The Santa Monica City Council has voted to keep a city ban of skating on the Third Street Promenade.
The ban was approved in 1998 and prohibited skateboards, skates, bicycles and other similar wheeled devices on the Third Street Promenade outdoor mall.
Councilmember Michael Feinstein, who lost his reelection campaign last month, had wanted the ban lifted during his last City Council meeting Tuesday, November 23rd.
Feinstein and supporters of skating on the Promenade argued that skating does not pose a threat to public safety because the skates are attached to a person’s feet and cannot fly off, which makes the activity safer than skateboarding or bicycling.
“I don’t believe it is appropriate to ban somebody’s access to public space just because somebody else feels uncomfortable about their presence if there is not a demonstrable public safety record,” Feinstein said.
“There has been a disturbing trend of a lack of tolerance for alternative lifestyles on this council in the last few years,” he said.
Feinstein is an in-line skater and said skaters are kept from enjoying the Promenade because they do not always carry shoes with them.
He also said the ban gives the public the impression that the City Council is ignoring the needs of skaters because skaters are not a readily organized group of people.
“The Promenade is a public space where we have spent millions of dollars to essentially create a public watering hole,” Feinstein said. “It is not about whether a person goes there to shop.
“It is about whether our city center is open to skaters as well as everyone else.”
Those who supported retaining the skating ban said the Promenade is much safer as a pedestrian-only zone and that allowing wheels on the heavily walked public space would bring on injury lawsuits for the city.
The Santa Monica Police Department, the Bayside District Corporation — the nonprofit organization authorized to manage downtown Santa Monica — and the city Senior Commission argued in favor of keeping the ban.
“While I personally feel we should allow skating, allowing skating is not what I am hearing from the community,” said mayor pro tem Kevin McKeown.
McKeown was also concerned that a shoplifter on skates “could make a quick getaway in leaving the store.”
Promenade retailers already prohibit skates inside their stores.
Santa Monica Police Sgt. Ira Rutan, who is in charge of police patrols on the Promenade and downtown areas, said, “Accidents are bound to happen even if someone is a good skater.”
“There is an intense number of people on the Promenade on foot who are young children, elderly, disabled or wide-eyed tourists,” Rutan said.
“It is the police department’s opinion that skates are still a hazard. If someone on skates weighs 200 to 250 pounds, that’s a pretty big obstacle to absorb,” Rutan said.
The City Council voted four to two to keep the ban as written six years ago.
McKeown, mayor Richard Bloom and Councilmembers Robert Holbrook and Ken Genser voted to keep the ban.
Feinstein and Councilmember Pam O’Connor voted to lift the ban.
Councilmember Herb Katz was not present for the vote.
Feinstein had hoped the City Council would try a one-year test of allowing skating and then review the number of public safety incidents.