June, 1979


The skaters like the trees, the atmosphere in the park
And now they want music, too        

by Alan Cline

To the participants. it's disco dancing al fresco, lots of rhythm, lots of noise.,.dancin' up a storm on wheels.

They glide about in Golden Gate Park, 'maybe 25 or 30 on weekdays but in the thousands on Sundays along Kennedy Drive between Eighth and Tenth avenues. Their music comes from portable radios or tape recorders. Some wear portable headset radios.

On the past few Sundays, the skaters boogied to music amplified by loudspeakers. Then, the police moved in. No permit, no music.

Seeking to make the music legal, the skaters have asked for a proper permit in a park, which now allows amplified music in only two places: Marx Meadows, site of many a rock concert, and the band concourse.

The request went to the Recreation and Park Commission Committee on parks and planning today.  Skating enthusiast David Gordon contends a volunteer skate patrol he established will monitor both skaters, and noise level set by police permit.  To Gordon, the sound would provide an area for skaters to dance and spectators to enjoy the dancing and music out of the way of the two Municipal Railway bus routes traveling the drive.

SFChron6-1-79.jpg (60456 bytes) Examiner/Nicole Banks
TWO APPROACHES TO DISCO SKATING  Third would be amplified music on Kennedy Drive

He insists the wind will dissipate the music over the thousands of Sunday skaters and will not interfere with the non-skaters enjoying the park. He wants five hours of music beginning at noon and says it will not disrupt the 1 p.m. band concert in the concourse.

That's his opinion, More than a few non-skaters are saying, "My God, is nothing sacred?"

Many residents along Fulton Street already complain of noise levels from the dancing skaters in such terms as "absolutely unbearable" and "so loud you'd think the police at Richmond station three blocks away could hear it."

Without prejudging the issue, Committee Chairman Keith Eickman said the matter seems to be a "question of whether we need more music blasting in the park."

"The skaters," he added, "have become a great problem."

Leonard Fitzpatrick, assistant rec, park superintendent for cultural activities, turned down the initial disco skate music request for a favorable recommendation to police, who must issue a permit, and said he would recommend against anything that would disrupt the band concert.

Gordon, a 35 year-old business supplies salesman and ardent skater, insists that facing the speakers eastward: in the direction of City Hall will mean music for skaters only.

Fulton Street resident Jane Schneider says she's already used to the sounds emanating from the park and is willing to put up with it one day a week.

But Robert D. Hayes bets most of his neighbors in the area would be against it. "It gets very annoying some times," said Eva Goodman. "Sometimes it gets to be a nuisance."

Gordon argues the music will not interfere with people who just want to enjoy the park, that he and the skaters care just as much as anyone else about it. Skating, he says, has been integrated into other parks in other cities and, whether residents like it or not, it is not going to go away. He cites staggering figures: averages of 15,000 to 25.000 skaters in the park on a sunny Sunday; 40,000 pairs of skates sold in the Bay Area since the beginning of summer and another 40,000 expected to be sold by Christmas. .

"We just want Kennedy Drive one day a week," he says. "and I don't think that's unreasonable."'He suggests easing the load by blocking off streets for skaters in the financial district on Sundays. "The City should be looking for some way . to ease the pressure," he says.

There has been a suggestion to open the North Beach playground to the skaters one night a month, but Gordon says that's not even tokenism and, besides, its too cold out there. Crissy Field in the Presidio and sections of Great Highway out by Ocean Beach also have been mentioned as skating alternates to the park, Again, negative comments based on weather.

"The skaters like the trees and atmosphere in the park" says Eickman. "I think we could find them the greatest place in the world and they still wouldn"t go.