Wholesome family activity, or neighborhood menace?
Ken Hoyt likes skateboarding. So do his children, and other kids in the neighborhood.
As a social worker dealing with children in crisis, Hoyt, 50, spends a fair amount of time helping youth. That includes outdoor, fresh-air fun, like zipping up and down curved ramps on small-wheeled vehicles.
“Kids love it,” he said. “It’s a better activity than playing video games. They’re so happy when they remember that moment when I got them started.”
Not everyone shares his enthusiasm.
When Hoyt built a huge half-pipe ramp in the backyard of his home on Blacksand Creek Way, near Roselle Avenue and Claribel Road, a neighbor didn’t appreciate skaters peering over Hoyt’s fence into other properties at virtually every pass up the ramp.
It’s noisy, with tiny wheels grinding and boards scraping, the neighbor said in letters to City Hall. A person can’t enjoy his or her backyard swimming pool, or morning coffee in pajamas, with others watching over the fence, the neighbor said.
“This is impacting my legally protected right to the peaceful enjoyment of my home,” one letter said.
Neighbors have put up with Hoyt’s exuberance, the neighbor wrote, since the Hoyts moved in, in 2010. One time he helped kids pack dirt mounds for motocross bike jumps on a Modesto Irrigation District canal bank behind the subdivision. Then he did the same on Hetch Hetchy-owned right-of-way, resembling a linear park, across the street in front of their homes.
Yeah, that’s right, and it was tons of fun, Hoyt said. Friendly workers with both utilities had no problem with them, he said, until the neighbor complained. Both utilities eventually sent tractor crews to destroy the informal tracks.
“I’m just a dad trying to keep up with raising kids and working and trying to get in a little fun,” Hoyt said. “I guess (the neighbor) saw us having fun and didn’t like it.”
Living “next door to a Tony Hawk amusement park” can hurt property value, the neighbor said, and his repeated complaints since at least October 2016 got the attention of City Hall.
First, the city came up with a requirement that Hoyt pay $400 for a permit for his huge ramp, but they decided against enforcing it, he said.
The city wrote a citation accusing Hoyt of a crime akin to “a misdemeanor with a fine,” planning and building manager Donna Kenney said this week in a presentation to city leaders. That effort was “voided due to a clerical error,” she said.
Officials then “determined that a compliance order would be a better vehicle to take this forward,” Kenney said, recommending that the City Council authorize a code enforcement action against Hoyt.
His crime? Building and selling skate ramps, which constitutes running an illegal business out of his home, Kenney said.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, she presented photographs, taken by the offended neighbor, of trucks delivering lumber to the Hoyt home, and picking up finished ramps for delivery to buyers. She provided evidence that Hoyt had been selling ramps at prices ranging from $250 to $550 in Craigslist ads.
“I enjoy making skateboard ramps,” Hoyt told the council, saying he unloaded five to eight last year. “The ramps we sell just support the hobby we do. I do this as fun with my children, and I do it with kids I work with. I teach them how to skateboard. I’ve taught a lot of kids the basics.”
Hoyt’s next-door neighbor on the other side has no problem with his ramps, she told The Modesto Bee.
Some council members said neighbors need to find ways to get along.
“Sit down. Talk. Be neighborly toward each other,” Councilwoman Darlene Barber-Martinez said.
Mayor Richard O’Brien said, “This should not come to us.”
Because it did, the council unanimously authorized the compliance order. Hoyt can close the case, Kenney said, with a promise to cease running the business. It would be OK to build a ramp “occasionally,” she said.
Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390