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DTLA skateboarding scene may be at odds with new city ordinance

By Kylie Reynolds
Published: Thursday, August 09, 2012, at 09:00AM
skateboarders Kylie Reynolds/blogdowntown

(From left) Marco Velasquezz, Jimi Bufit and Nick Velasco skateboarded along Los Angeles Street Wednesday. They said downtown L.A. is a popular spot for skateboarding and "bombing."

The Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance this week intended to prevent “reckless” skateboarding in the city, but some downtown locals say they don’t think it will have much of an impact on the way boarders ride in DTLA.

Under the regulations, which were approved unanimously at Tuesday’s city council meeting, skateboarders must obey traffic signs and speed limits, and maintain a speed of 10 mph when crossing intersections.

The proposal also limits the popular practice of “bombing,” where skateboarders gain high speeds by crouching in a 90 degree angle while riding down steep hills. Boarders can still “bomb” as long as they stand upright, according to the ordinance.

Downtown L.A. -- with its many hills and structures -- is a skater’s dream.

“You just have to use your imagination,” said one Downtown boarder, Marco Velasquezz, about the stairs, ramps and ledges around the area that provide ample places to skateboard.

Velasquezz, 24, said bombing is a regular practice in downtown L.A., and he doesn’t intend on changing the way he does it.

It is the safety concerns associated with bombing that led Councilman Joe Buscaino to propose the ordinance to the city council. Two teenage boys died earlier this year from injuries incurred while bombing in San Pedro.

Nick Velasco, a 21-year-old who comes to Downtown from his home in East L.A. in order to skate, was hanging out with his board at the corner of 1st and Los Angeles streets on Wednesday. He said he heard about the deaths in San Pedro and can understand why people have safety concerns about skating, but he still doesn't support more regulations on the activity.

Both Velasco and Velasquezz agreed that skateboarders are still going to bomb and break traffic rules, regardless of the ordinance.

“It’s not going to mean a difference, we are still going to do what we love,” Velaquezz said.

He added, however, that there could be more confrontations between police and skateboarders in the future if skaters do not follow the regulations.

Aya Ogawa of Non Factory, a skate shop in Little Tokyo, said she views the ordinance as just another limitation placed on skateboarders. Some DTLA skaters already break regulations, she said, often boarding in restricted areas or breaking safety laws requiring riders under 18 to wear helmets. She expects that a lot of skaters will continue boarding like normal without getting caught and fined for violating the new regulations.

“A lot of skaters already know how to deal with police and security,” she said.

Ogawa hopes the ordinance does not negatively affect business by reducing the number of skaters in the area, but she said it is still too early to tell.


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