As more than 40 people entered Napa City Hall on Wednesday night to discuss where to place a future skateboard park, placards on the walls bore the names of 18 possible locations across the city. After an hour and a half’s discussion by parks officials and skating enthusiasts, spectators — mostly young and some carrying their wheels into the council chamber — were invited to place stickers on the sign matching their preferred skatepark home.
Their verdict was unofficial, yet apparently clear-cut. Within seconds, the sign for Kennedy Park was polka-dotted in green, the first choice of 33 spectators convinced the park, while not the closest to most skateboarders, might offer the easiest path to the bowls, rails and stairs they hope will replace Napa’s aging skate center on Yajome and Clinton streets.
In the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission’s opening review of skatepark sites, the 196-acre Kennedy in south Napa began winning favor over other, smaller city parks where city staff — and local skateboarders — feared the sport could cause clashes with homeowners over traffic and lighting.
From an original slate of about 50 sites, Parks and Recreation narrowed the list down to locations of at least 2 acres and without conservation easements that would block construction. Yet many of these options likely would prove unworkable because of lack of space, the absence of toilets, or too far from public transportation, officials said.
The need to add lighting to some venues would disqualify more of the options, according to Dave Perazzo, city parks superintendent.
“The best time to put in lights at a park is when nobody lives nearby,” he told the audience. “I can’t think of any park that’s gone without resistance to lights, especially the small 2-to 3-acre neighborhood parks where the lights would totally dominate the park. It’s a big issue.”
Several local skaters in recent weeks had called on Napa to place the new park as near to downtown as possible, to make skating to and from the site easier. But those attending the Wednesday meeting appeared to be won over to Kennedy Park for its larger space, existing toilets and lights — and, paradoxically, for its remoteness from most neighborhoods and the opposition their residents might bring.
Locating a skateboarding center close to housing subdivisions “would be the biggest problem; if I didn’t skate, I wouldn’t want it either,” said Max Roldan, 19, of Napa. “Kennedy is a big, open area, and no one can complain about us being there. Also, it has lights, and we need to have lights.”
City officials have favored a skatepark site inside an existing park in order to make the most of the project’s $1.44 million budget, which must cover design, construction, park amenities such as restrooms, and any purchase of additional land. A $120,000 portion meant to come from Napa’s redevelopment agency was removed after California shut down all such agencies last year.
A selection committee of skateboarders and other residents, as well as parks commissioners and staff, will spend the next month whittling the list of skatepark sites to a final few, Parks and Recreation Director Larry Mazzuca said.
In addition to Kennedy, four other parks received at least one of 42 green stickers at the post-meeting straw vote, led by five tallies for O’Brien Park on Pueblo Avenue.
During its March 13 meeting, the parks commission is expected to choose at least two locations for the City Council to consider. Mazzuca said Napa likely will use a request-for-proposals process allowing multiple companies to bid on the skatepark’s design and construction.
The city wants to close the existing skatepark on Pearl Street, which skaters consider inadequate, so that the block can be commercially redeveloped.