Battle is brewing over a proposed skate park near the Watts Towers*
Plans to build a large skateboarding park next to Simon Rodia’s folk-art masterpiece, the Watts Towers, has unhappy admirers of the towers girding for a land-use fight against high-powered opposition.
City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, whose district includes Watts, is a key proponent of the skate park, which also is being pushed by Circe Wallace, a manager for the L.A. sports marketing and management company, Wasserman Media Group, and two of her pro skateboarder clients, Terry Kennedy and Paul Rodriguez. Skateboarding star Tony Hawk has raised $44,000 toward its estimated cost of $350,000 or more.
Although acknowledging that youngsters in Watts need more recreational opportunities, opponents of the skate park, which would be longer than a football field and two-thirds as wide, are asking why it has to occupy a vacant parcel about 40 yards from the vulnerable towers.
They worry that a noisy attraction could interfere with visitors’ enjoyment of the towers and that the skate park could bring in graffiti taggers, drug users and violence, threatening both the physical safety of Rodia’s fantastical, ornately decorated structures and their potential to draw tourism.
Hahn says she has focused on the towers-adjacent parcel because, unlike other potential sites in Watts, no gang claims the spot as part of its turf. She also thinks a skate park can complement the towers by bringing more youngsters in contact with the arts programs there and says there’s nothing unwholesome about skate culture that would pose a threat to the landmark’s security or to a neighboring, city-run exhibition space and youth arts center.
The plan began with Circe Wallace, a senior vice president at Wasserman Media Group, who represents skateboarders and other action-sports clients, including L.A.-based riders and skate-park proponents Paul Rodriguez and Terry Kennedy. Wallace’s boss, Casey Wasserman, is a trustee of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and his Wasserman Foundation donated $1.5 million to the museum in 2007.
Click here for today's story on the budding skate-park controversy, which one neighborhood advocate of the towers worries could divide the community between supporters of recreation and backers of culture.
-- Mike Boehm
*Updated: An earlier verison of this story said the Wasserman Group was backing the proposed skateboarding park near the Watts Towers. While the proponents include a manager employed by WMG and two of the pro skateboarders she represents, they are pursuing the initiative as individuals rather than as representatives of the company.
Photos, from top: Circe Wallace, of Wasserman Media Group, and pro skaters Terry Kennedy, center, and Paul Rodriguez, key proponents of a skateboarding park near the Watts Towers, at the planned site. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times. Conceptual design for the skate park. Credit: California Skateparks