Thursday, August 21, 2008

City Rolls On Skate Park

Ojai city manager outlines plan at special meeting; new lease with OUSD unclear

By Nao Braverman
After more than 10 years of pleading from local skateboarders, and hurried fund-raising efforts by the nonprofit group, Skate Ojai, the city could have an in-ground concrete skate park ready for use by mid-April 2009.
That’s if all goes exactly as planned, which is not likely, admitted Ojai city manager Jere Kersnar.
He outlined the details of what he calls a very aggressive timeline at a special meeting at City Hall council chambers Tuesday night, regarding plans for the long-awaited Ojai Skate Park. Bringing together the City Council, Planning Commission, Parks and Recreation Commission, and members of Skate Ojai, the meeting solidified plans to build a preferably 10,000-square-foot in-ground concrete park, on city-leased Ojai Unified School District property.
City staff already sent out requests to design firms earlier this month and are deciding which firm, out of a small group of finalists, to hire for the project.
While such plans have been hanging in the air for some time now, community members became skeptical after hearing that some key aspects of those plans had not been confirmed.
Without Skate Ojai’s total dollars collected, the City Council had indicated at a previous meeting that they were not sure there would be enough money in the end to build an in-ground concrete facility. They had suggested the possibility of building a modular park should the funds come in less than expected.
The other variable was the tenuousness of the park’s location. Most plans for the park since the idea was first discussed have been to place it at the current skate park location at the Park & Ride lot at 414 E. Ojai Ave. The property, which belongs to OUSD, has a lease agreement for the next 14 years with the city of Ojai. While the School District board agreed at a 2003 meeting to allow the city to build a permanent park at that location as part of the lease extension, members of the board have recently expressed a change of heart.
But at Tuesday night’s meeting, the City Council affirmed that they would not let those variables hold them back from getting the skate park construction started.
With $361,000 raised for the project, $11,000 more than the estimate for a concrete facility, City Council members were convinced that they had enough funds to build an in-ground concrete park.
“We did extensive research on this. We had four designers assure you yesterday that our funds were enough. I think we have reassured you in 10 different ways that we do have enough money for a concrete park,” Judy Gabriel, a member of Skate Ojai, told the council.
As to the location of the park, Mayor Sue Horgan said that after some research into previous meetings, she was certain that the school board had previously agreed to have the property used for an in-ground concrete park.
“In December 2003 the city requested an extension, and the school board extended the lease on school board property until 2023; and extended property for an in-ground, concrete skate park,” said Horgan. “There was no discussion about an alternative location.”
An analysis of the lease agreement between the school board and the city by city attorney Monte Widders confirmed that the lease did include plans for the construction of an “enlarged” and “improved” skating facility. These terms, according to Widders, presumably referred to a permanent skate park.
The lease agreement also calls for an additional 3,500 square feet of adjacent property to be used for the expanded park as well.
Councilwoman Rae Hanstad reminded the public, however, that the council wants to work with and not against the School District. “I just want to remind everybody that the original skate park was a collaboration with the School District as a willing partner,” she said. “I think it is important that we rebuild a relationship with the school board and I believe that the Skate Ojai committee can help make that happen.”
A number of residents chimed in their support of a permanent concrete park at the Park & Ride lot.
Among them was Ojai skateboarder Jacob Sessing, followed by four members of his skate team, and Bill Gilbreth representing the Rotary Club of Ojai. Gilbreth explained that the Rotary Club, one of many donors for the project, had requested the park be built at the Park & Ride location and emphasized the commercial benefits of having a skate park downtown. As to the concerns of school board members who are considering commercializing the property, commercial stores and a skate park are not incompatible, they would likely even complement each other, he said.
Holly Delaney, a Solvang resident who had jump-started efforts to build Solvang’s now 4-year-old concrete park, agreed. Delaney, who owns a skate shop and women’s boutique in Solvang said that the park absolutely complements her businesses. The men and boys need something to do while the women go shopping, she said.
Longtime Ojai resident Rudy Petersdorf was perturbed by the possibility of building a permanent structure on a 14-year lease, and Sasha Wolfe mourned the loss of much of the Senior Community Garden. Wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat adorned with real and wilting carrots, beets and sunflowers, she spoke about losing a precious garden in an era when food is growing scarce. The Senior Garden, which is right next to the current skate park, was always meant to be surrendered to the park should it expand, said Gabriel. But council members asked staff to report further on the fate of the garden.
City Council made a motion affirming their preference for a 10,000-square-foot concrete in-ground skate park to be built at the Park & Ride location. The motion passed unanimously, and was followed by several bursts of applause.
A designer for the skate park is expected to be hired Tuesday. A community meeting regarding the park is planned for September. If all goes perfectly, designs for the project will be presented to the Planning Commission and Parks and Recreation Commission, and the School District board for a formal approval in early October, according to Kersnar. If construction bids go out by the end of November, actual construction could begin in mid-January, he said. But as Kersnar warns, there are a number of variables that will likely delay the process.
Gabriel said she hopes the designs will be finished before the elections in November.


Anonymous said...

Why are we bidding this out? I am sure we could get volunteers from the carpenters local 150 and the Labors union to come and grade,form ,lay the re bar and pour and finish the concrete. There are a lot of local members in the valley. All you have to do is ask

Anonymous said...

Great! Thank you for volunteering to ask them and coordinate all of this!

We'll be looking forward to hearing a progress report from you

local 150 member said...

If I can get a set of the plans we can get this going. The city will be paying for all materials. The skills and time is the only thing that will be donated. I can get back with you on this in about two weeks as I will bring this up at the next meeting.

Anonymous said...

This is how the first SK8 park was built. Even some of the materials were donated, and the Hilgers & others donated a ton of free time & labor.

City Hall must have a set of plans, and those plans must be public documents since there's public money involved.

I think that you will need to be part of the bidding process, even if your bid is zero dollars, so the earlier you get involved, the better.

Anonymous said...

BTW, I have to say that it really irks me when people knock the existing SK8 park as being wholly inadequate without giving credit to the fact that it was built by many of the same folks who make up Skate Ojai today. The facility may be old and funky now, but it was a real triumph when it first opened and it gave a lot of kids and adults a lot of happiness over the years. It also helped to change a lot of people's minds about who and what skaters were, and the people who built it still deserve a lot of credit, especially since they're many of the same people who are trying to build the new one.

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone,

I'm so glad to hear that local Ojai residents are interested in helping out with the new skate park.

I wanted to answer a couple of the questions I've seen on the post to the best of my knowledge, I've been volunteering for SKATE OJAI for some time and we had many of the same thoughts and questions that you have posted.

Regarding the bids and volunteers, Ojai is a General Law city and we are restricted to certain laws and codes that make us unable to use volunteer labor to build the skate park. I know that we have tons of very skilled individuals in Ojai that would love to help. My husband is a licensed contractor in Ojai and he would also volunteer in a second.

The reason the skate park design and build is going through the bid process is because a portion of the total amount raised for the skate park is city funds. So, we need to follow all the rules, laws and processes that the city would go through for any other project.

Since they just went through the RFQ process and picked the skate park designer last week we don't have plans yet. They will announce the designer next week. Once they do that then everyone will be apart of the design process through several meetings set up for the public. Please come to the next city council meeting.

With all the research we have done during the past couple months it's important that we have a professional skate park designer and builder make this in-ground concrete skate park. Just like you wouldn't have a pool builder to frame a house or a framer to install your electrical. This takes very special skills, knowledge and experience.

In the 10 years we have lived in Ojai I've never met a kid or adult that didn't appreciate the skate park that we have now. My kids have learned to skate on it and have made some good friends at the park over the years. The wood park was built years ago as a temp. structure so after 8 years of use and Ojai weather it needs to go. My family and many others in Ojai have volunteered materials or skills to keep it alive for the kids.

The new skate park will be great for the kids and Ojai community. We are going to find out if it's possible for people to donate materials for the skate park. This would be a great way to donate and save some money on materials.

We will keep you posted. Please join us at the city council meeting next week.

Anonymous said...

There is an interesting Letter in the current issue of The View written by D. Moe, who is an advocate of the skate park group. She talks about running into some guests of the Inn on the bike path and having to admit to them that there is really not much for young people to do in this town. The OV Inn guest said they had seen the current skate park and thought it was pretty sad. The guest went on to say they'd not be back to Ojai as there is really not much to do beyond the confines of the Inn.

This is really not any new news to we locals. It is pretty sad that there is really not much for kids to do. No bowling alley anymore. No miniature golf anymore.

Please City of Ojai, make the building of the new skate park easy and quick. Let's not tie it up in red tape.

Anonymous said...

Ojai is a General Law city

What does that mean?! That taxpayer money must go to payola? Why can't volunteer workers comply by local codes? This isn't Los Angeles!

Anonymous said...

The State of California and LAFCO ( ) ultimately decide who gets to be a City and what kind of city they get to be, even if a group of citizens demand to be one kind of city or another. There are Charter Cities, and General Law Cities. Most small California cities are General Law Cities, if they are actually incorporated cities at all. The larger (and wealthier) cities are usually Charter Cities.

Charter Cities get to make much of their own law, and General Law Cities mostly have to follow State law. In its handling of the bidding and building of the Skate Park, the City of Ojai is required to abide by the State regulations that govern these procedures. The "red tape" may be annoying, but the State of California enforces all of these steps in order to protect the taxpayers. These rules are often as frustrating to local government as they are to you, because they often greatly increase the amount of time and work that must take place before even the simplest of projects can begin. Even if Ojai were to somehow become a Charter City, (which it can't, based on size, population and income), the State laws that protect the local taxpayers would probably still make this project take longer and cost more than many people think it should.

Google "general law city" or "charter city" to find out more.

PS: I'm not a member of the Ojai City Council, and I'm not a City employee. I'm just someone who has wondered many of the things that you seem to be wondering, and I did some studying online. I hated Civics when I was in school, but the topic seems a lot more interesting to me now that my tax dollars are on the line. My knowledge is far from perfect, however, and I invite you to increase your own and not count upon mine.

Anonymous said...

I am a "weekend" resident, but plan to make that permanent within the next few years, and certainly don't know the full story surrounding the current skate park and the proposed future park. I do however have a comment or two and some questions. What I have observed of the current skate park is that is in fact "sad looking". Also in passing I have noticed what I would describe as "unsavory charactors" (not the skaters) hanging around the immediate vicinity. Also there seems to be a ton of trash accumulated in the adjacent storm channel. It would be great to replace the old park with new, but my question is, since the city is involved and it will be on property leased by the city, will there be supervision of some sort on the premises when the park is open? What is the city's reponsibility and liability if an injury should occur to one of the skaters? Who's gonna pick up the trash? By the way, on an entirely unrelated subject...what's the problem here in Ojai with people who don't clean up after their dogs. I am frankly shocked at the amount of dog crap along the side streets and trails. Where's the Ojai PRIDE people?

Inquiring Mind

Anonymous said...

The new skate board park will be beautiful. It will be an underground structure, safe and very easy to maintain. It's unfortunate that people litter. It happens all over. Beach and mountain communities all have beach clean-ups, trail maintance and clean-ups several times a year, this isn't just a kid, skater thing. I'm hoping that with the new skate park will come a sense of pride and ownership since many of the kids have been apart of the process to raise funds.

As far as responsibility and liability it's the same thing as the baseball diamonds, basketball courts, tennis courts and playground structures in any city. I've read recently that skateboarding is safer than basketball.
Can't say anything about the dog poop...we pick up our dogs when we go for walks.

Anonymous said...

I love it when people ask whose job something is, as if it could never be their job.

Does that trash and dog poop bother you enough to do something besides suggest that someone else ought to be picking it up? I pick up trash every day, everywhere I go, even though it's not mine. I clean up dog poop on my property at least once a week. It all comes from people who walk their dogs past my place. I don't have any dogs. Our streets don't get swept and never will, and all of the homeowners in my neighborhood take care of their own leaves and litter.

The point is, even if I don't like something I don't wait for someone else to take care of it, and I don't think I'm too good to do whatever it is that needs to be done. A pleasant and clean environment is the business of everyone who lives in that environment. If anyone who plans on moving to Ojai feels differently, I hope they don't move here. We already have enough of those people.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous at 4:23PM...Thanks for your thoughtful and respectful response. That helps me understand a little more about the situation. I hope the project is completely successful.

To Anonymous at 6:13PM...I never said I would not be willing to participate in picking up or cleaning up anything. I always am willing to do my part for my community. I do, however, believe it IS everyone's responsibility to do that as well. That's why I also take the time to bring those things to attention. It seems that you, however are quick to misjudge and to berate someone you don't even know. I am looking forward to my permanent move to Ojai, and you can believe I will be a responsible part of the community. If we somehow become neighbors you need not worry about that...or maybe you will have moved away by then.

Inquiring Mind

Anonymous said...

Inquiring Mind:

Your response tells me that I didn't misjudge you at all.

Anonymous said...

Inquiring Mind, did you know that you write just like Steve Velkei?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:49PM
It seems you have a need to get in the last word, whether it is accurate or not. Goodnite!


Anonymous said...

It seems you have a need to get in the last word, whether it is accurate or not. Goodnite!


Anonymous said...

Anyway, back to the Skate Park.....

Here We Are Now said...

I am soooo tired of the rhetoric that there is nothing in this town for kids to do. I remember being a teenager and I didn't want to do anything. That's their nature. Has anyone asked them what they want to do? The Skate Park is a good start, but you're still going to hear the familiar refrain, "there's nothing for kids to do." Smells like teen spirit to me.

Anonymous said...

Amen. I grew up in L.A, and there was plenty to do. You know what we were always saying, though? "There's nothing to do!"