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1) In the Walker article, how is the space of surfing contested by Hawaiian and “white” men? Use examples to make your points. 2) In the Atencio, Beal, Wright and McClain article, how did the city of San Jose create TWO skate park spaces that were meant to be used by different racial, ethnic and social class groups? 3) In the skateboarding paper, how did local users actually perceive their own skate park? How did they perceive the other skate park in San Jose (Lake Cunningham or Roosevelt)?The word count for each essay will be 500 words and this can be checked on Microsoft Word.
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Chapter Five
“There’s no end to the pop ups, the towers, the high rises, the mid rises, the Samsung’s and
the Oracle’s”: skateboarding in San Jose, “the capital of Silicon Valley”
San Jose constructed a master plan for their six skate parks which influenced how youth
and parents in the city engaged with them on a daily basis. We will establish that San Jose used a
two-pronged strategy to support residents’ action sports participation. In one way, it tried to use
skateboarding to revive seemingly neglected urban areas with a high percentage of people of
color. In these areas, where five neighborhood skate parks are based, we can see that San Jose’s
PRNS department attempted to transform local conditions and provide youth here with a
“healthy outlet” through extensive skate park development.1 This practice was supplemented by
a non-profit group, SJ 180, that was called upon to reinforce the city’s specific goals for these
areas. Specifically, the mechanism of place-making became central to the city’s work in these
lower-income, racial and ethnic communities. Research in the recreation and leisure field
suggests that this practice of place-making reflects a specific way of designing and managing
public space. “The focus of place-making is on creating spaces that promote livability, health,
and well-being. Developing place is about fostering social and cultural meanings and emotional
attachments to a setting.”2 We consequently feature life in one neighborhood skate park,
Roosevelt, to illustrate how the city of San Jose attempted to install a new set of social relations,
experiences, and citizenship identities within this community.
Concurrent with its development of five neighborhood skate parks such as Roosevelt, the
city’s PRNS also constructed the Lake Cunningham Regional Skate Park facility. We soon
learned that this latter skate park was unequivocally treated as an action sports industry
trendsetter. The Lake Cunningham Regional Skate Park has in fact been touted as a global tourist
destination, and even hosts a World Cup Skateboarding event. We subsequently demonstrate
how California’s largest skate park clearly factors into the practices of a city based next to the
global hub of technological innovation, Silicon Valley. We will explain that cities such as San
Jose are considered to be key sites within global financial networks, leading to their enactment of
neoliberal policies that emphasize control over urban space.3 Moreover, urban scholar David
Madden argues that this approach indicates “the pacified city’s receptiveness to local and global
capital” meanwhile helping it to “capitalize on various sectors of the tourism industry.”4 Taking
up this idea, our contention is that Lake Cunningham Regional Skate Park clearly factored into
San Jose’s desire to be known as a receptive, focal point in the global economy.
This chapter consequently reveals how San Jose utilized dual missions in order to serve
the city’s skateboarding needs. This city, we argue, endeavored to promote itself in terms of its
social responsiveness and capacity to re-invigorate certain local neighborhoods; yet it
simultaneously showcased its economic, innovative abilities in order to create a major action
sports destination.
We interviewed city officials that ranged from those in the higher echelons of
government to those working at ground level. We will hear from Steve Hammack (the former
Deputy Director of the PRNS), Cindy Chavez (now County Supervisor and a former city council
person), and Paul Murphy (an aid to Cindy Chavez and former member of a skate park supporter
group). Conversations with these government officials revealed that they conceptualized
skateboarding as directly contributing to youths’ development. This discussion thus returns us to
the idea that skate parks, operating as Urban Platforms for Capital, provide youths with specific
participation benefits.
Adding further layers to this discussion, we describe the viewpoints of social activists,
parents, and children responding to the city’s rationales and methods of programming. Like
others featured previously in Moving Boarders, these individuals held certain beliefs and
motivations that influenced how they valued and invested in urban skate parks. The stories in this
chapter, derived largely from interviews and observations, once again demonstrate how youths
and adults envision the usage and benefits of skateboarding.
“A full-blown family atmosphere”: Lake Cunningham Regional Skate Park
“You have to go there. It’s a destination.” (A San Jose city manager)
Lake Cunningham Regional Skate Park is indeed a major attraction housed within “California’s
premiere action sports facility.”5 This skate park first opened in April of 2008 at a cost of $6. 4
million. The city contributed $4. 8 million while the state topped up the remaining cost.6 This
skate park opened under high expectations as we can see in comments from local skate legend,
Steve Caballero:
The one thing special about San Jose in the skate industry is that we’ve always had
something going over time to bring people to San Jose… I believe this skate park will
once again be an attraction for our industry, where people will come in and out of our
city. The park’s at that level of attracting people to the city and the sport as well.7
Parents we met often believed that Lake Cunningham was a great skate park because it
had lots of different technical elements and that it was family-friendly. The skate park itself is
located in a larger regional nature park on the edge of San Jose. Encased in barbed wire, access
to the skate park is controlled by city staff that monitor behavior and enforce rules such as
required helmet and pad wearing.
[Insert figure 5.2.]
Aerial view of Lake Cunningham Regional Skate Park. Courtesy of SJ action sports http://www.sjactionsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/i.jpe.
Furthermore, there are specified hours of operation that carry threat of banishment when
breached. Entry into the park costs youth $3 per day with adults paying $5 to come here, too.
Parking typically costs $6 per day.
We soon realized that parents we spoke to were not exaggerating about the expanse and
quality of this skate park. In fact, this skate park is massive, at 68, 000 square feet. Key features
here include “the world’s largest cradle, tallest vert wall, and largest full pipe” and it also “offers
a wide variety of terrain for all skill levels to learn and enjoy.”8 The skate park also provides
private and group lessons, camps, birthday parties, and a shop that sells everything from snacks
to equipment. Steve Hammack, from the PRNS, even told us once that Lake Cunningham would
host overnight skate camps and events. “[It’s] very exciting because they can then skate at 12:00
midnight and we’ll throw lights on for them and then they skate. They feel pretty privileged, as
they are, as campers to be able to do that,” he said.
Taken together, this extensive range of programming techniques utilized by the city
government created a family-friendly atmosphere, to a greater degree than any other Moving
Boarders skate park. This type of environment is noted in the following extended observation
field note excerpt:
As you walk in, Rolling Stones music is blaring over the speakers. A boy named John is
riding in the pool. Four middle aged guys with one guy in his twenties, riding in the pool taking
turns. John goes down in the pool with the older guys. The guy in his twenties is taking turns
trying a ramp trick now as John skates with him.
Lots of “Yeahs!” being shouted out. “Powerslip!” is overheard.
John falls over in a heap trying a trick on a curved hill: “I am over it, I can’t do it.” He
sounds resigned. Mom: “You can do it.” John: “I can’t.” She is in the pool bowl next to him
working on some of her own turns in her purple helmet. She comes up out of the pool and
exclaims “Yeew!” and sits down under an Independent Truck sign on the wall. John: “No Mom,
you can already tell I wasn’t going to pull that.” Mom: “You’re so close.”
“Don’t give up, they’re easy!”, “Yeah”, and “HAHA!” is overheard from the other skate
pool with the older guys and lady.
Scooter kids move around everyone shrieking and chasing each other. “Guys, get her!”
one of the boys screams, as they are playing tag on their scooters.
Lady in a red tank top rolls by, “It’s my birthday skate,” she says to a dad that just sat
down at a table. We can now tell that the commotion in the skate park today is largely due to her
birthday party. “Could I ask you to take a group photo?” she asks the dad.
The dad goes over to take the group photo in the pool bowl. Two of the guys in the photo
sit down in the bowl with their hands doing “hang ten” signs for the photo. The tent with the
snacks and their bags is also for the birthday party group.
The dad taking the photo comes back to the table and talks to me. With admiration he
says “this place is insane” several times. He subsequently raves about the layout and design. I
tell him about our study. Then I ask him about other skate parks in San Jose. He doesn’t know
many of them. The guy then rants about people not picking up the trash in other skate parks. He
says that here they have a ranger patrolling, the hours are controlled, and there is a barbed wire
fence. He thinks this is good, keeps out the “punks” and the “riffraff.”
Van Halen and Mötley Crüe blast out from the skate park’s speakers. One tall, gangly
teenaged boy on skateboard with two shorter friends, says he likes the Ozzie Osborne playing. “I
am going to throw down some moves, but let me get my safety gear on first” he says. Metallica
plays on the speakers now.
There is an angry dad in black shades who now drags his kid over to an older guy with
tattoos wearing a red shirt. The guy in the red shirt is with the birthday party group that was
taking the photo:
Angry dad says, “What’s going on with my son? [his son is crying] “You need to
apologize to him.”
Dad in red shirt tells the kid that it was an accident. Then red shirt dad gives the angry
dad a weak pat on the back and slinks away. Red shirt dad goes back to the birthday party and
then shares the story with the group, they all laugh about it. Angry dad has a phone gripped in
his hand and is closely following his son around everywhere. He watches intently with his elbow
jutting out and hands on hips, very aggressively. He looks quite intense.
A couple of parents have set up lawn chairs near a table with a tent over it. Their boys
stop in and speed back out riding BMX bikes. Meanwhile, a couple of teenaged boys are in the
main clubhouse. Suddenly, one of them rushes out the door with a microwaved Hot Pocket snack.
Observations like this one led us to conclude that this skate park had many participants
ranging from beginners to famous skateboarders. Because of its size and range of concrete
elements, professional and amateur skate contests are often held here and it is regularly used by
many elite skaters, both young and old. In fact, during one of our visits we ran into well-known
local veteran skater Jim “Bug” Martino. He was lacing up his shoes at a picnic table preparing to
skateboard with a friend. Sitting down at a picnic table with us, he directed our attention to his
unique helmet and skateboard. On this equipment, he pointed out the numerous California-based
companies that he endorsed, including Apple. Talking with him about this particular skate park,
he offered the following candid assessments. “The more, the merrier in skateboarding”; “If we
can’t facilitate a kid’s dream, we’ve already locked that door”; “I want to make sure all kids can
have a shot.”
And yet, despite this skate park’s current popularity with youth, families, and even
famous skateboarders from San Jose’s history, the picture here has not always been so idyllic. In
fact, three years after this skate park opened, it almost closed down. By 2011, the global
economic crisis that hit California eventually forced the city to rethink how to pay for its skate
park operations. Low admission numbers at the time, around 40, 000 per year, meant that not
enough fees were being generated to keep the park running. Also, the city’s desire to keep this
skate park always supervised, meant that it became quite expensive to operate. It thus became
untenable for the city to run this skate park because of a $61, 000 budget shortfall.9
Like we saw in Bay City, a private citizens group that incorporated parents, other
community adults, and youth was organized to keep the park alive. Beginning in 2011, this group
called itself Save our Skatepark (SOS).10 SOS worked to gain media attention, petition the city
council, and leverage their industry and political connections to attain new resources. The SOS
devised numerous press releases that focused on how this skate park was needed in the city,
because it provided a safe place for youth to skateboard. To make its case, the group accentuated
that this skate spot was fully staffed and adult-regulated. Local parents involved in the citizens
group, including one named Carol Kruger, were adamant that the skate park needed to be
supervised, according to one news story at the time:
All the unstaffed skate parks in San Jose are filthy, there’s drug sales going on, there’s
graffiti everywhere. Our park is pristine. You don’t hear F-bombs every other word. The
great thing about Lake Cunningham is it’s staffed. Everybody has to wear helmets and
pads. Nobody’s smoking dope around the full pipe because there’s cameras. If the
staffing went away, I probably would not be going to that park anymore.11
One news piece, during this campaign to save Lake Cunningham, even characterized this
skate park in family-friendly terms: “While they fight for the park’s future, parents continue to
take their kids to skate at Lake Cunningham. It has become a full-blown family atmosphere.”12
Paul Murphy, the staff member for Cindy Chavez, became an integral part of the SOS.
Murphy told us how the SOS made their case to the City Council and the Mayor:
We formed a coalition of parents and adult skaters at the skate park. We started having
regular meetings. We approached and joined with a City Council member who
represented that part of the city. We testified at City Council meetings, we wrote op eds. .
. . we made it a big campaign. Kids testified at City Council meetings with their skate
boards, helmets and pads saying, “Please don’t close where we are.” We worked with the
Mayor, Chuck Reed, who said everything has to be cost recovery to show him that
mathematically it could become cost recovered quite easily.
SOS campaigning, in large part, convinced San Jose’s government to keep this skate park
open and search for new financial streams. Major private donors eventually played a key role in
the skate park’s survival. “Everyone was able to tie this one-time funding to the missions of their
organizations,” recalled Murphy. Steve Hammack also told us how a consortium of new private
donors was pulled together by the city in order to keep the skate park open. Once again, we can
see next how the city overtly turned to the private sector in order to enhance its skate park
operation. City-run camps were also developed to keep the skate park running, as revealed here.
We had Valley Medical [Center], First 5 San Jose,13 Coca Cola even, some independent
funders came, stepped up and said, “Here, we’ll help you become cost recovery or a
neutral, that’s zero.” Since that funding model, this was three or four years ago, and since
those people came forward we’ve also done some more efficient operational changes.
Because of our revenue and our camps, our camps become a really, really big attraction,
all of the skate camps. And we charge for camps just like any camp that we do in our
department. Because of all of that, we’ve become cost neutral and, in fact, the revenues
are exceeding our expenditures now at the skate park.
With a more sustainable funding model in place, due to the usage of social enterprise practices
bringing together public and private stakeholders, Lake Cunningham now operates in a familyfriendly manner. This idea, that this space is family-friendly, has in fact become engrained in the
belief systems of local parents, as shown next.
“It just seems nicer, more comfortable, safer”: parents’ views of Lake Cunningham
Many parents here told us that they appreciated the fact that other families could often be found
in this skate park. They also strongly emphasized the sense of safety and regulation that
permeated youth skateboarding here. What’s more, the layout of the skate park was appreciated
by parents because it had several technical elements that could be utilized by everyone from
beginners to professionals, like we also saw in Bay City Skate Park.
Juan, whose son and daughter skated in Lake Cunningham, explained the appeal of this
skate park in terms of it being supervised to a high degree. This level of supervision meant that
he could leave his children alone and go jogging in the nature park:
Well it’s huge. It’s a huge park and they have so many different bowls, it’s a skate world
basically… So yeah, I love it there. Well he loves it there. I’m able also to drop off the
kids and go on a little jog. They supervise them there. They have their first aid kit and
they are trained to deal with situations like that so not only that but there are cameras,
there’s surveillance 24 hours, I mean whatever hours they are opened. Yeah, that makes
me feel a lot more comfortable. So, it’s a drop off park which is what I love about that
park.
Alexa, a 37-year-old fitness trainer, has a seven-year-old daughter. Alexa alluded to the notion
that the skate park was “cleaner” and “safer” than other skate parks that her family had visited so
far. Like Juan, she also reiterated how she could leave her daughter alone without fear:
I feel like Cunningham has like a really nice – one, it’s a great park in that there’s great
things for beginners. And then there’s amazing things for the super advanced, and so I see
a huge range of skating there. Well, I just feel like, you know, you get a little higher
quality, caliber. It’s cleaner. I don’t know. Yeah. It just seems nicer, more comfortable,
safer. I think I might, I wouldn’t leave her there by herself, but I might let her go into the
park and run down, there’s a parking lot there, and that trail there, so maybe do some stuff
nearby. Like let her go in there alone, skate around. Probably the only park we’ve been to
that I might consider doing something like that.
Then, we also spoke with Manny, whose young daughter also skated here. Manny
concurred with the view that this skate park had a range of quality elements that could be skated
by both novices and experts alike: “You know what, I actually loved it because of layout, it’s got
some cool stuff. Oh, I find plenty of value. It’s a huge park, there’s some awesome riders there.”
This design and usability facet of skateboarding, which parents here appreciated, has been
referred to elsewhere by scholars as the concept of trickability.14
We also heard comments from Carl, a father of a teenaged son who skates. Carl said that
this skate park promoted healthy behavior and was a safe space for youth to interact in a positive
social manner. “It’s just a healthy environment. For his age, he was eight or nine, there wasn’t
drinking, there wasn’t smoking, there wasn’t graffiti, there wasn’t fighting and all of those
things.” Brenda, a 53-year-old skater and mother of a son who skates, felt that this skate park
was mostly designed and programmed for fam …
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