Walnut Creek considers ban on bounce houses

February 7, 2011 7:47:17 PM PST
A popular addition to children's parties could soon be outlawed in another East Bay city. Walnut Creek is considering banning those popular kids' inflatable bounce houses from city parks.

The ubiquitous kids' party bounce-house is now allowed in only four of Walnut Creek's 17 public parks, on hard surfaces only (not on the grass), with a $40 permit. Monday, the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Commission will consider banning them altogether because budget cuts mean there are no longer enough people to handle the permit applications.

Parks Department Director Barry Gordon says they city decided permits were necessary after park grass was damaged and when the city realized vendors needed liability insurance. Forty-two permits have been issued since they started being required two years ago.

"Once the inflatable was taken down, spikes would be left behind, where the kids were going to the bouncy house the turf was trodden down because of a lot of people going back and forth," Gordon said.

Comic Jumps owner Mo Lotfy says other cities get around the permitting hassle by limiting inflatable use in parks to a list of pre-qualified vendors.

"In our industry there's a split, you know, there's the people that do it full time like myself and a few other companies in the Bay Area and there's the people that just do it on the weekends," Lotfy said.

Alan Wilder brings his son Dashiell to the parks because they live in an apartment.

"Well I liked them when I was a kid and nothing bad ever happened to me or my friends," Wilder said.

"I don't think they should need a permit anyway, we've got enough government," park patron Terry Norman said. "We pay our taxes, we get to use the parks. Big deal if there's a 20-by-20 foot bad spot in the grass for a week or so? Big deal."

"There are still plenty of opportunities for kids to enjoy our parks, enjoy our facilities and have great family gatherings," Gordon said.

Nearby cities Pleasanton, Danville and Clayton already have similar bans in place.