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Police Close Off Dolores Street, Skaters 'Bomb' Church Street Instead

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A skater 'bombs' Church St. during the annual Dolores Hill Bomb on July 6, 2024. The event, in which skateboarders race down Dolores St. at high speeds, resulted in over 100 teenagers and adults being arrested last year. (Gina Castro/KQED)

Update: 10 p.m. Saturday

San Francisco officials succeeded Saturday night in stopping large numbers of skaters from riding down Dolores Street by setting up scores of barricades and stationing dozens of law enforcement officers in the planned path of the “Dolores Hill Bomb.” But skaters weren’t too disappointed, they just shifted their antics to Church Street on the opposite side of Dolores Park.

Skater Mark Urbieta said moving to Church was always part of the plan given that police interference on Dolores was expected, even though Church is, in his words, “gnarlier and narrower” than Dolores.


“You can never stop a skater’s pride, bro, this s*** is never going to stop,” Urbieta said while resting after a nasty fall. “Every single day. We’re going to do it regardless. We’re going to do it from Twin Peaks all the way to Downtown.”

Aside from using one police vehicle to stop traffic from crossing 18th Street at the bottom of Church Street, police made no effort to interfere.

Urbieta added that if the police had moved to block off Church Street, attendees would have just found another hill to bomb.

An individual skates down Church Street during the annual Dolores Hill Bomb on July 6, 2024. (Gina Castro/KQED)

Gigi Basilio successfully rode to the bottom of the hill on her second attempt after a fall on her first try. She embraced her friend as the crowd cheered her on.

“People were dapping me up, saying ‘You got this! You got this!’ and deep down inside, I felt like I had it, and I did it! And I’m so proud of myself because that’s the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced,” Basilio said, clearly emotional.

Basilio said she felt the large police presence was unnecessary.

Skaters walk back up Church Street during the annual Dolores Hill Bomb on July 6, 2024. (Gina Castro/KQED)

“We’re not doing nothing wrong. We’re just trying to skate, trying to bomb, have fun, make memories, be with friends, family, with each other. Why are they trying to ruin our day?” Basilio said.

At least one person was taken away by paramedics after falling at the bottom of the hill. On-site volunteer medics attended to others who suffered minor scrapes.

Original story, 6 p.m. Saturday: San Francisco’s Mission Dolores Park was filled Saturday afternoon with crowds reveling in the summer heat wave. But among the revelers were police setting up metal barricades, blocking Dolores Street. The big question in the neighborhood: Will the “Dolores Hill Bomb” happen this year?

Skaters ride down Church Street during the annual Dolores Hill Bomb on July 6, 2024. (Gina Castro/KQED)

The “hill bomb” is an annual, informal event organized by the Bay Area skateboard community where hundreds of skaters ride down a steep section of Dolores Street adjacent to the city’s Dolores Park.

An Instagram post by user vellskiiii set the time for 7 p.m. Saturday, but following messaging by the San Francisco Police Department strongly discouraging people from taking part, vellskiii posted that the event was canceled. “Event CANCELED!!! Police will be waiting at Dolores!!!” But it is unclear how many will receive that message — or heed it.

A skater rides down Church Street seated on a skateboard during the Dolores Hill Bomb on July 6, 2024 (Gina Castro/KQED)

This year’s hill bomb comes almost exactly one year since last year’s, which ended in San Francisco police mass-arresting 113 people, most of them minors.

Parents of those arrested have since criticized the police response, detailing how their children were detained in the cold for hours without access to food, water or restrooms. Some of the parents have since sued the city and police on behalf of their children for alleged civil rights violations.

But despite the condemnations from parents and other community members, along with the looming specter of a costly class action lawsuit against the city, the San Francisco Police Department appears poised to use a similar approach this year.

SFPD stationed nearby during the Dolores Hill Bomb on July 6, 2024. (Gina Castro/KQED)

“The plan is almost the same ask as last year’s event,” wrote Mission Station Sgt. Jeff Aloise in a late June email to a Department of Public Works employee. “Dolores St will need to have enough barricades starting at 21st St stretching from building to building in an East/West direction, all the way down to 18th St/Dolores.”

18th and Dolores streets in San Francisco were closed on July 6, 2024, in an attempt to prevent the annual Dolores Hill Bomb. (Gina Castro/KQED)

Those emails were uncovered in a public records request and shared with KQED.

The event draws large crowds of people who come to watch the skaters ride down the hill at high speeds. Not everyone makes it. Many skaters sustained injuries and one died in 2020.

A skater rides down Church Street during the Dolores Hill Bomb on July 6, 2024. (Gina Castro/KQED)

Some have criticized the event for being unsafe for both skaters and neighbors alike. Residents of the area say participants vandalize both public and private property during and after the event. Police said last year’s arrests began in response to attendees assaulting officers and vandalizing a MUNI light rail train.

But the hill bomb is an organic gathering and, with no designated sponsors or organizers, canceling the event is not as simple as making an announcement.

That hasn’t stopped city officials from attempting to discourage attendance.

Omar Arroyo crashes while riding down Church Street as part of the annual Dolores Hill Bomb on July 6, 2024. (Gina Castro/KQED)

“We’re here to say officially, we do not intend to allow a hill bomb tomorrow,” Police Chief Bill Scott said during a Friday news conference. “We’re going to do everything we can to keep our community safe, to prevent that from happening. And as far as we’re concerned, there is no hill bomb tomorrow.”

City Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who represents the area, has echoed similar feelings.

When asked in late June what he had to say to those planning to attend, he responded, “I would encourage them not to this year. I think this event has been unsafe for a number of years. I am eager and willing to partner with folks in the community who want to try to do a safe and fun hill bomb in 2025. But I think in 2024, the infrastructure is not there.”

Omar Arroyo shows his injury after skating down Church Street during the Dolores Hill Bomb on July 6, 2024. (Gina Castro/KQED)

Mandelman and Scott also led a community meeting on Monday, inviting community members to share their thoughts and recommendations for the event.

Several attendees who identified themselves as members of the skateboarding community said the city leaders should have begun outreach months ago, not days before the anticipated event, and they should have been proactive instead of waiting for an organizer to step up.

Aaron Breetwor, a downhill skater, said he applied for a city grant to host similar downhill skating events, only for the grant program to be canceled.

A spectator shows support during the annual Dolores Hill Bomb on July 6, 2024. (Gina Castro/KQED)

“There were people who were prepared to put together the community engagement necessary to do things like this safely,” Breetwor said. “There is no lack of city interest in this event. There’s a lack of goodwill and good intent.”

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Naomi Lopez, a Dolores Street resident and a parent of a then-15-year-old spectator who was arrested at last year’s Hill Bomb, is among those suing the city and police department for last year’s mass arrests. She called the situation a missed opportunity “to turn an event that has become ugly and has become us-against-them into a community event that could show teenagers, especially Black and brown ones, who are not represented in this room, that they belong.”

Other attendees pushed back, expressing skepticism that any organization would agree to take on the liability of holding such an injury-prone event with a reputation for lawlessness.

“Unfortunately, the hill bomb has attracted bad actors who do not have a peaceful intent,” said Carolyn Kenady, chair of the Dolores Heights Improvement Club.

An individual skates down Church Street during the annual Dolores Hill Bomb on July 6, 2024. (Gina Castro/KQED)

Even detractors of the hill bomb criticized city leaders for not being more decisive and proactive in efforts to stop the event from occurring.

One person said that they had to push through the crowd with their toddler to reach their home and that their calls to 911 after hearing gunshots went unanswered. Another expressed disbelief at seeing children directing traffic. Another questioned why the city has stood by while the event proceeds in similar fashion year after year.

Paramedics assist a skater after a fall during the Dolores Hill Bomb on July 6, 2024. (Gina Castro/KQED)

“When dealing with this or any event that poses challenges, the City must change its approach to one that truly protects our community and keeps it safe,” said Rachel Lederman, senior counsel with the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, the firm representing the arrested teens in a lawsuit. “That will not happen through increasingly aggressive and militarized policing. Civilian agencies should be managing this event collaboratively with the skateboard community and engage in de-escalation.”

Lederman said legal observers will be there on Saturday and her organization is prepared to take legal action if any further civil rights violations occur.


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