Sunset for Sunrise skaters

Citrus Heights mall profiles local woodpushers

Michael Althouse is a Fair Oaks resident and freelance journalist completing his master’s degree in communication studies at Sacramento State.

Something is seriously amiss at the Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights. It’s not the décor or the infrastructure; for a mall of its age, Sunrise is in good shape. It’s not due to empty storefronts or a lack of quality vendors; Sunrise is comparable to malls in the area.

But the mall is sick. It suffers from management myopia and an attitude that is decidedly anti-business.

Most every mall in America has some kind of “code of conduct,” usually common-sense safety and decorum policies that make the mall a safe and pleasant place to visit. Most malls are on private property, where freedom of speech and assembly—even expression—can be limited. A mall cannot, however, discriminate. It is a fine line, but for the most part, these policies are applied fairly.

There are, of course, exceptions.

Sunrise Mall has instituted a policy that, for all intents and purposes, is profiling. When I called mall manager Christi Woodards, she confirmed that customers cannot have skateboards in Sunrise Mall. Although this policy applies to and could affect anyone with a skateboard, as a practical matter, it directly affects one specific group—skateboarders. The policy reflects a stigma that most have risen above—that skateboarders are somehow undesirable, scofflaws, or worse, bad for business. Never mind that skateboarding is a multibillion-dollar industry.

In fairness, the policy contains a provision that skateboards can be checked in at the customer-service counter. However, when I last checked in September, mall security was not even aware of this provision and, further, it could not be confirmed that customer service has checked in a single skateboard. Ever.

According to Woodards, this is standard mall policy and one in effect at her former place of employment, Westfield Downtown Plaza. But a spokesperson for Downtown Plaza said no such policy exists.

Although virtually all malls restrict skateboarding, no other area mall restricts skateboards themselves—and most (including Sunrise) have stores that specialize in skateboards and/or related merchandise. Zumiez district manager Joe Manto oversees seven area stores—all in malls—and Sunrise is the only mall that restricts his customers from bringing their skateboards into the mall. Still too soon to know what effect this ban has on Zumiez’s business overall.

But it already has hurt it.

For my son’s 22nd birthday, I gave him $100 to buy some new shoes. He skateboarded to Sunrise Mall with the intention of making a purchase at Zumiez. He never got that far. After he and his friend were told that they could not have their skateboards in the mall, they were told to leave. My son took my money and spent it elsewhere. It is not only skateboarders who are affected. Zumiez lost $100 that day, one or more vendors in the food court lost money that day and every other vendor in the mall will have to do without my money in future days.