We think it’s great,” said Hillis.
Referring to it as underutilized space,” it does not do much as a parking lot,” he said. Hillis sees project as “an ideal marriage of sorts in its purpose and function and is happy that the community is showing its support.
"This skate park is a totally great idea," said long-time Mission resident Lynn Valente. She attended the meetings and hopes more people join the effort. "It is not simply a special interest project for only a few, it will really help improve the neighborhood, bring it together, a win, win situation."
Valente explained further, "I see this as a park for the neighborhood; not just for skateboarders but for everyone.” Pleased with the process and the out reach to the community thus far.
Valente said, “the plans that New Line is going to create for this park will bring positive activity to the huge spaces under the freeway ramp. This will benefit everyone, including those that don't skateboard. It can be a great place for recreation, for young kids to socialize and exercise, or simply a spot for anyone to sit and enjoy some open space," she said.
Valente explained that, "This part of the Mission is kind of orphaned in a way. Because it is in between spots," she said. "it is in between the Mission, the Castro and SOMA. It needs something to bring people together. I think once the park is finished people will feel more like a community and that will help them to feel safer," she said.
The relationship between CalTrans and the City is good and for this project is intertwined. CalTrans owns three parcels of real estate under the freeway between Valencia and Mission Streets.
“In order to pay for the construction of the skate park, the City must sell parcels of land, North of Market, along Octavia Blvd.,” said Hillis.
According to the San Francisco Examiner A bulk of that money raised will go to the Redevelopment Agency to build affordable housing as the skate park is only one of an array of projects set to receive funding by the sale of the parcels.
Hillis mentioned that an agreement was made between CalTrans and the City in the 1990s that the City would be responsible for Octavia Blvd and CalTrans would oversee the highway. Once the skate park is built the City will lease the lot that the skate park is built on from CalTrans.
“One of the Department’s goals,” said Williams, “is to also partner with cities and their residents to help mitigate any issues created by operating an elevated state freeway through residential neighborhoods.”
“To that end, added Williams, if the residents and businesses within the neighborhood voice through their City representatives that a public park would be a more desirable use of the open space under the freeway, then the Department will gladly partner with the City.” Part of that partnership is leasing the available parcels to the City so the open space may be developed into a more desirable neighborhood use.
Williams explained further, “the Department (CalTrans) will lease the parcels to the City upon the condition that the final park design does not interfere with the Department’s interest in safely operating and maintaining the overhead freeway structure, its support columns, and all other ancillary systems,” he said.
Valente said she hopes that the funding for the Skate Park from the sale of the lots freed up by the freeway demolition North of Market Street will come soon. "I don't want to be negative but I imagine with this present economy it will be difficult to find buyers to develop the parcels," said Valente.
Yet Hillis told the Mission Dispatch he remains confident the 22 parcels owned by the City will sell regardless. The 22 parcels average in total to about 8 acres. “That is decent prime land and the City should have no problem finding a buyer.”
In an article this past March the SF Examiner reported that the current fair market value of the parcels are estimated at about $1.3 to $9.9 million and that the potential sale could net about $35 million. “We hope to get the parcels on the market for sale by this spring,” added Hillis.
For details about the plans for the skate park contact the SF Skateboarding Association at: http://sfskateboarding.org/
To learn more about the Mayor’s Office of Economic & Workforce Development visit: http://sfgov.org/site/frame.asp?u=http://www.oewd.org Or, call: 415.554.6969.
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