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.


6 Responses to “Deconstructing Dyrdek’s Donation”
  1. Benny says:

    “was designed for professional skaters and is literally unskateable by the majority of skateboarders, especially kids.” That is a whole lot of BS! That setup was awesome, add it onto lower woodland and let real skateboarders have it! Not some little kids that will scooter all over it.

    “Roxhill is in a neighborhood that houses a ton of kids, and (on last check) very few professional skateboarders.” What a smartass. Quit catering to parents and children, start providing for actual skateboarders.

  2. Matthew Lee Johnston says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful feedback Benny. I’m trying to provide something different here, which is a clearinghouse for skatepark advocacy issues in Seattle, FOR EVERYONE. There are a lot of other sites out there that cater specifically to skaters. If you’re not grooving on this one, I kindly suggest you stop reading it.

  3. Eric says:

    Despite staring a gift horse in its gaping maw, I’d be curious to know what the ultimate cost benefit (storage, transport, actual implementation or success of repurposing) will actually be in dealing with the estimated $25K of materials. It’s probably worth a lot more in a climate like San Diego than it’s eventual soggy demise in Seattle, no matter who is willing to skate it.

    Despite wondering how much of that $25K translates to savings for Rob’s skate tour, I applaud re-use and have never frowned on free materials myself.

    Speaking to the rest of the $50K: Do you think Rob’s conglomerate is out of the picture regarding the way the donation is dealt with? It seems something akin to fraud to take a fully funded project and inject donated money, effectively neutering the intent of the gift.

    Rob’s high profile and even slight interest in this tom-foolery could have a huge impact in reversing something like this if one’s ever-challenged faith in the typical channels to do the right thing loses out. I’m just not sure if this is of little interest if the donation is simply barnstorming-style publicity for a lavish national skate tour. Lawyers and contracts are annoyingly expensive for something that is gratis and well-intentioned.

    (That said, I always get this phantom pain whenever I see those awful photos of two people shaking hands with grins on their faces while one hands a check to another. Thanks for fighting the good fight!)

  4. Eric says:

    p.s. Rob should definitely have been shaking _YOUR_ hand along with the rest of SPAC. Typical B.S.

  5. Everyday Skater says:

    Lets take a minute to deconstruct this deconstruction. An object and unbiased approach would have been a nice start. Referring to Street League, a skater-run, street skating based contest as circus-like set the tone for the rest of this article. The donation sounds like something that came up as a way to not waste all of the great skate stuff that they are building and also to give kids a chance to ride the same things that they have seen their favorite skaters ride. It is obviously something completely separate from the city wide skatepark plan. It was just an opportunity that came up on short notice, and saying that a 24-hour notice for the press conference is disrespectful to those with jobs and kids is disrespectful, is just plain a cop-out. The entire contest comes and goes in 3 days so I’m not sure what kind of notice you would have expected. If you wanted to be involved bad enough, then tell you boss and bring your kid, that ones on you and not anyone else. In response to your remark that all of Dyrdeks best plaza designs are large continuous plazas, this is simply not true. Granted DC plaza in kettering is a vast plaza, and there are a couple more like it, but his safe spot skate spots range all the way down to little pocket parks. Another complete fallacy is the idea already touched on by someone else that the features would be “literally unskateable by the majority of skaters” Do you even skate? You have that little faith in your fellow skateboards. Have you been to a park lately? Kids would shred this stuff. The biggest thing in the street league course is the size of a 9 stair, I dont know about you but I ollied 9 what I was 14 and kids today are better than ever. In case you havent noticed, the top street league skates right now are less that 18years old and were virtually unknown only a few years ago. Imagine if more kids had access to this kind of stuff. The format of the contest is what makes it professional level. The pros are judged on every single attempt they make, so in a way the course has to at least be easy enough so that an advanced skater can land a trick every single try. Your everyday skater cant do that, but to think that this stuff is “literally” unskateable is just plain ignorant. You sound to me like a skater that is out of touch with the trends of popular skateboarding culture, and one who is bitter instead of open. If you want to be taken seriously by the core of the skateboard community in Seattle I suggest you take a more open-minded, unbiased approach. Otherwise, I think you’ll quickly fall to wayside.

  6. Scott Shinn says:

    Thanks for your comments, Everyday. The “You don’t skate and don’t represent me, the Everyday Skater” argument has been made many times before. For reference, please see former SPAC Chair John Carr’s PhD dissertation:

    In particular, the concept of a “discursive proxy” always pertains to issues such as these, where a group or class of people is represented by other, usually older and more out-of-touch, people such as the SPAC.

    The concept of the “athletic meritocracy” also pertains here. First explicated by former Skaters for Public Skateparks Executive Director Kent Dahlgren, this implied hierarchy within “the skateboarding community” functions to systematically marginalize the voices of those who represent the discursive proxy to the government, thus further alienating and disenfranchising the “kids” everyone claims to be speaking for here.

    Trouble is, there’s no kids here, and kids are usually too intimidated to participate in this long political process anyway, and wouldn’t know what to say if they did participate. This is truly an unfortunate, systemic issue.

    For starters, I suggest that you refrain from the ad hominem arguments you made above and actually participate in this process as a real person rather than a stereotype.

    Who are you and why are you involved in this? What is your real name and who do you really represent? Why are you a stakeholder in this skatepark? As always, your sincere feedback is encouraged and appreciated.

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