A woeful, historic lack of rain and snow has impacted how Californians eat, how they interact with their garden hoses, how they fill their historic swimming pools and how they raise awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It has changed attitudes, shifted habits and opened many eyes to the fact that water isn’t exactly a forever-abundant natural resource that can be wasted at will.

California’s chronic drought has also totally ruined the fun for 4,000 folks who forked over $20 or more to hurl themselves down a 1,000-foot waterslide — basically, an elephantine version of the classic Wham-O Slip ‘N Slide that your mother refused to buy no matter how much you begged and pleaded because she was worried you’d injure your neck or ruin the lawn or both — that was to be installed on a normally car-clogged Los Angeles street later this month.

After months of planning, the city's Department of Public Works has put the kibosh on the oversized urban Slip ‘N Slide bonanza by denying organizers the necessary permits just days before the event. Concern over the event’s formidable H2O-related footprint was cited as the reason.

"The real concern here is the event is not consistent with the seriousness of the statewide drought and water conservation," said a spokeswoman for the DPW.

Slide the City, a daylong “water party” to take place on Sept. 28 on Temple St. in Downtown L.A., quickly sold out when tickets went on sale earlier this summer. Judging from this response, there’s no doubt many Los Angelenos were pumped to don bathing suits and careen down a padded (“more than a grade schooler’s bra”), soap-doused plastic channel the length of three football fields. After all, as July’s sold-out Slide the City event in Salt Lake City and a similar but unrelated installation that appeared in Bristol, England, this past May proved, there’s nothing quite as nostalgia-inducing as inserting a summertime fixture of so many childhoods — if your own mother forbid a Slip ‘N Slide in the backyard, you probably had a friend whose super-cool mom didn’t — into a gritty cityscape.

To me, it's apparent that the L.A. edition of Slide in the City suffered from spectacularly poor timing. With state- and city-wide water usage restrictions in place and thousands of Californians freaking out about the state of their front lawns, you'd think that an event that encourages attendees to come bearing water balloons, buckets and (non-realistic) water guns would be doomed from the get-go. Or, at very least, it would be the subject of some significant backsplash. 

However, Slide the City organizers had been working with the city to lessen the impact of the event. Under one scheme, whatever was left of the 15,000 to 20,000 gallons of chlorine-treated water used in the event was to be trucked off to a reclamation plant and used to irrigate Griffith Park.

Organizers also announced plans to donate a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales to help fund a well in a developing country though Generosity.org. "While we are conscious of the drought going on, we are also conscious of people who have lived in a drought for their entire lives,” Slide the City co-founder T.R. Gourley told LAist last month.

Despite a nearly 11,000-signature-strong online petition to halt the event and ample online #droughtshaming, things appeared to be moving forward. Fun would prevail. That is, until Slide the City posted this announcement on Facebook yesterday:

After tirelessly working with the City over the past 2+ months we received word that our permit is being denied. We have been working even harder over the past few days to resolve any issues the City may have but it appears there is no resolution. Whether this is a direct result of the drought or something else, we want to assure all of our participants and vendors that we have gone through every appropriate permitting step required. We have even jumped through many additional 'hoops' the City has created in the hope that they would see that we were flexible and willing to work with them. Unfortunately they have still denied our permit.
Gourley laments to The Wall Street Journal: "L.A. has been very, very political. We just became a lightning rod for the city saying 'these guys are wasting water.' " He adds: "We're creating an amazing family-friendly event for the city."

To be clear, Slide the City has not yet cancelled the event — it has been postponed. Ticket-holders have been invited to wait until a possible resolution is reached. They can also request a refund if they choose.

And although understandably frustrated, Slide the City’s organizers have a sense of humor about the whole mess. Shortly after announcing that the event had been postponed, they reached out to K-Y Jelly and Vaseline on Facebook for a slippery lifeline.

Despite the setback in L.A., Gourley and Co. still plan to bring the beefed-up urban Slip 'N Slide concept to numerous cities across the U.S. and Canada including Seattle, Miami, Baltimore, Chicago, Nashville, Atlanta and New York City. They may, however, want to hold off on San Francisco, San Jose, Orange County and San Diego for a spell. And planned stops in Arizona and Texas, too.

Any thoughts? Is holding a huge pop-up Slip 'N Slide shindig in Downtown L.A.grossly inappropriate considering the dire situation in California? Or is the DPW acting as the ultimate wet blanket? 

I understand the outrage but it seems to me that instead of creating a massive headache for Slide the City and letting thousands of super-excited folks down, city officials could have simply done the right thing and politely said “thanks, but no thanks” months ago.

Via [WSJ] [Los Angeles Times]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.