La Jolla group nixes idea of skate park at recreation center

La Jolla Parks & Recreation Inc.'s board voted 9-4-1 Wednesday against the idea of putting a proposed skateboard park at La Jolla Recreation Center.

When those in the room were asked to raise their hands on the concept, the tally was even more lopsided — 19-0-2 — with the majority of the audience being neighbors and La Jolla Tennis Club representatives who turned out especially to oppose the proposal.

Marnie Gavit, the La Jolla mother of three who brought up the idea of the skateboard park, arguing it is is sorely needed to serve the recreational needs of teens not served by the center, was out of town. She is also a member of the Rec Council board.

Opponents argued that a skate park at the Prospect Street center would be noisy and disruptive, lack monitoring or enforcement of rules and regulations, displace other user groups, and would not be in keeping with the center’s mission to serve all age groups and recreational interests.

In their comments, most board members said they saw the need for a skate park somewhere in La Jolla. But the majority felt the rec center was simply not the right spot in the heart of the Village.

“I’ve visited other skate parks and they are large stand-alone facilities, not mixed-use facilities like La Jolla Rec Center,” said board member Hans Speidel.

“I am 1,000 percent behind a skate park and will donate to one,” said Carolyn Parrish. “But having a skate park here would infringe on all of the other recreational activities. I just can’t envision it here.”

Parrish added the board’s vote was conceptual only, noting it was not the final say on the issue, which could be reconsidered at a future date when more information on a proposal is available.

A vote on the notion had been delayed a month because members had argued that issue had not been properly noticed as an action item on the group’s March agenda.

A coalition of park board members including Mary Coakley, Darcy Ashley, Melinda Merryweather and Cindy Thorsen sought to block Wednesday’s vote, arguing it was premature because no specifics about the park’s size or design have been presented.

Board president Chip Rome countered that the broad outlines of a skateboard park have been introduced, the issue has been sufficiently vetted via public comment, and that a conceptual vote on the issue was entirely appropriate.

Opponents of a skate park vote charged Rome with exceeding his authority as board president and of possible violations of the Brown Act requiring full disclosure for his commentaries or made comments in the local media, opposing the park.

Rome answered that he was speaking as an individual and not on behalf of the group, noting other voting board members disagreeing with his opinion have also expressed their view in the press.

The rec center is in the throes of a master-planned redevelopment. In March 2009, landscape architects unveiled a visionary — and ambitious — proposal for a multiphase remodel of La Jolla Recreation Center’s grounds. The plan proposes moving existing basketball courts behind the center off to the side while adding a front-entry sculpture plaza and garden, a pergola, lots of shade trees, a palm court, and sound play and picnic areas.

Gavit has suggested the proposed reconfiguring of the center could include a state-of-the-art skate park.