Skaters at La Habra’s La Bonita Skatepark want to remove their helmets  – a common occurrence at skateparks despite safety regulations – when they’re out there shredding and working on tricks like kickflips and 50-50 grinds.

But under the watch of a city contracted security guard at the local park, skaters can’t ditch their helmets.

Local skaters say enforcing the state’s skatepark helmet law is driving people to other skateparks in Orange County. 

Yet city officials say a lack of helmet enforcement presents La Habra with a liability.

On Monday, La Habra City council members voted unanimously to keep the security guard at the park citing insurance concerns despite calls from local skaters to not enforce helmet regulations.

“We run the risk of costing the city money in any type of legal issue if something were to happen. Now, as we know, it’s an insurance policy,” said City Councilman Jose Medrano at the Monday meeting.

He added that the city’s insurance broker has advised that if officials remove the safety requirements mandated by law they would not be able to secure liability insurance for the park, leaving the city open to lawsuits if injuries occur.

“I understand that’s not referring to a security guard,” Medrano said. “I don’t want the legal liability for the city.”

Kelly Fujio, the city’s director of community services, said at Monday’s meeting that state law requires these safety regulations and for cities to put up signs stating all skaters have to wear full protective gear.

“An operator of a skateboard park shall not permit a person to ride a skateboard or other wheeled recreational device in the park, unless that person is wearing a helmet, elbow pads, and knee pads,” reads state law. 

Fujio said the signs are enough to provide qualified immunity from liability for the cities.

“The difference between other cities’ skateboard parks and the city of La Habra’s is we choose to staff our skateboard park with a safety guard, that safety guard requires then each individual that enters our park to have that safety gear,” she said.

Fujio said the security guard was hired during the pandemic to enforce social distancing, allowing them to keep the park open. She adds there is guard at the park from 1 p.m. until closing, despite the park opening at 10 a.m.

According to a city staff report, the guard costs the city about $87,000 a year and prior to the guard the city spent about $40,000 a year on addressing graffiti and vandalism.

Monday’s debate came after skaters like Zach Price, owner of 88 Skate Supply – a local skate shop, called on officials to do away with enforcement of the helmet rule which he has said has hindered his business and the local skate community.

On Feb. 21, Price told the council that removing the helmet requirements would attract more skaters to the park who have gone to other parks without helmet enforcement and in turn increase foot traffic to local surrounding businesses.

“Skating is a popular activity among the youth and it provides an outlet not only for their energy but creativity,” he said. 

“By removing this helmet rule, it will provide a space for the youth to come together and engage in a positive and constructive activity.”

For skaters like Price and Gilbert Roman, a La Habra resident, the park has become a home away from home.

“I’ve literally put my blood, sweat and tears in that park. I’ve helped clean it up even when there was no security guard. I filled cracks. I’ve built lifelong friendships,” Roman said, adding he’s also cleaned up graffiti.

“So it just bums me out when I see the skatepark now, how there’s no kids going there.”

Ofelia Hanson, director of education for the nearby Boys & Girls Club, wants the security guard to stick around to create a safe environment at the park for families.

“A lot of times I will see families come up with a load of children and get off to go into the skate park and two minutes later, they’re getting back into their vehicle because there’s teenagers there that are cussing up a storm or smoking cigarettes or marijuana,” she said.

City Councilman Daren Nigsarian said that when it comes to the law, they’re stuck and told skaters to take their concerns to their state representatives.

“All we can do is fire our security guard, and then have a wink and nod like saying, ‘Okay, we’re going to trust all these kids to do exactly as the law requires,’” he said. “That’s obviously not realistic.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

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