Jimmy Le Vesque
How did you get involved with the crew and the building of the fence at Washington Street?
The first time I went down there I just walked in and said, "How can I help?" and someone said, "Move some dirt over there." After working for a few, I realized what they needed was a new gate that we could lock. After I had built the gate I realized the existing chain link fence was crap, so I started fabricating a new one.
Do you have some art background or a welding background?
I welded for fun for years and got involved with fabrication of wrought iron furniture in Long Beach, and stuck with it ever since. I've always been interested in art, in any form. I've worked on several the murals in Long Beach and handmade all the tiles for the fountains in Union Station in Los Angeles.
Who helped with the fence supplies? Did you get paid?
We had large donations of rebar throughout the project, so it was the perfect medium to build the fence out of. A guy named Rob donated all the screen and helped with welding a few of the panels so I could focus on the art and installation; without his help who knows when I would have finished. The pool fence around the upper decks was donated by a friend of mine, Rocky, who turns apartments into condos. No, I didn't get paid ... no one got paid. I paid for all of my materials, wire disks, grinders, etc. Washington Street is a non-profit organization and all the labor and materials were donated.
How long did it take to finish the fence around the park?
A little over a year. If it wasn't for having someone there to help me everyday, I would have never been able to build it.
I like the added razor wire to keep trolls out of there at night.
When the park is closed--it's closed!
Were you responsible for all of the designs on the fence like the dragon, skulls, spider webs, planes?
No, I had help. Everyone had different ideas and you get inspiration from different sources. A few guys gave me drawings and I enlarged them to the size of the panel. But, for the most part, I was responsible for the theme and the final product.
What else needs to be done to the fence? You mentioned it still needs to be treated and then you can do more to the whole thing?
It really needs a rust treatment to prevent the rust from getting out of hand. Then we could paint it.
I've heard so many people comment on the fence. Has anyone hit you up for some side work?
No, no one that is really serious, anyway. A lot of people comment on the fence and like the style, but no has been serious about side work.
What's your take on the park compared to other skateparks in San Diego?
There is absolutely no comparison. When you get involved in a project of this size you become more than just friends, you become family. Creatively, there is no other skatepark like this. As far as the terrain, it speaks for itself.
Give us some background on Washington Street?
The park was a simple solution to the problem of getting kicked out of all the street spots and by the pad police at the local skateparks. The bridge was down the street from Hanger 18, our local shop at the time. The idea was definitely influenced by the Burnside project, but originally we were building more street-style stuff like the flatbar and the ledge. We made the call for some more experienced concrete help after the first couple of not-so-perfect pieces that Glen, Yo Leg, Dorian, myself, and a lot of the shop locals helped with. There are too many names to list, but Sage, LJ, Matt Dyke, and Neil were there. Mikey was the first troll to post up. The park has brought out the best of the worst in all of us at one point in time. We had the thing going for about a month. The cops knew we were there and said it was cool--until they got a complaint. Glen handled all the media stuff. I was on a two-month trip in Europe when they shut it down and people I'm running into are telling me more about what was happening with the project than I knew.
What was happening during red tape?
Terror was happening.
What guidelines did the city give you?
We submitted a really basic plan. We got lucky with an Asian lady who was an inspector. She basically told us not to call or bother her. Once that happened we all moved in. As far as the money goes, Tom handled most of the money stuff. That worked out good, otherwise it would have all--rather than some--ended up at Wienerschnitzel or the bar. Skate companies and the city gave us money. We all dug deep in our pockets as well. The non-profit "org" was the key to the whole thing. Once people realized we were not trying to make money off it, we got donations and product. Dealing with the city, I learned that if it sounds like it will benefit them somehow and won't cost them any money, then they will be behind the idea.
My poodles don't stand a chance with those sick pits. The park has provided too many stories to tell. Many people have shown up and many have gotten shut down. As long as you're respectful, you should not have any problems, except on Burnout Friday. You might want to stay clear of Burnout Friday, which can fall on any day of the week.
How did the Washington Street skatepark get started? Who decided on that area under the bridge and who was there the first few days?
The park was pretty much started as just a spot. In the beginning there was never any talk of it becoming a skatepark, just a flatbar we stole from another skatepark in San Diego, and we designed a pyramid to skate it. The first night we went to Home Depot and priced some stuff out. I think it was Joe, Dorian, and me. We started getting that going and Geoff Fischer and Phil Lison were also around helping out. The spot was next to our local skateshop, Hanger 18 (RIP), and seemed like a nice spot to get some shit going. Honestly, not too much thought went into it in the beginning. We just wanted something new to skate.
Did it stem from you guys skating Burnside and wanting to do something down here?
Burnside is everything DIY. I don't care what anybody says. That shit will always be the gnarliest shit ever. As Delgado puts it, "They are the top of the food chain."
What year was that?
We started building on April 11, 1999.
What was the first thing built?
The pyramid with the flatbar. Once we called in some more heads, the trannies started going up.
Where did the flatbar on the street course come from?
The Santee skatepark. Some kids knocked it out of the ground so we rescued it, gave it a better home.
Where did you get water from? Did you have to tap into something around there?
In the beginning we used to put trash cans in our trucks and use the hose at the gas stations up the hill. We had a water main by us the whole time but we never wanted to fuck with it. One day a homeless guy walks up, turns it on, and pretty much takes a shower. That became our water source.
How long did it take the city of San Diego to figure out you were renovating the spot? I guess it's easier to apologize than to ask permission, right?
I think it lasted about three weeks or so. We kind of geeked it and brought it to their attention by attending a city council meeting and trying to give them a heads-up. By then we were under the impression it was more than a spot. City people were just confused and didn't understand what the hell we were thinking.
Did they shut it down immediately?
Yeah, they were on it pretty quickly They just threw down some Jersey barriers around it and that was that. It was funny, because the kids wouldn't stop skating, so they sent a cop over to me and asked if I could help them shut it down. I kind of laughed. After a while, I helped him out.
Who was skating down there before it got shut down?
I don't know; there were a lot of heads. Donny D was there skating and that's all I give a shit about.
The city put a fence around it and it sat stagnant for, what, about four years?
Yeah, the battle with the city took three years or so.
What was going on during that time?
Ken Lewis, Joe Pino and myself were meeting with city people and trying to sort out all the legal stuff. Some days you wanted to quit, others it seemed so close, and then they would change something on us. It took a good deal of time before it started seeming hopeful. Ken dealt with a lot of shit and I still respect him for taking that job. He truly is a skateboarder--and if you ever meet him you should thank him.
What kind of guidelines did they have when you were allowed to start building again? When was that?
We started building again in 2002, I think. We didn't go by any guidelines. Once they said it was a go, it was on our terms.
Did they help out with any money for the park?
The city hooked us up in a matching funds program with Parks and Rec. We turned in $10,000. They gave us back $20,000. That was definitely a lifesaver.
How else did you guys generate money for the concrete and all the building supplies and beer while working?
Some days we had a budget to work with. Other times it was the just-whoever-was-there.
Did any skate companies kick in some loot?
A lot of skate companies did. I don't have a list, but I can tell you the ones I'm most impressed with: Tod Swank and Jamie Thomas. They kicked down a good chunk of money in the very beginning when there was not even a forsure thing it was going to happen.
As far as design of the park, who was behind the ideas? Did you just work on one area, pour it, and then, "Alright, now we need to figure out this area and tie it together"?
The park really started to take shape when Whitey, Slob, Lifeguard, and all the North County guys started showing up. I think that was one of the most important things to happen to it.
Who were some of the people who worked on the park the most?
Too many to list. You know who you are.
So how long did it take to finish the park when you started working on it after the city said okay?
I think about three years or so. But it will never be finished, we will always change something. Keep progressing and pushing forward.
If someone in the Midwest, or even Europe, was wondering how to go about getting started on something similar to Washington Street, what would you tell them?
I remember Dogboy saying, "Save your lunch money and don't tell anyone." Just get it going. Don't worry about what anyone says, and fucking go for it.
Is there anything you learned from dealing with the city officials that you could pass on?
Lie. They don't know anything about what we're doing. They're clueless. Take advantage of that.
I've heard from many skaters that the park is not the easiest place to skate. Was that the idea when you were building it?
Everyone wanted it to be as gnarly as possible. Skateparks are boring. It's time to step it up.
I know the locals there vibe everyone who goes and skates. Got any stories? What about when Chris Senn was skating?
You create your own vibe. If you show up with a negative attitude you'll get one back. Chris Senn is a whole different story. He was trying frontside inverts. G-Man was drunk and wanted him to make it so he threw beers at him. No big deal. He throws beers at everyone. Fuck it. Senn's a badass, he can take it.
I've been going there a lot lately and the gate is never opened. Who watches, opens, and takes care of the park?
That's the gamble. Everyone watches it.
How many blocks of pool coping are in the park?
Any BMX or rollerbladers ever show up?
Yeah, but we kindly explain that this ain't their spot. What's the toll on broken bones? I've seen a few the last week.
There's actually a good toll right now. Little Max broke his shit the other day. He's the third in his five-man crew. Those kids are badass.
Who are some of the people who rip the park? What about pros that have shown up that have surprised you skating there, like Miller?
No offense to Miller, but I could care less about those guys. Pino, Edwin, Carter, Sperm, Paz, G-Man, Luke, Art, Ohlin, Sketchy D, Hachett, Sk8 Mafia, Shitz, Steve, Russ, Hippie Chris, Nicole Z, T-Rex, Roche, and all the rest of the locals. Power hour, those are the sessions that go off. No cameras, no bullshit.
What about Zero? I heard they were there during King of the Road 2005. What happened?
I wasn't there but I heard it was funny. Rattray rules. I'm sure he didn't care.
What about Sheffey sightings at Washington Street? Got any good stories?
Kisses for everyone! Sheffey is the best.
Did you guys ever think Washington Street would become a legitimate bridge dwelling like it is?
Nah. The first time someone called it a skatepark we all started laughing and went back to work.
I hear it's a dog kennel and the dogs are cool enough to let people skate.
The dogs are definitely running shit. Best lines, biggest turds. Watch out for the poo.
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|Date:||Jun 1, 2006|
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