Archive for the “Editorials” Category

Photo credit: Obviously fake blog.

My feelings about how Rob Dyrdek and California Skateparks operate, and how that’s played out on the Roxhill project, are well documented here.  I won’t bore you by going back over it again.  But it appears that someone that has a grudge against these guys is making their opinions known by creating fake blogs intended to slander them.

Now I’m just tossing out hypotheticals here, but let’s see… we’ve got “Celebsleaze” which contains over 50% Dyrdek/Ciaglia content, and then some other crap copied directly from other websites to make it look (to only a total moron) that it’s a legit source.  See for yourself.  Here’s the Celebsleaze post for some unknown TV dude who got a DUI, and here’s the post on the Comcast site they stole it from.  I mean…even lazy obfuscation is still obfuscation.  For posterity, here are some of the other fake blogs they created, this time going for more of a “Church Charity”” vibe:  Interfaith Charity Connection, and Family Charity Watch.  I highly recommend checking it all out as some of the editorial work is downright hilarious.

But who could possibly want to defame these guys so much that they would set up three fake blogs and spend time making up stuff like this?  Well, it’s hard to say for sure, but we do know that Aaron Spohn of questionably competent skatepark firm Spohn Ranch is currently suing them in court.  The only reason any of this is interesting beyond a few chuckles is because Spohn is suing them for fraud, which would make setting up these slanderous websites somewhat ironic.  Congrats Aaron, now I am not sure who is more insidious, corrupt, and untrustworthy, but I still hope you win!  The truth is that Spohn’s suit has merit.  We’re seeing the proof right in our own backyard on the Roxhill project.

To top things off, today I received this comment on the Roxhill thread from “Alice”.  Because, you all know Alice has been really out there following what’s going on with the Seattle skatepark scene, when not ripping it up at Marginal. Alice really has her rap down pat as it reads like it was copied directly from the Celebsleaze play book.  Hmmm….

But no one is above board here because back when we were writing about how we genuinely felt about California Skateparks and Rob Dyrdek buying their way into the Seattle skatepark system, they were posting fake comments on my website too.  It seems as though these two California companies are bringing their special brand of cloak and dagger drama to Seattle,  the results of which will be in the ground at Roxhill.

Imagine what these people could accomplish if they just spent all of this wasted time building and designing great skateparks instead…

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Screenshot courtesy of WSB's video coverage of the press conference.

Now that the dust has settled a bit on the big announcement regarding Rob Dyrdek’s $75K donation to the City of Seattle for Roxhill skatepark, I want to break it down a bit and explore the details.  There are many open issues and questions still left to be answered.  So let’s dig a little into those details and come up with something a bit less circus-like, and translate it into something that might actually be meaningful information for Seattle’s skateboarders:

Dyrdek’s recognition of Seattle’s skatepark plan is a good thing. Seattle skateboarders, Seattle Parks, and the City Council have been working very hard for many years to make Seattle more skate-friendly. It’s great to have that effort recognized by someone like Rob.

Mayor McGinn comes out as in support of skateboarding facilities! On the eve of the hearing regarding the Summit Slope skatedot, this is really great news.  This is the first time we’ve heard him talk about skateboarding, and if this kind of thing is what it takes for him to come out in support of safe public skateboarding facilities, then we’ll take it.  If you peer into the much-lauded Citywide Skatepark Plan, there are no Seattle Parks logos on the pages, and the line that was left for the then-Mayor’s signature, remains unsigned.  This is because McGinn’s predecessor wasn’t behind the plan, and actively campaigned to keep it from happening.  He ordered Parks to remove the logos, and refused to endorse it.  Mayor McGinn buries this dark chapter in Seattle skateboarding history by coming out in support of the plan (or, rather…Rob’s support of the plan).  Thanks Mayor McGinn!

No one who worked on the City-wide skateboarding plan, or any skatepark advocates whatsoever, were at the press conference or even mentioned. A few of us were contacted at 1:00pm the day before the press conference, and being adults with jobs, kids, etc… we weren’t able to attend.  Rob credits “the city” for the skatepark plan, and skatedots, which really isn’t accurate.   The city has turned around and is now very supportive, but it wasn’t always that way.  We don’t do this for the credit, but the advocates and skateboarders (or even the people in the Parks Department, or the City Council who worked with us…) who had to push hard for these initiatives probably deserved to be recognized, and weren’t.  Which, in turn, made the whole thing feel a bit like a glory grab.  Less than 24 hours notice is just plain disrespectful.

The Skatepark Advisory Committee was never consulted on where this donation would be best applied. When we surveyed this location during the skatepark plan process, the committee identified some issues with the site.  One of them was that there wasn’t a lot of unused space available for a skatepark.  Currently the only space large enough that’s not being actively used, is the Northwest corner, which is peppered with some mature trees.  Whatever is built in this space is going to need to integrate those trees, because no one in Seattle is going to back tree removal for a skatepark (including the SPAC).  Dyrdek’s best plaza designs generally consist of a large, continuous plaza, which simply will not fit at Roxhill.  We could’ve raised this issue early, and helped them select a more appropriate location.  The fact that the Parks Department’s own advisory council dedicated to skateparks wasn’t consulted on this makes us wonder why we’re here at all.

The Roxhill skatepark was already fully funded by the voter-approved Parks For All Levy, and as the Mayor mentions at 9:35 in this video from West Seattle Blog’s coverage of the press conference, the current plan is to repurpose $75K from the existing project budget back into the general fund. If this happens, Seattle skateboarders actually see no benefit from this donation.  Rob Dyrdek effectively just made a donation to some other non-skate project.  This is something we’re asking Parks to clarify, but I’m having a hard time imagining even Dyrdek getting behind this one.

$25K of the donation is actually materials repurposed from the Street League event. This is good for Rob and the Earth because the stuff doesn’t end up in the garbage.  Conceptually, this is a good thing.  One assumes that without this donation, Mr. Dyrdek would have to eat the expense to dispose of this material, and this gets him off the hook on that.  But more importantly,  the stuff Rob has presumably already donated, was designed for professional skaters and is literally unskateable by the majority of skateboarders, especially kids.  Roxhill is in a neighborhood that houses a ton of kids, and (on last check) very few professional skateboarders.  Sure, rails can be cut down, etc… but the act of trying to repurpose these features into the design is an additional design challenge that we wouldn’t have had to face if we weren’t trying to incorporate these existing pieces.

Don’t get me wrong, I actually think this is a great thing. If Seattle Parks continues to work with the SPAC on figuring out the answers to some of these questions, this donation will amount to a meaningful benefit to Seattle skateboarders.  Unfortunately, due to some apparent timing issues with this all coming from left field at the last minute from the Dyrdek Foundation, and Parks not wanting to include the stakeholders to keep the public messaging machine cleanly oiled, there are now some serious open issues of concern.

One thing is for sure, the overt public message is good:  The Mayor supports skateparks, Rob Dyrdek supports Seattle’s forward-thinking support of it’s own skateboarders, and by hook or by crook, Roxhill will be getting an awesome skatepark very soon.

 

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hubbrdThere is going to be a new skatepark built in the South end of Seattle, and Grindline will be designing it.

Seattle Parks has a standard process for selecting a skatepark designer, which is a bit funky.  The committee (I was on it) was given the four submissions that qualified, and a worksheet for grading each submission.  What quickly became evident to me was that I was not really grading the designer’s qualifications as much as I was grading their ability to follow directions.

For instance…submittal requirement #3 on the RFP (Request For Proposal) read:

Submittal #3 Requirements:
Project Examples: List (6) of your firm’s most successful projects varying in size from 6,000 to 20,000 SF. Two Examples must be 15,000 to 20,000 SF. Provide drawings and/or photographs. At least (3) must have been built to completion in the last (5) years. Provide completion dates or current phase, a reliable reference name and phone number, and describe the outstanding features and elements of each one.

and the criteria that I was supposed to use to rate each submission by was:

Rating Criteria:
Did the applicant provide a complete response?

Does this submittal demonstrate that the Consultant team has the experience to meet the requirements listed below?
-(5) years demonstrated experience in realizing projects of various size and type.
-expertise in concrete skate park design.
-demonstrated experience in full site design

Does this demonstrate innovation and creativity?

The Parks Department doesn’t need a committee to weed out the firms that don’t submit 6 examples of parks that meet the size and completion date requirements requested. The process made me feel like I was part of some awful standardized testing program for wayward skatepark designers. But then I got to that last line in the criteria:

Does this demonstrate innovation and creativity?

I dunno….do these pants make me look smart?  By the way…what color is your parachute?

This made me feel like I was evaluating the applicant’s ability to follow simple instructions, which felt like it had nothing to do with their ability to design great skateparks, but I completed the exercise as instructed and planned to provide the “anecdotal” portion of my findings to the committee during our discussion.

The meeting was great. Everyone on the committee not only had gone through all of the materials, but we had all come to the same conclusion as to who of the submitting firms should be given the design job: Grindline. However, there was still much to discuss and everyone had reservations.

First off, Grindline is already designing River City, Delridge, and certainly had a hand in Marginal Way. This meant that the entire South end of the Seattle Skatepark system was in danger of having the same flavor. Especially since many people felt like Grindline failed to really push the envelope on the Delridge design, (the only official park that they’ve designed…River City is a private project and Marginal is DIY).  Delridge was thought to be Grindline’s “hometown” coup, and opportunity to create a signature monument to their legacy. This park is a stone’s throw from Butter and the birthplace of Grindline itself, but to this day the design still lacks a signature feature that defines that park as a uniquely-born representation of Seattle’s skatepark heritage, and will be built that way as the design is complete.

5b-big

Jefferson skatepark is supposed to be a ‘District’ skatepark as defined by the City-Wide Skatepark plan, something that only two of the four qualifying firms even mentioned in their proposals.  This means that the park needs to be an anchor of that quadrant of the city’s skatepark system.  A “crown jewel” if you will…  Grindline addressed the uniqueness of Jefferson Skatepark’s role in the overall system in their submission, and this part of the document was pivotal in the committee’s decision.   So the question remains, can Grindline produce a design that fits the bill?

Or maybe more importantly…what’s even on the menu?

Dig deep into the projects on the Grindline website and you’ll see tiny sparks of greatness. Check out the igloo at Irrigon, the capsule at Kearney, the spaceship in Okinawa, or whatever the hell this thing is.  But even a lengthy browse through Grindline’s website produces a never-ending gallery of grayness+cradle+flow+stairs+rail+bank= “design”.  One thing is for sure, I remember the first time I skated the volcano at Newberg, saw the simple but elegant “tread lightly” manual cutout at Ed Benedict, or rode the weird stamped-brick, stairs-the-corner, bank laden, turntable-in-the-center Dino-Bowl at Tigard. Seattle tried for something like this with Newline at SeaSk8 but didn’t really get there.

Is it just that skatepark design peaked years ago when the cradle first started appearing?  Is it that city Parks Departments are simply too conservative with all of their safety rules and structural engineering requirements to even allow anything remotely creative and risky in a skatepark design these days?  Does the challenged economy make it hard for these firms to put their more “out there” proposals in front of the public?  Is the public process in big cities like Seattle simply too consensus-driven to allow the designer to have a strong vision for something that no one has ever thought of before?

The original design for the Ballard Bowl replacement.

Geth Noble's original design for the Ballard Bowl replacement.

Or are they simply tired of designing cool stuff that doesn’t end up in the final product for “practical” reasons?

To find out, go to one of the upcoming Jefferson skatepark design meetings and try to suggest an idea that you’ve never skated before.  Or better yet, ask Grindline to show you something they’ve been dreaming of but haven’t been able to build yet.  These guys are talented and something makes me feel like they’re just not being given the opportunity to visualize their dreams.  Instead they’re being asked to fulfill a punch card of what’s within the public’s existing vernacular for what a skatepark is supposed to be.

Regardless of who the designer is, I feel like we’re often shown a slide show of existing parks and asked to formulate a digest of all of the features we see and already know to exist.  In turn, we get a re-working of known quantities, re-packaged in a different format, and sold as “new”.  As stakeholders in the process, and powerful in our numbers, I believe we can influence and change this if that’s what skaters actually want.

But maybe skaters don’t want new designs.  Maybe they’re so desperate for skateparks that they just want something solid and unadventurous.  Maybe Grindline and other well-revered skatepark designers know this and this is why they’re still in business.

But what I ask these skatepark monument designers is this:

When you are long gone from this Earth, how would you like your legacy to be remembered?  Would you like to be known as the person who brought manual pads to the masses, or the pioneer who pushed the art form of skatepark design forward?  Surely not every skatepark design can win an award or elevate the art form, I know there’s a balance, but honestly I think all of the great thinkers in the skatepark design field have either gone underground (where are you Geth?) or been forced into the mainstream.

Perhaps I’m being too cynical.

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