Pali High Student Rallies to Bring a Skatepark Back to the Palisades

The lower picnic area of Palisades Recreation Center was suggested as a potential location, but poses problems.
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief

Palisades Charter High School sophomore Max Burger is on a mission to bring a skatepark back to Pacific Palisades—and community members are taking him and the conversation seriously.

Burger, who has attended local meetings, including the Park Advisory Board and Pacific Palisades Community Council, to share his pitch during public comment, returned to speak at the most recent PPCC meeting on Thursday, August 22, and this time, he was on the agenda.

Burger, a resident of the Palisades, said his passion is skateboarding and he does it every day.

“Almost everywhere I go, I’m trespassing and I get met with hostility,” Burger explained of the current skating situation. “I’m sick of it.”

Burger is in the early stages of developing a plan and is currently looking at different potential locations, including Potrero Park, the parking lot of Will Rogers State Beach and the Palisades Recreation Center—some of which he has already eliminated due to logistics.

“I think a really, really good space would be right there—adjacent to here, the library—the pit,” Burger said of the picnic area at the rec center. “It’s like a canyon almost, I mean it’s already a bowl. It’s like destiny.”

“Max, I know you from when you were playing basketball as a little kid there and I know you love skating, but we don’t have the room for it there,” Park Director Erich Haas explained at the meeting.

Superintendent Darryl Ford of the LA Department of Recreation and Parks pointed out that “location is probably the most important thing to think about when we’re thinking about a skatepark.”

Ford said to keep three aspects in mind: security, use, and, most importantly, the noise.

“That lower picnic area … that whole area is surrounded by homes,” Haas said. “I can tell you right now those homeowners are not going to go for that.”

Park Advisory Board Member Bob Benton, who has been with the board for more than 20 years, shared that the park has problems it needs to address before adding a skatepark.

“This is a great idea, skaters are great, but we don’t have [ADA accessible] bathrooms, we don’t have plumbing … we have so many issues that take priority,” Benton explained.

Burger will continue his search for a suitable location, keeping in mind issues with the California Coastal Commission, neighboring residences and accessibility. He pitched ideas to mitigate problems that would arise, including limiting the park’s hours of operation and securing funding through private donors.

The closest skateparks to the Palisades that Burger and his friends can currently visit include Stoner Park, Venice Beach and Santa Monica.

In the early 2000s, the Palisades had a skatepark of its own at the rec center, but since the pieces were movable, it came with its own set of problems.

“I had one guy blow out his knee, another guy almost had his ankle crushed moving this,” Haas shared at the meeting.

Benton added, “To say it was a fiasco was understated.” Ford assured those in attendance that a movable skatepark is not being considered.

According to an info sheet compiled by PPCC Secretary Chris Spitz, the Department of Recreation and Parks operates at least 24 other skateparks throughout Los Angeles, including Stoner Park, which is 20,500 square feet.

The Public Skatepark Guide website suggests that an eight- to 10,000-square-foot skate park may be required to service the Palisades population. The amount of money needed to fund the park would depend on a bevy of factors, but on average, according to the guide, it’s about $45 per square foot.

“I will comply with any needs that anyone will have,” Burger said.