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Today, Skateworld is owned by 60-year-old Gary Stang. Thirty-five years ago, Stang and his parents opened the business at its current location. By the early 1970s, the shopping center, including the eventual Skateworld building, had already become dilapidated. So in 1972, the City of San Diego took the center on as one of the first local redevelopment zones. Within a few years, the City sold most of the center to a developer who replaced a supermarket and a number of other businesses with new ones. But the old entertainment building, which by then had gone through a variety of uses, remained. The Stangs, who always wanted to own a skating rink, scouted the building. They began to picture it as the home of their future business.

“At the time, nobody wanted this building,” Stang tells me. We’re sitting in the Skateworld front office, which also serves as a trophy and memorabilia room. “It was boarded up and needed a lot of repairs. There were homeless people breaking in here. So I approached the City about doing something with it, and they let us have it on a month-to-month lease.”

The first thing the Stangs did was to make as many repairs as they could afford. They put in a maple-wood floor to serve as the skating surface. Several skaters I’ve spoken with at Skateworld tell me that the surface is far superior — and more forgiving to sprawling human bodies — to more modern ones, which leave imprints on flesh.

Stang’s parents mortgaged their home and got a Small Business Association loan, and Skateworld opened on October 6, 1975. “We put everything we had into this venture,” says Stang. “My mom and dad were professional roller-skaters. And by then, I had managed roller-skating rinks for other people. As a boy, I had done counter, floor-guard, DJ, and other duties. I had a lot of experience.”

Wayne Bamford had told me that Stang was once a great roller-skating competitor in speed and artistic events. Between the late 1950s and the early 1970s, Stang routinely won national skating championships. Later, he performed skating routines on television and in movies and once skated during a Michael Jackson concert.

I ask Stang how early he started skating. “When I was three, my grandmother found a pair of roller skates with metal wheels and a key,” he says. “She brought them home and clamped them onto my shoes. I went outside and rolled down a bumpy sidewalk and, apparently, really liked it. Later, my mom and dad became artistic skaters and turned pro. Through them I developed my skills. Skating’s been a lifelong passion.”

In 1982, the City wanted to make major changes to the Skateworld building. “But they had no takers,” says Stang. “So the City approached me. They said to put a proposal together, a proposal that would show improvements on the building. So we created a plan that added the commercial spaces that are on the building now.” Stang is referring to the spaces on Skateworld’s west, east, and north sides: the west side is currently occupied by a Pizza Hut and a check-cashing outlet and a beauty shop; on the east side there’s a video store and a financial services company; on the north side, a Vietnamese restaurant.

I ask if that’s what the City wanted. “They wanted it, yes,” Stang tells me, “and the community-planning group said they wanted to see more retail in the area. My family and I also decided it would be a benefit to us to put retail spaces onto the building.” Stang invested in building out the attached commercial spaces. In what would later become a bone of contention, the agency permitted the entire complex to be run as one business. The Stangs were given a 20-year lease. Besides running the skating rink, they now collected rents from the new tenants. The City requested a percentage of the composite business profits. That percentage rose slowly over the years, eventually reaching a high of 15 percent.

∗ ∗ ∗

In 1988, a new Linda Vista public library was built at Comstock and Ulrich Streets, immediately east of Skateworld, but the construction funds came out of the city’s regular libraries’ budget, not from redevelopment monies. By the mid-1990s, local community leaders were itching for a new redevelopment project. They wanted to build a “town center” and “gateway” to the community on a vacant lot at the corner of Comstock and Linda Vista Road. The property, adjacent to Skateworld on the south, had been for years the site of a gas station.

The new plan was driven by three individuals: District 6 councilwoman Valerie Stallings, District 5 councilwoman Barbara Warden, and Bob Williams, then president of Linda Vista’s Bayside Community Center. The three leaders envisioned a two-story town center that would facilitate the work of nonprofit organizations in Linda Vista and be a home for the “incubation” of business startups. Besides offices, the building would contain a large conference center.

In a February 4, 1999 memo to the City manager, Warden highlighted her favorite goal. “This critical project would re-create the Heart of Linda Vista by redeveloping the former gasoline station…into a catalyst for private-sector development.” Warden went on to say that, for the previous three years, she had been setting aside the federal Community Development Block Grant funds under her control to help complete the project. She also promised to acquire a federal loan that, through deferred repayment, “would provide an equal financial commitment from Council Districts Five and Six, respectively.” She wrote further that the project “marks the first time the city has invested in the expansion of the Linda Vista Redevelopment Area since the early 1970s.”

In those days, Linda Vista’s city council representation was divided in two, split by Linda Vista Road’s passage through the community. District 5’s Warden represented the eastern half, while Valerie Stallings of District 6 represented the western half.

∗ ∗ ∗

Over the winter of 1999–2000, both of the elder Stangs died. I ask a current Skateworld employee who was around then how much the couple had been contributing to running the operation. “They were a great pair and were there every day,” he says, “even though they were silent partners in the business. Gary’s mother especially always had lots to say about how things were to be done.”

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Comments

Brian_T_Peterson_DVM Sept. 1, 2010 @ 4:49 p.m.

Joe,

This is a great article. Everything you wrote is consistent with what I have been hearing through my involvement in fighting redevelopment abuse in Grantville. One complaint I hear from Linda Vistans is that all their redevelopment money disappeared. Now, from your article, I know why: it was all transferred out of the Linda Vista project area. Fortunately, this type of loss of revenue from a redevelopment project area will not happen again. In 2008 State Senator Christine Kehoe took note of the Grantville Action Group’s legal effort to stop the transfer of over $31 million in Grantville’s redevelopment proceeds to pay for downtown projects. (They claim that improving the trolley line on C Street and beautifying the County Administration Building will eradicate blight in Grantville.) Kehoe authored SB 93, which will prevent the transfer of tax increment out of redevelopment project areas, except in the strictest of circumstances. This bill passed unanimously through the legislature, Governor Schwarzenegger signed it, and it became law on January 1, 2010.

As far as the Grantville Action Group lawsuit, we will be in court on October 29th. If anyone would like to assist redevelopment reform in Grantville, after we helped to gain it for the rest of the state, please go to www.GrantvilleActionGroup.com and donate to the GAG legal fund. Thank you.

Brian T. Peterson, DVM Grantville Action Group, CEO

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sdgirl92123 Sept. 1, 2010 @ 6:01 p.m.

The title on the cover says "Skateworld Rolls Away". Skateworld is NOT rolling anywhere! This is not a done deal!! We are fighting to save this rink and will continue to do so until we win!

Skateworld has been a pillar of the Linda Vista community for nearly 35 years! It is the ONLY remaining roller rink in the city of San Diego. Linda Vista has a recreation center, a teen center and a boys and girls club. There are also public use buildings at USD. If you want to play "Futsal" use one of those facilities. Don't be fooled skaters. Bayside claims they will have skating. But, mark my words, it will NOT be in the same capacity at which Skateworld currently offers skating.

The article states that the RDA owes the city money. Then WHY are they making a deal with a non-profit organization that pays NO money in taxes back to the city? Skateworld pays rent, property tax, sales tax etc. With the financial crisis facing San Diego tax paying citizens should be outraged that such a deal is even being considered.

This article does not tell of the many coincidences between those involved in this deal. When you start connecting the dots it makes an interesting picture. Stop to consider that Mike Weber is a long time board member for Bayside and Donna Frye is always there to support everything they do and has received many awards in recognition of that support, then add in the little fact that she and Mrs. Weber are best friends, it makes me question if they are in cahoots with each other for personal gain. After all Ms. Frye will be out of a job in just a few months. Perhaps one is waiting for her at MRW? I also find it interesting that there are prominent members from USD sitting on Bayside's board. Rumor on the street is that USD plans to buy the existing Bayside property to build housing. Although that's hearsay, I find it another interesting "dot" in the big picture.

The above article states the following:

"A page from the year 2002 stands out, a letter on Bayside stationery addressed to Gary Jones of the City’s Real Estate Assets Department. Dated October 24, 2002, and stamped as received in Donna Frye’s office four days later, the letter was written by Grover Diemert, then Bayside’s executive director. “We are developing a proposal to lease the property commonly known as the Skateworld property,” wrote Diemert. “We have alerted Donna Frye of our interest. She is looking forward to receiving our proposal. We request that you do not renew the Stang/Skateworld lease until you have considered and reviewed our proposal…. If you have any questions please contact our master plan committee chair Michael Weber.” "

So, Donna Frye knew back in 2002 that Bayside and her friend Mike Weber at MRW had this "master plan". Why was it not put into motion 8 years ago? Is it because she had just gotten elected after promising to do right by her constituents and she was afraid of committing political suicide? That's a bet I am willing take.

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sdgirl92123 Sept. 1, 2010 @ 6:10 p.m.

Thank you Joe Deegan for your time in writing this article. I know you didn't have control over the cover and I want to clarify once again that this is NOT a done deal.

Skateworld is not rolling away!

To support our fight to save our Skateworld please join the "Friends of Skateworld Roller Rink" page on facebook or go to our blog at www.friendsofskateworld.com.

Thank you for your support!

S.O.S - Save Our Skateworld!!

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sandiegojoey Sept. 1, 2010 @ 6:40 p.m.

I grew up in Linda Vista, spent many hours at Skateworld AND Bayside. Skateworld is still a community asset, however, I can't say the same for Bayside. Now I know why my family and friends in Linda Vista HATE Bayside, and refer to them as "Bayside hispanic center". I wasn't sure how accurate a nick-name that was until this article. They want to tear down an American past time, and replace it with Futsal??? Why not volleyball, indoor field hockey, Lacrosse, or any other sport that the kids can also play in high school.

I now live in Allied Gardens and get to see our Chicago style politics play out again with the Grantville redevelopment project (see Brian Peterson's comment above).

THANK YOU San Diego Reader!! This story would never have gone out if not for your publication. Keep up the good work and keep on exposing the dirty rotten politicians like Donna Frye and the so-called "community center's" like Bayside who have an agenda that more in line with the city council than it is with the communities they claim to serve.

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RaffaelHoffmann Sept. 2, 2010 @ 11:21 a.m.

I had the pleasure to work as a full time volunteer at Bayside in 2008 and 2009. I'm a bit surprised by how the storyline is drawn and the previous comments are written. It is a black and white view of the world and the players involved. Skateworld is pictured as good and trustworthy, while Bayside is somewhat devious and untrustworthy. I resent this. Donna has been an outstanding advocate for the community of Linda Vista. Bayside and its present and former Executive Directors and Board members have been fighting for this community for decades. Insinuations, innuendo and libel don't raise the level of debate. I invite anyone reading this to take a stroll around the neighborhood. You will see with your own eyes that something needs to be done and what impact three decades of Skateworld had on the area. Here is hoping that the fierceness of the debate will subside and that Linda Vistans will work together as a community.

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sandiegojoey Sept. 2, 2010 @ 7:04 p.m.

Raffael, you say "Donna has been an outstanding advocate for the community of Linda Vista. Bayside and its present and former Executive Directors and Board members have been fighting for this community for decades.", then I would say they were simply buttering them up for the kill.

C'mon, are you really going to ignore the facts presented above? Your simply saying "they're good people" wont make the facts go away!

Lets say for the sake of argument that the area was run down like you insinuate, and that a new development would actually benefit the area. Then why wasn't this deal done in full view of the public and the residents of Linda Vista? Why weren't the people of Linda Vista brought in? Why not propose a development that included Skateworld, a piece of Americana, and the last skating rink in San Diego? And if Donna and our city council are so full of virtue, why are they selling this parcel for $1 when this city if flat broke!!

And as for your final statement "Here is hoping that the fierceness of the debate will subside and that Linda Vistans will work together as a community." Well, that's all Linda Vista wanted in the first place but they never got the chance!! Donna Frye and Bayside chose this path instead, they knew Linda Vistans DO work together and they're finding out just how committed they are....the hard way!

The fact is, they underestimated Linda Vistans when they thought they could sneak this by them. Well, now it's time for Bayside and this city council to face the music. Linda Vistans will boycott any and everything Bayside for a long long time. And if Donna Frye EVER seeks office in San Diego again we'll use every resource available to us to stop her from winning.

The whole issue is a microcosm of how this city works. If you want to defend the actions of Bayside and Frye, Raffael, then address the FACTS from the article above! You won't because you can't, they're all public record, these things really happened in the way they're portrayed, it isn't just "insinuation, innuendo, and libel" as you claim. Joe Deegan did a damn good job putting the facts together, and if they don't sit well with you then you should direct your disappointment with the people you serve, not the victims of this debacle!

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TomCleary Sept. 3, 2010 @ 7:44 a.m.

SDGIRL92123 is incorrect. USD has no intention of buying, leasing or otherwise using the Bayside Community Center property for housing or any other use. For many years, USD has provided its college students as volunteers, tutors and mentors in various programs conducted by Bayside. This relationship has been a productive and beneficial partnership, but USD is in no way involved with the Bayside/MRW proposal to the city’s Redevelopment Agency for the Skateworld site.

Elaine Elliott served on the Bayside board of directors for several years. Elaine is the former director of USD’s Center for Community Service-Learning, which provides hundreds of student volunteers to Bayside and other local nonprofit organizations each year. She recently retired from USD and is leaving the San Diego area. Dayanne Izmirian, Assistant Dean for Residential Life at USD, agreed to serve on the board of directors for Bayside as Elaine prepared to step down. Both Elaine and Dayanne have voluntarily served on the board of directors as private individuals and their service should not be confused as official representation by USD.

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Linda_J_Wilson Sept. 3, 2010 @ 11:10 a.m.

Thank you, Joe Deegan for continuing to shine a light on these dark dealings. I have noticed a pattern in the comments posted to many articles pertaining to redevelopment related abuses. Most are made by people who seem to be the average/real community members, then one or two that have the stink of an "insider". In other words, someone who makes sneaky deals (with the help of the redevelopment agency and elected officials)to greatly enrich themselves, then shoves the plan down community's throat. Check out Raffael Hoffmann, Director of Development at Bayside Community Center http://www.linkedin.com/in/raffaelhoffmann

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Rabid_Koala Sept. 3, 2010 @ 10:51 p.m.

Thank you for the excellent article. While I have never been to Skateworld, I have lived near the Linda Vista area in years past as well as traveling through the area frequently. While the property that Skateworld is located on is not the best in the city, it is certainly far from the worst. I am all for seeing Linda Vista move up in the world, as it is one of the most perfect locations in San Diego, this is not the way to do it. This is another example of how a power hungry and greedy city council will eventually kill another business, and one that produces revenue to the city.

They need to stop messing with Grantville, too.

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Fred Williams Sept. 4, 2010 @ 6:45 a.m.

San Diego's Redevelopment Plan:

  1. Find a neighborhood without organized residents.

  2. Declare the neighborhood "blighted".

  3. Shift the "redevelopment funds" to downtown insiders.

  4. Repeat.

The folks who have honest businesses, paying taxes and contributing to the community, end up losing what they've built. Insiders stuff their pockets, then scram, leaving the public to pay off the debts.

Let's stop this pattern in Grantville first, then Linda Vista. Brian Peterson and the Grantville Action Group have stood up and fought, and they have a great chance of winning in court next month.

Donate at:

www.GrantvilleActionGroup.com

Once Dr. Peterson and GAG wins their lawsuit, it's time to work on what's happening in Linda Vista.

Thanks, Joe, for a great article.

Best,

Fred

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Founder Sept. 4, 2010 @ 8:10 a.m.

Great article!

Remember, Good Redevelopment like Good Gov't. depends upon Good People who provide Good Leadership! The question is how do you insure you have "Good" Leadership instead of just "Good" Business relationships?

I wrote back in July*: -- Call Foul --

"Build and they will come" quotes, all our Big Biz, and they will keep coming, our bills that is...

making BIG profit at the expense of our Great City, forgetting about the Public's Good, that's a real pity.

If all the voters really did care, Developers would just move else where!

and while those Developers made giant bucks, The voters got stuck with huge bills, and that sucks!

It's all those Big Business deals, "What do you really expect", how about a bigger cut for the City, what the heck?

Doing the old, "Switch-A-Rou", ripping US all, me and you!

When they decide to do it again, it will be just another Win - Win,

but not for the City budget for that, it will be a fudge-it!

BTW: For too many years, the City Council has helped themselves, (sitting as The Redevelopment Agency), by taking all the City's Public Works money (and much more) out of the City''s own budget and then given it as The Redevelopment Agency to the same Developers that have supported our Elected Officials in a big way!

Same Officials + same supporters + two separate budgets equals one HUGE amount of San Diego debt!

A Win - Win, but only for all of them!

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JoeDeegan Sept. 5, 2010 @ 3:52 p.m.

To RaffaelHoffmann: I agree that Bayside makes great contributions to the Linda Vista community. And the San Diego Reader recognizes it as well. On December 30, 2009, our writer Tom Larson wrote a story about the financial challenges of non-profit organizations. In the article, Larson speaks with great of appreciation of Bayside and its director Jorge Riquelme.

But the overall perspective I came away with after visiting Linda Vista over the last several years was dismay at the win/lose approach the City takes toward two great enterprises, one a non-profit service orgaanization and the other a private business, but both making recreational and social contributions to the community. Doesn't it seem a shame that to help one the City must drive out the other? And that is why I ask at the end of my story if greater imagination couldn't create a redevelopment project that would allow both to continue doing their good work.

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RaffaelHoffmann Sept. 6, 2010 @ 8:36 a.m.

Dear JoeDeegan, Even though your comment is a fitting end for this commentary thread, I'd like to respond. First, I want to thank you for writing about this topic. Linda Vista is too often ignored. Second, I think you noticed that your mix of article and editorial has either confused people so much that they feel the urge to write hateful comments or they use it to support their preconceived opinions. Third, on a personal note and to respond to comment #9: I have left Bayside a year ago and I'm not affiliated in any way but the feeling of friendship for the wonderful people working there and an appreciation for the cause they serve. I don't stand to benefit from aforementioned project in any way and was not involved in it at any time. Fourth, don't we all wish that San Diego would really be "America's Finest City"? Here's hoping that the friction of this conflict causes enough positive energy to provide Linda Vista, the heart of the city, with a better future.

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 6, 2010 @ 2:55 p.m.

I used to live in Linda Vista-on Goodwin, and it was at the end of the street and overlooked the entire USD campus as well as the ocean-best place I ever lived.

I also liked the area b/c it was so centrally located-to everything.

Enjoyed living there.

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kearnykomet71 Sept. 8, 2010 @ 10:27 a.m.

I grew up on Goodstone when those houses were newly built. Anybody remember the Linda movie theatre, the slot car track where you could bring your own racer and Bill's Burger Stop? Anyway the neighbor hood on Goodstone, Crandell, Flushing sts etc. has sure changed, maybe not for good. In the late 60's and 70's our house has been broken into several times and after I left home, my mom sold the house and moved to Chula Vista. I currently live in Seattle and continue to experience my hometown of S.D. through the Reader.

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kearnykomet71 Sept. 8, 2010 @ 12:34 p.m.

I bet Skateworld's favorite background music is Melenie's "Brand New Key"

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doughardy Sept. 15, 2010 @ 8:49 p.m.

Thank you for writing about the last place to skate in San Diego. I skated there when I was a teenager. Now my kids skate there. It would be a shame to lose it.

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sandiegojoey Sept. 21, 2010 @ 6:12 a.m.

Raffael,

I'm having a difficult time trying to figure you out. On one hand you seem like a nice guy, and on the other you seem like a very smug and assuming man. You said;

"Second, I think you noticed that your mix of article and editorial has either confused people so much that they feel the urge to write hateful comments or they use it to support their preconceived opinions."

That statement speaks volumes about your view of Linda Vistans because it assumes that Linda Vistans don't know the facts and are easily confused by the Reader article. Did it ever dawn on you that these people have had first hand knowledge of the details and villains involved in this scandalous event? The Reader simply confirmed, in a public way, what they already knew! The Reader provided a voice for a community that, as you state, is "too often ignored". Joe Deegan did something that very few in this city are willing to do because of the players involved, and that is to expose the way money and power come together to corrupt, even community centers such as Bayside.

The solution is to re-enter into negotiations with Gary from Skateworld, come up with something that everyone can support, and work together to provide a service to all members of Linda Vista the way Bayside used to back when they were on Morley Street. I remember the old Bayside well and have nothing but good memories of the way they helped everyone. Talk to anyone in Linda Vista today and they'll tell you it's become the Linda Vista hispanic center. When I went to Bayside it was mix of black, white, hispanic, Vietnamese. What happened between 1978 and today?

Bayside has an opportunity to repair their tarnished reputation and regain the trust of Linda Vista, but they must do so by including Skateworld and the non-hispanic members of the community.

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