The San Diego City Council voted 6-3 Monday against the sale of the city's only roller rink to a developer, a deal the operator of the rink said was orchestrated in secret.
SkateWorld, operating in Linda Vista for more than four decades, was to be sold to Pacifica Development and the developer planned to put a big-box retailer in its place.
Civic San Diego, a city-owned non-profit that guides neighborhood planning and development, recommended the sale to Pacifica following a bidding process that SkateWorld operator Brett Stang called "shady."
"They took some bids, they weren't sharing at all who was bidding or what the prices were," Stang told NBC 7 in March.
Linda Vista Town Council Vice President Blake Hofstad said the council wasn’t even aware the non-profit was taking bids until after bidding closed.
"No, we were not informed by Civic San Diego that it was accepting bids,” Hofstad said. “On August 9 (2018), the town council became aware only after a community leader, on behalf of an investor, reached out to Civic San Diego about the property. We found out the deadline for bids expired in June."
Word of the rink's potential sale spread quickly, and community activists and Skateworld enthusiasts staged several rallies at the property including a demonstration hours before City Council took up the vote.
“People are passionate about this skating rink. We’re the last remaining roller rink in the City of San Diego,” Stang said at a rally the day before. “When I first opened up Skateworld, there were some 10 roller skating rinks in San Diego, and slowly and surely they’ve gone away -- not because people don’t skate, it’s just because retailers and box stores and various kinds of businesses have taken the properties.”
Supporters rolled to City Hall Monday to let their voices be heard one final time.
Supporters chanted "Save SkateWorld" while others demonstrated the tricks they pull in the rink on the asphalt in front of council chambers.
"It's a huge part of my life," young skater Lilly Arnold said. "It's my second home. The community there is part of my family. It's just a place where I can feel safe going there with my friends."
Arnold's mother frequented the rink when she was a kid, too, and agreed that the sale of the property would be a disservice to the community.
"It feels unacceptable to me. I think that it is our civic leaders' responsibility to listen to the voice of the community and we have nearly 20,000 signatures on a petition that state that they don't want the SkateWorld city-owned land to be sold to a big developer to put a big-box store there," she said.
The efforts from supporters paid off, for now. The City Council's vote only blocks the previously-arranged sale of the land to Pacifica. The council said it will restart the bidding process next year, and the only guarantee for SkateWorld operators is that they will be allowed to participate in the bidding.
After Stang found out about the first round of bidding, investors put together a late bid of over $5 million which Stang said was right in line with Pacifica's and was one of the top three.
But Pacifica edged them out.
“$5.43 million? That's the winning bid? Awe, man. You are going to tell me I lost by just a couple thousand? Get outta here," Stang said.
Stang criticized Civic San Diego for recommending the sale to Pacifica. He called the planning group's practices shady.
"Skateworld and its investors would not only match what they are offering but I would add $5,000 on top of that," Stang said.