LOS ANGELES — With its spray-painted murals and hand-sculpted ramps, Channel Street Skatepark sits under a freeway overpass at this city’s southern edge, a concrete mecca attracting skateboarders from across Southern California and beyond.
After being sealed off in red tape for nearly nine years, the underground landmark in the port neighborhood of San Pedro recently reopened, signaling a victory for a group that fought a bureaucratic battle to bring the park back to life.
“Channel Street is more than a world-class skate park, it’s a global cultural hub,” said April Jones, 40, a skateboarder and filmmaker who is creating a documentary about the venue. “The way they legalized Channel Street has never been done in the history of skateboarding.”
During my recent visit, I met skateboarders from across Los Angeles and Orange Counties who had traveled to San Pedro to celebrate Channel Street’s rebirth. The sounds of skateboard trucks grinding on metal rails and polyurethane wheels rolling across the blacktop could be heard against the background drone of traffic from the freeway above. A freshly painted mural of a shovel and skateboard towered above one side of the park. On the other stood a blue-tile mosaic depicting cresting ocean waves.
Channel Street is considered one of the nation’s only “D.I.Y.” (do it yourself) skate parks to become legal, and its story began in October 2002.
Then, a group of skateboarders who had long sought — and failed — to get city officials to build a skate park in their community embarked on a seemingly simple effort: creating a place to practice their sport in an abandoned parking lot under the Harbor Freeway.
Equipped with shovels and two bags of cement, they went to work.
A project that began as a pair of concrete bumps grew to include quarter pipes, metal rails and deep bowls. Word of the hand-built skate park spread.
“We wanted a place to skate out of the sun, where we wouldn’t get kicked out,” Andy Harris, 49, one of Channel Street’s founders, told me during my visit to the park. “But we thought it wouldn’t last.”
However, Channel Street went undisturbed by the authorities — despite sitting just two blocks away from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Harbor Division station.
While the police didn’t close the illegal skate park, the California Department of Transportation eventually did. In 2014, crews closed the 8,000-square-foot site to widen the freeway above. The park sat empty and was surrounded by a chain-link fence long after work was finished.
As the group sought to reopen Channel Street, they found themselves entangled in a complex web of regulations. The ensuing struggle brought together a diverse coalition uniting under the rallying cry “Free Channel Street” that included activists and a Los Angeles city councilman, Joe Buscaino, who became a vocal supporter of the group.
With new skate park plans drawn up by volunteers, the group navigated five city departments — all with their own regulations and approval requirements.
Building and safety permits were issued in 2019. But another hurdle appeared when the skate park’s founders learned that a key piece of land owned by the Port of Los Angeles had to be transferred to the City of Los Angeles — a process that took more than a year.
Liability insurance was purchased through a grant from Buscaino’s office. Donations funded needed repairs and improvements to meet the city’s building code.
Publicly funded skate parks sprang up across the city, even in San Pedro. But in a region where skateboarding is deeply rooted, Channel Street is unique, serving as a symbol of individuality and grit, its supporters said.
“Channel Street has a life of its own,” Jones, the filmmaker, said. “It was built by skateboarders with their own hands. They sculpted, molded and painted.”
The rest of the news
Abortion rights: Gov. Gavin Newsom signed 13 abortion protection and reproductive health bills, codifying key parts of California’s campaign to counter the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade, The Los Angeles Times reports.
Pay scale: California employers will soon have to include a pay scale in their job postings under a new law Newsom signed, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Unsung journalist: Why have we never heard of Elsie Robinson, a California native whose columns were read by 20 million people for decades? A new book seeks to find out.
Stealing: A federal indictment accuses a California woman of stealing more than $1 million from her employer while working for a Minnesota property management company, The Associated Press reports.
Standardized test results: The California Department of Education will release the results of last spring’s statewide math, reading and science tests in October, LAist reports.
Student debt: A libertarian group in California filed a legal challenge to President Biden’s plan for student debt cancellation, calling it an illegal overreach that would increase state tax burdens, The Associated Press reports.
Rancho Palos Verdes purchase: U.C.L.A. will acquire two closed properties owned by Marymount California University in order to expand its campus, The Los Angeles Times reports.
Urban redevelopment: The transformation of Martin Cadillac in Los Angeles into a development with housing, offices and retail exemplifies how trends in urban real estate and the auto industry are converging.
Hate attacks: A 25-year-old man has been charged with pepper-spraying women in hate attacks in Southern California, The Associated Press reports.
Homelessness: San Diego is prepared to declare its homelessness situation a public health crisis, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
Redistricting: Newsom removed Fresno County supervisors’ power to draw election lines, The Fresno Bee reports.
Police psych tests: The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office has stripped 47 deputies of their guns and arrest powers because they failed psychological exams, The Associated Press reports.
What we’re eating
San Francisco-style Vietnamese American garlic noodles.
Where we’re traveling
Today’s tip comes from Fiona Everett, who recommends a night at the Rady Shell amphitheater in downtown San Diego:
“On the water, the summer home of the San Diego Symphony. They play with a variety of musicians of many music genres. It is magical! Sunset on the harbor, live music, a glass of wine … fantastic!”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
It’s officially fall. What do you love about the season in California? What are the best ways to enjoy fall in your corner of the state?
Email us at [email protected] with your stories, memories and recommendations.
And before you go, some good news
Tom Moore made a name for himself as a film, TV and theater director whose credits include the original Broadway production of “Grease” and the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “’Night, Mother.”
But his dream has always been to “fly” on the trapeze, high in the air. And that’s what he’s doing at age 79.
Thanks for reading. We’ll be back tomorrow.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.
Soumya Karlamangla, Briana Scalia and Jaevon Williams contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].
The post How an Underground Skate Park in Los Angeles Became Legal appeared first on New York Times.