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Internationally Famous Skateboard Landmark Threatened by Developers

by Mike Rhodes (MikeRhodes [at]
Youths protest developers greed in Fresno

Internationally Famous Skateboard Landmark Threatened by Developers
By Mike Rhodes
May 11, 2004

The pool at the abandoned Vagabond Hotel is probably the biggest tourist attraction in downtown Fresno. It is an internationally acclaimed skateboard park and a favorite hangout of local youth. Naturally, developers and the City of Fresno have condemned it and are in the process of destroying the site.

A group of youth were outside the chain link fence this afternoon shouting to the world their frustration about the destruction of this community resource. They were also asking the city to provide land to build a new skate park. They would like to use the rim, what they call the "coping" to build a replica of the Vagabond pool.

Jeff Roberts, who is one of the developers who bought the Vagabond, is also an owner of Granville Estates in North Fresno. Roberts has a long and interesting relationship with property development in Fresno. In 1995 Roberts went to prison for extortion and tax evasion in the federal Operation Rezone case. In that case, City Council members were bribed to "re-zone" parcels to benefit developers. The protestors said they were heading to the North Fresno offices of Granville Estates to continue the protest on Wednesday, May 12, 2004.

Why are the developers and City of Fresno determined to destroy the one site that is a magnet for youth? Was it not possible to develop the pool into a park that would be a center of attraction in downtown Fresno? The developers claim that they are interested in building an artistic center in Uptown - their name for the Northern part of downtown Fresno. It would be creative and unique if the developers plans for Uptown included valuing an existing local landmark that attracts youth from around the world. It would be inspiring if the developers were interested in something other than making money. But, the youth that are drawn to the Vagabond Hotel pool probably do not buy their clothes at The Gap or wear Nike shoes. They are not the upscale consumers and yuppies that are going to buy $300,000 artist lofts in Uptown.

In short, the skaters are not a part of the developers vision of a theme park in downtown Fresno. The developers see lakes and man made rivers, box stores, and twenty story office complexes, but not a skate park for youth who are just looking for a good time. It is ironic that in a city that is developing like crazy in North Fresno and that has plans to completely transform downtown can’t find a way to preserve a skate park for youth in downtown Fresno.

It is, unfortunately, a story that is often repeated in this community. The interests of the poor, immigrants, youth, homeless, and other powerless groups are completely overpowered by the builders & developers, and the politicians who serve their interests. There is a solution to the endless greed and abuse that the disenfranchised in this community face. The answer lies in seizing political power by supporting the Central Valley Progressive Political PAC.

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