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San Fran planning new, legal skatepark

A rendering of plans for a new, legal public skatepark in San Francisco, Calif. Courtesy New Line Skateparks Inc.

With bulldozers moving in to slam the door on two illicit skateparks in Oakland, Calif., another door cracked open for skaters across the bay as city and state officials finalize agreements to build a free, public skatepark in San Francisco.

Like its counterparts in Oakland, the SoMa West Skatepark, as it's called on the San Francisco Skateboarding Association website, will be built beneath an overpass on property controlled by Caltrans, the state's transportation authority.

But while Oakland's Bordertown and The Spot skateparks were financed and hand-crafted by skateboarders trespassing on state property, the SoMa West project is a by-the-books collaboration between the skateboarding association, San Francisco city officials, and Caltrans. Which is why, after three years of public meetings, design brainstorming, and financing negotiations, the project still hasn't broken ground.

According to Alex Murillo, public information officer with San Francisco's Department of Public Works, the lease amount is still under negotiation between Caltrans and the City. Caltrans reportedly wanted $11,000 monthly for the roughly 21,000-square-foot area beneath Highway 101 near the intersection of Stevenson Street and Duboce Avenue. The city was prepared to pay less than half that.

"We're close to finalizing the figure," Murillo said. "We're coming close to breaking ground on that bad boy, and the community is pretty excited that it's about to happen."

Murillo added that the six-month, $1.6 million construction project -- which received a $10,000 grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation -- is on track to break ground early next year.

Another step forward transpired in July when the city's visual arts committee selected local artist Jovi Schnell to paint artwork on the freeway columns, underpass, and sound wall, among other aspects of her $51,000 proposal. According to Schnell's website, the install is slated for June 2012.

On the ground, Canada's New Line Skateparks is heading up the design, with input from local skaters. New Line's design and drafting specialist Rob Eng told ESPN that the all-concrete facility will be a plaza-style skatepark with replicas of many of the city's famous skate spots, including the Pier 7 manny pad.

Once New Line's plans are approved, Eng added, a general contractor will be brought in to build the park. "We're hoping to get a specialized skatepark builder, like California Skateparks or one of the other big names."

Best known in Canada for designing Kensington Park in Vancouver, B.C., and the Plaza at the Forks in Winnipeg, Manitoba, New Line has ventured south, most notably designing the skateparks at the Seattle Center and Rob Dyrdek's Fantasy Factory.