City Hopes to Diffuse Controversy of Basketball Hoops on City Streets

Photo on Imperial used in the Change.org petition
Photo on Imperial Ave. used in the Change.org petition

A Change.org petition has been circulating, and has 309 signatures so far. It reads, “Residents across our city have received citations stating that their basketball hoops are in violation of specific city ordinances. While playing basketball in their neighborhoods, children learn important life skills such as negotiating, appropriate communication, rule development and compromising all while getting healthy exercise.”

The story, already the subject of a CBS 13 report brought a few supporters to the Davis City Council and attracted additional media attention.

Assistant Chief Darren Pytel told council prior to public comment said that the ordinance deals with articles in the street, “which could include basketball hoops.” He urged caution, “Sometimes it’s easy to throw out ordinances saying that we don’t need them, but in this particular case, we’re not really concerned about basketball hoops on residential streets but if someone were to put a basketball hoop on B Street blocking a bike lane, that could be a real problem.”

“So we can’t just say, basketball hoops should be okay because we are concerned about some real safety issues,” he said.

Darren Pytel would add, “That said, basketball hoops on a street where there’s not a lot of traffic, that there’s not a real aesthetic issue, that it’s in good repair, not blocking the gutters, has reflectors that can be seen at nighttime, doesn’t present a safety or traffic hazard, that the kids are yielding to traffic – those are reasonable uses of the hoops in the street and really don’t present the type of concern that would really yield intervention from the police department.”

Assistant Chief Pytel did say they get a lot of complaints from across town about hoops in the street and several citizens got notices about them. “We do need to respond out on some of them to make sure we’re not dealing with a traffic problem,” he stated.

He acknowledged, “Taking a look at the current notice we’re using, it could definitely use some additional language to help people understand what the concern is.” He said that they should be able to work with residents. “This doesn’t seem like a case where we have to go out and be very heavy-handed,” he said.

Jennifer Chapman steps back as her daughter briefly addresses council
Jennifer Chapman steps back as her daughter briefly addresses council

Jennifer Chapman, who started the petition, expressed concerns about citations families across the city have received to require the removal of basketball hoops.

“A neighbor and I are members of two families on Imperial Avenue in West Davis that have received and questioned our citations over the past few weeks,” she said. “Fortunately yesterday the police clarified that hoops will be allowed with the specifications that (Chief Pytel) has outlined for you.”

She said that the neighbors appreciate this. They are thankful that the police did respond quickly and appropriately about this. She presented the city clerk with a copy of the petition with nearly 300 signatures, as well as over 200 comments from around the community and beyond.

“Given the turn of events, it seems that what matters is what the removal of the hoops means to my children, to the children in my neighborhood and the children all throughout Davis,” she continued. “We live in Davis for our great parks, neighborhood schools that kids can bike to, the safety that we feel when we’re outside and a strong sense of community within our neighborhoods.”

She emphasized the important skills learned by kids, “all while getting healthy exercise right in their front yards. We are such a healthy community.”

She called “the new interpretation by the police” a “great step.” She thinks it does not go far enough and wants the municipal code to be “much more specific with regards to basketball hoops. There’s too much gray area on this topic that has led to the disappointment of many” and has led the code enforcement by the police to “interpret to the best of their ability and caused friction amongst neighbors.”

She said she wants the municipal code changed to lay out the conditions under which basketball hoops in the street are acceptable.

Lisa Carlock said she received a citation in the fall and ended up removing her hoop because she didn’t have the energy that Jennifer Chapman had to fight it. She cited the vagueness of the city municipal code as problematic.

She said, “Both my husband and I, graduates of UC Davis law school, looked at it and said, well, guess the hoop’s got to go.” Now seeing the vague language and the clarification, “we see how we can have it back out in front of our house.”

Ms. Carlock asked for the city council to add specificity to the municipal code so it would be more clear what was and was not permissible.

Former Mayor Joe Krovoza made his first appearance back before council since his term expired. He joked that “this is one issue where I’m truly stuck in the middle on,” noting that the two hoops on Imperial are on each side of his house.

Former Mayor Joe Krovoza makes his first post-council appearance on behalf of his neighbors
Former Mayor Joe Krovoza makes his first post-council appearance on behalf of his neighbors

“What jumped out at me on this, is that we had two hoops, that were in good repair, that were being used regularly, every day, maybe even six (or) seven days a week for hours at a time by (12) kids,” he said. “Just a beehive of activity out there.”

“The first response from the city was to issue citations with $100 penalty and come back to make sure they were taken off the street,” he said. He emphasized the vagueness of the ordinance. “We know what it’s for – it’s for sofas, it’s for chairs, it’s for cars that aren’t running… it’s for stuff that’s left on the street… In this case, it’s exactly what we want to have in Davis.”

Michael Faust, a resident of Imperial Avenue, said he was here because he was compelled by his children to speak out and wanted the code to be clarified.

Bill Liebhardt, also of Imperial Avenue, said he moved in there in 1988 and has played basketball out there with kids for 28 years. “As a senior citizen who is going to be 80 next year, it helps me to go out and play with the kids,” he said. “I get knocks on my door from eight-year-olds to come out and play with them. If you want senior citizens to have a good hook shot, you have to have a place for them to play.”

The council undoubtedly will be looking at language on the municipal code to see if they can tighten it up.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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14 Comments

  1. DanH

    Basketball backstops may be mounted on the house and over the garage door. That’s what I did. Kids will spend most of their time shooting hoops on the driveway and not on the street. It also forced me to keep the garage junk-free so I could keep the two cars inside.

    Police will ticket vehicles that have been permanently parked in the streets. I don’t know why backstops should be any different.

    Incidentally, that hoop on Imperial Avenue shows up on Google Earth photos made in May of 2014. I believe that model has wheels on it, not that they are being used.

  2. Frankly

    I hope the CC does the right thing here and sides with the families that want their kids to exercise rather than sit around playing video games and drinking sodas.

    Because our street was too narrow and too busy, and because our lot was narrow and deep, I installed a concrete pad and hoop in half of my back yard.  Then I installed a net around the top of the fence to prevent the balls from going into the neighbor’s yard.  Nobody complained except when we were out of town and my teenage boys would have friends over and they would be out there too late and being too loud.

    I think the reasons that there were no complaints is that all of my neighbors at the time were also families with children.  The sounds of kids playing was probably a sort of music to all of our ears.

    This brings me to another related point.  As the city turns grayer and grayer… basically chasing out young families because of the no-growth-caused high housing costs, and lack of jobs… there will be more conflicts like this.  As we enter our senior years we tend to value peace and quiet and we get more fussy about the little inconveniences that were previously just part of life.  I’m not there yet, but I suspect there will be a day when I get irritated with the thump, thump sound of a basketball interrupting my quiet time on my patio with a book and tea.

      1. Tia Will

        DP and darelldd

        I have a different perspective on this. I see this as an issue which matters to many of our younger citizens who can get behind this as an issue on which they care enough about to come to a city council meeting and practice their public speaking and advocacy skills. I found it very refreshing to see them there and hear them speak.

  3. Michelle Millet

    After an accident resulting in a child breaking his arm last year my children school banned kids from playing on the play structure after school. (I realize there was liability issues because there was no official supervision going on). I was really disappointed by this decision and the lack of the schools willingness to look for a solution that would allow for this type of very valuable play to continue. It was unstructured, multi-age, and child directed.  Kids would stop on the playground as they left school, or where waiting with their parents for their older siblings to be dismissed, to climb, hang, jump, and run, while parents took the opportunity to talk and with one another, resulting in a greater sense of community.

    As our kids lives become more and more structured, and as their freedom to explore their world shrinks out of, IMO,  some misguided fear for the safety, very few opportunities are left for kids just to play. Basketball hoops provide this opportunity. So while this might not be the biggest issue facing our city, I do think what it represents is very important, and I’m grateful to  Jennifer Chapman’s proactive efforts and the police’s and city’s willingness to respond.

    1. Frankly

      Well said.  I agree.  Lawyers and a mindset that everything has to be 100 percent risk free are diminishing the quality and scope of childhood experience.

  4. hpierce

    OK… enough is enough!  Basketball stanchions in the street!  What’s next?  Kids climbing non-ADA trees, playing baseball/football in the streets?  Riding bicycles @ 7 years old, without greenbelts or bike lanes?  Playing “war” with dirt clods?  Drinking out of a garden hose? Oh… wait… that was my world 50+ years ago.  Somehow, lived to tell about it.

    The BB-hoop issue was explored in Davis ~ 20 years ago.  After looking at all the options, liabilities, angst, etc. of trying to come up with an ordinance revision that would be legally defensible and cover all the bases, staff came up with a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach, except for egregious cases.  There are certain common sense things, that you can’t put in an ordinance… lower the backboard to lowest position, when not in active use, so it doesn’t topple and create a hazard during high winds.  Asst Chief Pytel used an example, in his presentation, of one of the options staff considered ‘back in the day’… reflectorized strips on the pole, so it is less likely someone driving with a ‘snootful’ doesn’t hit it at night and sue the City.

    In our neighborhood, albeit a cul-de-sac, the BB-device was financed by about half of the families, and ALL of the residents were informed and consented.  It was maintained, moved occaisionally to permit street sweeping, etc.  In the last 20 years, we’ve had 3, and the folk are still watching it to make it as safe for all as is reasonable.  But, we all know that it is, in fact, ‘un-lawful’.

    As PD was involved in coming to the DADT approach, there must have been one neighbor who has a real issue.  Perhaps counselling should be offered.

    1. Miwok

      Maybe the Restorative Justice people need some cases?

      Part of this involves simple manners by the parents and kids. If kids are out making noise at ten PM, then they deserve to be reported, as any nuisance. Some streets I used to visit had no parking except beside these hoops, and then your vehicle was a target for ball players, because they are annoyed. With all the parks slated for public entertainment, why do the streets need to be used?

      I am the old guy down the street who wants the kids off the street by dark!! 🙂

      1. hpierce

        “Part of this involves simple manners by the parents and kids.”  Worked/works in our neighborhood… where we know and treat each other, truly, as neighbors and friends.

  5. TrueBlueDevil

    This could be a case of discrimination based on familial status. Maybe a home owner should talk to the Department of Fair Housing and Employment.

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