Laguna Beach Seeks Skateboarding Ban

The scenic town has been popular among skaters for decades

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Residents say "speedboarding" will lead to an accident if the sport is not banned in some areas.

    Teenage thrill-seekers in Laguna Beach are giving their grown-up counterparts fits with their favorite pastime: downhill high-speed skateboarding.

    The city is perched high above the Pacific Ocean, and the hilly streets make it the perfect place for a home with a view -- and "speedboarding." Local teens speed past the hilltop homes going up to 25 miles an hour on their boards, giving residents a little more than a scare as they back out of their driveways.

    "When you have a close call with a kid, it's seared into your memory," said Sue Kempf, 54, a Laguna Beach resident. "I just don't want to be responsible for hitting a kid."

    Residents are now pushing to ban skateboarding on some of the steeper streets in the city.

    The skateboarders say their thrill seeking keeps them fit, and that they wear necessary protective gear.

    Similar conflicts have played out in other California cities with a similar culture, as skateboarding was banned on some of the streets of Malibu in 2009.

    While popular on the West Coast for decades, downhill skateboarding has gained popularity in Canada, Brazil, Australia and elsewhere. Skateboarding enthusiasts say the craze started in the 1970s on Signal Hill in Long Beach, and it didn't take long for it to catch on in Laguna.

    "It's like 'Footloose' for skateboarding," said Tyler Rootlieb, 37, of the efforts to ban the sport in his hometown of Laguna Beach. "We always skated the hills, we just weren't as good as these guys."

    Police say they've received more than 400 complaints of skateboarders in the last three years and reports of 11 collisions. In January, a 17-year-old in Los Angeles died after falling while skateboarding down a hill without a helmet.

    Earlier this month, Laguna Beach held a city council meeting initially proposing the ban. Council members agreed to prohibit skateboarding on four of the city's streets and will consider additional regulations in a meeting in March, according to City Manager John Pietig.

    Young skaters say they can control their boards and can stop them as quickly as they can a bicycle. They say they want grown-ups in town to remember what it's like to be a kid.

    "I don't think there are better hills," said Laguna Beach Mayor Toni Iseman. "If I were a kid and had no fear of death, I'd say Laguna is heaven."