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Neighbors debate skate park near Watts Towers

December 9, 2009 12:19:20 AM PST
A plan to build a skate park in the shadow of the Watts Towers has many area residents taking sides.A plan to build a skate park in the shadow of the Watts Towers has many area residents taking sides. Supporters say the project would benefit neighborhood kids. Opponents say a skate park has no place next to the iconic towers.

The Watts Towers are famous worldwide. Neighbors say there are tourists that come here by the busload to see them. Now there's a plan to bring more people in: not art lovers, but skateboarders.

In the middle of the Imperial Courts housing project, an oasis. A place to unleash energy. A place to polish skateboarding skills. A place to be positive, says skateboarding 8-year-old Demetrius Jordan.

"When you skate you stay away from people that aren't bad, be with your friends all the time, be good," said Jordan.

"It keeps them out of gangs. It keeps them more motivated," said Dr. Perry Crouch.

There are similar parks inside every South Los Angeles housing project ,so city leaders thought, why not build one where there's open space, a neighborhood that is underserved, in the shadow of Watts Towers?

"We want something for our kids, but it's not safe. The neighborhood is not that safe," said nearby resident Rosa Gutierrez.

Gutierrez is one of several neighbors near the Watts Towers who question the project at the location. True, recreation is needed she says, yet a skate park here could bring unwanted traffic too.

"There'll be tagging, there'll be, like I said, a lot of drug dealing, and our kids, you know the kids that are not involved, they'll be approached by these type of other kids and, you know, we're afraid of that. That they'll be offered drugs or forced into joining a gang," said Gutierrez.

"Hardcore gang members are not hanging out at skate parks -- let's just get that off the table. Hardcore drug dealers are not hanging out at skate parks," said Crouch.

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, no formal proposal has been submitted. But there is support on the Los Angeles City Council and fundraising is under way.

The Wasserman Media Group, which has developed several parks designed by Tony Hawk, is doing the footwork.

Neighbors near the towers hope they are part of the process. Skate park supporters say they will weigh in too.

The location of the lot where the project is proposed is currently just a bit of broken-up asphalt. The plan is to transform it into the skate park very close to the towers.

Eyewitness News was unable to contact any of the principals involved in this proposal. Everybody seems to be out of town, but to be sure, when they return they will be hearing from the neighbors and other people involved in this dispute and all sides of this story.


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