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View Full Version : Skaters Jump In as Foreclosures Drain the Pool


Ben Franklin
01-02-2009, 04:29 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/29/us/29pools.html?_r=1&ref=patrick.net&pagewanted=print

By JESSE McKINLEY (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/m/jesse_mckinley/index.html?inline=nyt-per) and MALIA WOLLAN
On a recent morning, a 27-year-old skateboarder who goes by the name Josh Peacock peered into a swimming pool in Fresno, Calif., emptied by his own hands — and the foreclosure crisis — and flashed a smile as wide as a half-pipe.

“We have more pools than we know what to do with,” said Mr. Peacock, who lives in Fresno, the Central Valley city where thousands of homes, many with pools behind them, are in foreclosure. “I can’t even keep track of them all anymore.”

Across the nation, the ultimate symbol of suburban success has become one more reminder of the economic meltdown, with builders going under, pools going to seed and skaters finding a surplus of deserted pools in which to perfect their acrobatic aerials.

In these boom times for skaters, Mr. Peacock travels with a gas-powered pump, five-gallon buckets, shovels and a push broom, risking trespassing charges in the pursuit of emptying forlorn pools and turning them into de facto skate parks.

“We can just hit them back to back,” said Mr. Peacock, who preferred to give his skateboarding name because of the illegality of his activities.
Skaters are coming to places like Fresno from as far as Germany and Australia. Mr. Peacock said his floor and couch were covered by sleeping bags of visiting skateboarders each weekend.

Some skateboarders use realty tracking sites like realquest.com (http://realquest.com/) and realtor.com (http://realtor.com/) to find foreclosed houses with pools, while others trawl through satellite images from Google Earth. On the Web site skateandannoy.com (http://skateandannoy.com/), where skaters trade tips about how to find and drain abandoned pools, one poster wrote about the current economic malaise. “God bless Greenspan,” the post read, “patron saint of pool skatin’.”

Pool builders feel differently, of course. In Phoenix, for example, where scorching summers can make pools seem like a survival tool, the city has issued fewer than half the number of residential pool permits this year as in 2007, as builders are being pummeled by declining home construction and evaporating credit for potential buyers. Several large companies have gone bust this year, including Riviera Pools, which once sponsored the swimming pool at Chase Field, where the Arizona Diamondbacks play baseball. Smaller contractors, retailers and pool cleaning companies have also failed, leaving unpaid bills and unfinished projects.

“You’ve got people that still want to build pools, but now you’re getting maybe 20 percent or 10 percent that can actually qualify now,” said Dave Brandenburg, a pool builder in north Phoenix who estimated business was off 40 percent to 70 percent. “Before it was, ‘Sure, no problem.’ Now it’s like, ‘Sorry.’ ”

Business is just as bad in Florida, where builders like Ben Evans, the chief executive at American Pools and Spas in Orlando, said he had let much of his staff go as orders for pools dropped to 150 this year, from about 1,000 in 2007.

“I’m just looking for my bailout money,” Mr. Evans said, ruefully. “Do you know where that is?”

In many warmer states, the authorities are trying literally to bail out pools, using pumps, dredges and strong stomachs to attack a surge in abandoned ones that have attracted all manner of nastiness — rats or belligerent raccoons, or algae, dead leaves and worse. These so-called green pools can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus.

California (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/national/usstatesterritoriesandpossessions/california/index.html?inline=nyt-geo) officials estimate that there are tens of thousands of abandoned pools in the state, with as many as 5,000 in places like Sacramento County, where a building boom in the capital’s suburbs has gone bust. California law calls for fines of up to $1,000 per day for egregious cases of pools left with standing water, but officials say the sheer numbers of cases are daunting.

John Rusmisel, the district manager for Alameda County’s mosquito abatement district, said he used a promotional company that flies banners over football games and other events to help find the fetid swimming pools.

“They were up there seeing all these funky pools,” said Mr. Rusmisel, who added that his workload had doubled in the last year. “So they just started to take pictures.”

Once he finds a problem pool, his workers treat it with a combination of insecticide and mosquitofish, pinky-size carp that find mosquito larvae delectable. But they do not empty any pools, he said, because in a good rain, an empty pool can be partially lifted out of the hole by groundwater, he said. “I’ve seen them float up a foot or two,” Mr. Rusmisel said.

Dirk Voss, a code enforcement agent in Oxnard, Calif., northwest of Los Angeles, said even those residents who manage to stay in their homes often could not maintain the pool. “They don’t want to pay for the power to run the motor or pay for the chemicals to treat them,” Mr. Voss said.
But skaters do not mind doing the work, whether it is that of scouting for pools or scouring them. Adam Morgan, 28, a skater from Los Angeles, said it used to take months to find a good skating pool. Now the task is a breeze.

“There are more pools right now than I could possibly skate,” Mr. Morgan said. “It’s pretty exciting.” Mr. Peacock travels around town in his pickup searching for the addresses of homes he has learned have been foreclosed on, either via the Internet or from a friend who works in real estate. He has also learned to spot a foreclosed house, he said, by looking for “dead grass on the lawn and lockboxes on the front door.”

Once he has found a pool he likes — he prefers older, kidney-shaped ones — he drains the water into the gutter with his pool pump, sometimes setting up orange cones on the sidewalk to appear more official. Later, he returns to shovel out the muck, and then lets the pool dry. In order to maintain a sense of public service, the skateboarders adhere to basic rules: no graffiti, pack out trash and never mess with or enter the houses.

A day or two later, the skating begins, often in short bursts during the workday to avoid disturbing neighbors or attracting police attention. Twice in recent weeks, Mr. Peacock said, the police caught the skateboarders in an empty pool and demanded they leave but did not issue citations.
Mr. Peacock said he was helping the environment. “I’m doing the city a favor,” he said, by emptying fetid pools. “They’re always talking about West Nile on the news. Those little fish can only eat so much.”

Susie
01-02-2009, 07:20 AM
How many more broken arms and cracked skulls from skate accidents? Who pas the hospitals bills?

BirdGuano
01-02-2009, 09:08 PM
Heck, the city should cover the insurance costs. LOL

They are doing them a favor by draining them and keeping down the
West Nile Virus breeding grounds.