Is a free thing not necessarily a good thing? Roxhill Skatespot donation concern

A rocky spot for the future skatespot in Roxhill Park: It had full funding from the Parks and Green Spaces Levy and a green light from the city – and then came a donation. Usually a cause for celebration, but in this case, the city Skate Park Advisory Committee wants the Parks Department to turn it down. They say the donation announced early last month is locking the city into a contract for the skateboarding facility to be built by a company that ranked low when the Request for Qualifications went out. Read on:

When Mayor McGinn made that announcement at City Hall in early May that the Roxhill Skatespot would get a donation from skateboarding luminary Rob Dyrdek, visiting Seattle for a performance, members of the Skate Park Advisory Committee weren’t there – they say they’d only been notified at the last minute.

They are the volunteers who have been slugging it out for years to get the city to devote time, energy, money, and planning to the sport. They have now sent the city a letter opposing the donation – particularly because it comes with free design services from California Skateparks, which they say is not the right company to build a park on the unique Roxhill site.

The committee sent its letter a week ago. You can read it here in its entirety. This excerpt explains their concern:

… 3. California Skateparks submitted a response to the Roxhill Skatepark RFQ and the objective Consultant Evaluation Committee rated them lowest

During the initial round of ratings by the Consultant Evaluation Committee appointed by Parks as a part of the selection process for the Roxhill Skatepark, California Skateparks was rated the lowest of all received consultants, with only one vote by any Committee member. The Committee was composed (of) a Parks planner, two Parks landscape architects, the Chair of the Judkins Park Oversight Committee, a member of the Westwood Neighborhood Council, and a member of the SPAC. The SPAC representative found that the California Skateparks submission lacked detail, site awareness, and inspiration. These objective evaluations by a wide range of participants (skaters and non-skaters) clearly show that California Skateparks would not be selected as the designer for this skatepark in the absence of the donated services. Therefore, acceptance of this donation results in the selection of a sub-standard design consultant for this project.

… 4. In exchange for the donation we are relinquishing a considerable amount of control and input on what kind of skatepark goes into this site.

California Skateparks does not design the kind of skatepark that will work best at this site. The Roxhill Skatepark requires a custom design due to the site’s unique restrictions. The site is inhabited with mature trees, and therefore requires a non-contiguous design that incorporates these trees. The SPAC has researched California Skatepark designs throughout the country and feels that they are not a good fit for this unique site because they generally design skateparks with large, open footprints and limited site constraints. A large, open street plaza at this site would require the removal of many, if not all, of the trees. The SPAC does not support the removal of mature trees to build skateparks. At this site, the SPAC advocates for the selection of other skatepark designers that have a documented portfolio that includes the integration of creative non-contiguous designs that account for constraints such as trees. …

Also in the letter, the committee reiterated that they hope Parks will change its mind and reject the donation, also mentioning that it is not an overall benefit to the city, since the money not spent apparently will not go to another skatepark project.

Then the response came yesterday – short enough to publish here in its entirety:

June 27, 2011

Ryan Barth
Skate Park Advisory Committee

Dear Mr. Barth,

On behalf of Mayor McGinn as well as Seattle Parks and Recreation, thank you for your ongoing interest in the design of the Roxhill and Judkins skateparks and the donated services to be provided by California Skateparks.

As you know, the Rob Dyrdek Foundation has made a donation to the City of Seattle such that California Skateparks will design the Roxhill Skatepark and incorporate certain terrain features from the recent Street League event at Seattle Center at no cost to the City. The value of this donation is expected to be over $100,000. This donation is substantial and we believe it will be a positive contribution to the Roxhill project.

I understand that both Kelly Davidson and Kevin Stoops talked to you on June 23 to tell you that we intend to enter into a no-fee design contract with California Skateparks to provide for this work. As such, the consultant selection this week will only address the selection of a designer for the Judkins skatepark.

If you have any further questions on this, please contact Kelly Davidson at or 206-684-0998.

Christopher Williams
Acting Superintendent, Seattle Parks and Recreation

cc: Matt Johnston, Skate Park Advisory Committee

It didn’t address SPAC’s concerns, and they are not pleased. Johnston, a West Seattleite, also runs the website, where he has published his reaction to the city’s reply (read it here in its entirety). He reiterates two points: “Seattle Parks is locking out community input by skipping the process that allows for it, and therefore, disenfranchising the stakeholders. … Seattle Parks is applying this donation to a fully funded project that doesn’t need it, instead of directing it toward a project in another community that does.”

So now what, aside from a ping-pong match of memos? Johnston writes that they are following up with the City Council.

15 Replies to "Is a free thing not necessarily a good thing? Roxhill Skatespot donation concern"

  • MLJ June 28, 2011 (6:29 pm)

    Thanks for the great coverage on this issue.

    One thing I want to make clear is that the SPAC’s position is not to reject the donation entirely. We do appreciate the offer, we just feel that a last minute decision was made resulting in the donation being applied to a fully funded project that simply doesn’t need it.

    There are 20+ other sites designated by the citywide Skatepark plan that have no funding whatsoever. It’s our position that this donation is much better utilized on a project that isn’t already completely funded, and preferrably at a site that doesn’t have so many unique restrictions.

  • nulu June 28, 2011 (7:07 pm)

    Is the City’s position to keep the money earmarked for the Roxhill Skatespot in the Parks’ general fund?

    If so, it appears that Seattle is trying to save money, not add an additional skate park beyond those already promised.

    In that case, there would be an overall benefit to the city, just not to skateparks?

    The fully funded argument is misleading. That $100,000 savings would benefit the city.

  • Dave June 28, 2011 (10:57 pm)

    Let me guess, SPAC wants Grindline to design then build the project.

  • rob June 29, 2011 (12:28 am)

    if i understand correctly, they are basically waiving the design/architecture fees but still going to charge (and profit) for building it?

    is it really a donation if they’re just charging you less so they can circumvent the selection process they appear to have had no chance of winning?

    how would people feel if the south park bridge project were awarded to a sub-par firm that skipped to the front of the line by offering to do all the design work for free?

    i’m not sure i understand how this isn’t the same thing as a kickback.

  • Marc June 29, 2011 (7:01 am)

    I think the basic issue is the property available is populated with mature trees making it unuseable as a skate park.

    A skate park’s best-use significantly benefits from open space and the current climate forbids removing mature trees.

    This is donated land that can not realistically be used for what it was donated for… unless a sub par facility.

  • bridge to somewhere June 29, 2011 (9:04 am)

    on the subject of the “property available,” which part of the park exactly is slated for the skatepark? the northwest corner?

  • Nulu June 29, 2011 (11:02 am)

    If a firm were to offer to build the South Park Bridge for a huge cost savings by doing the design for free, the firm would still have to meet all codes and engineering requirements.

    The skate park is not an engineering challenge similar to a bridge.

    In either case, the money saved would be real.

    There is no kick-back, just a deep discount to the city that the firm must shoulder.

  • spkatty June 29, 2011 (12:07 pm)

    Did Dyrdek disclose that he and California are business partners in Street League? That is a conflict of interest if he is selecting the contractor. Dyrdek and California are doing this all over — making donations of various sizes to drive work to California. Cities should adopt a minimum % of donation to get to choose the GC (or require that it still be bid) and enforce their conflict of interest disclosure rules.

  • Sk8 to live June 29, 2011 (3:40 pm)

    Ok – I think we all need to be honest here – I have read the story and all the comments -and I can understand that even in skateboarding there is a “good ol boy ” network going on – and everyone has an “agenda” – I get it. And in this case it’s the fact that theSPAC wants gridline to get this job – and why not it is in thier backyard-
    But come on – you really have the gull to say that ca Skateparks is not qualified – just look at thier history – they are licensed in nearly every state- built hundreds of some of the best Skateparks – they are the exclusive builders of the x games, street league, Maloof money cup etc… – and if you think that is to “main steam” – they have also build many private faciltities for today’s top pros -such as – Tony hawk , Bucky Lasek , Andrew reynolds, Jamie Thomas , Erik koston and steve Berra , Marc johnson, Stevie Williams , Sean malto, lance mountain, arto sarri, bob Burnquist , Danny way, p-rod, etc… To many more to list – and they do work for thrasher, Tws etc…
    They are well know not only for amazing street courses but also for some of the best bowls in the country – when vans wanted to redo the combi bowl – they hired CA- when rune put out his new shoe and wanted to throw a party at the legendary pink motel pool – he called ca skate – and rune is good friends with some of the “other” builders –
    So again – SPac- if your agenda is – you want your “friends” to get the job – it’s all good – I can understand – but don’t make up claims that those dudes are not qualified – they are probably over qualified –
    The real question is what type of park do the skaters of Seattle want – a street type plaza or a flow type park –
    Because CA Skateparks is known for doing both – grindline and dreamland are only know for the
    Just being honest…..

  • cwit June 29, 2011 (5:33 pm)

    I’m with Sk8 to live! I don’t even know if it’s gone out to bid, but if using Grindline or Dreamland means that we’re only going to get the ladder there – then someone better put a stop to it! Who wants to skate a ladder? At least for more than 30 minutes. Although a steam feature would be good – even if it’s main steam.

  • Michael June 29, 2011 (7:30 pm)

    Any donation with strings attached isn’t a donation at all.
    McGinn strikes again.

  • Cemental June 29, 2011 (10:44 pm)

    Sk8 to Live. You sound like a California Skateparks press release.
    Maybe it’s just a coincidence.
    The park would benefit from being a design build project for sure rather than a design bid build park.
    Not sure if California Skateparks has many of those in their portfolio?

  • Bill June 29, 2011 (11:43 pm)

    Seems like there is a lot of strings attached in Skatepark design and/or bid. Before it was one company designed the other company builds. Now companies want the honor of being the designers and the money.

    Unless I misread something, I didn’t see anything stating that CA would build the park. Because Grindline found a way to design and build Delridge (legally) it opens others to do the same. But that is a big assumption that CA, Dyrdek and the City are being shady.

    CA is more than qualified and Parks encourages community feedback. That SPAC letter is a stretch.

  • hibern8 thru class June 30, 2011 (5:51 am)

    I would LOVE to skate a ladder!! that would be to sweet! and let it be know…if it gets build…my gull will totally shred it to!

  • MLJ June 30, 2011 (11:24 pm)

    Regardless of your position, thank you for posting your comments and opinions on this issue.
    Just to make it perfectly clear, the SPAC is not advocating for any individual vendor to be selected for Roxhill. We’re asking Seattle Parks to follow the same public process they follow for every other project, instead of handing California Skateparks a no-bid contract in exchange for some pre-fab features and a design that’s mostly already in the can.
    It is our position that the exception being made at Roxhill, which eliminates the community’s ability to provide input on the selection of the designer, is not in the best interest of Seattle taxpayers, skateboarders, and community members.
    The issue regarding the funding is not up for debate. The SPAC position is that we lobbied hard for many years in order to get funding for Skateparks included in the Parks For All Levy. These funds were approved by the voters and need to remain designated for these skateparks as stated in the levy. I’m surprised that the Mayor thinks he can just play around with voter-approved levy dollars earmarked for specific projects.
    The people who are suggesting that this feels like a kick-back situation are closest to the truth. It’s true that California Skateparks’ owner is a business partner in the Street League tour. California Skateparks has been trying for years to break into the Seattle area, and the fact that we have a citywide Skatepark plan with 20 more parks to be built makes our city a juicy target for any Skatepark design/build outfit. Having multiple qualified firms competing for these projects would be a nice “problem” to have. CSP has been unable to win a job in Seattle through the proper channels, despite trying for years. The fact that they are now working through back channels to get a no-bid contract from the city in exchange for a “donation” of questionable value, needs to be called out for what it is.
    Again…California Skateparks is welcome to compete and bid on these projects along with everyone else. The SPAC is not against CSP or trying to push Grindline either. What we’re advocating for here is that The City of Seattle follow it’s own process, allow for public input and other firms to bid on this project, and not throw all that out the window just because some dude from MTV needed to get rid of some pre-fab skate features and his partner wants to break into new territory.

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