Category Archives: Community

Appeal at City Council

Our appeal is going to be heard by Oakland City Council this fall. If we don’t show up this one last time, we will never get equitable space in our parks.

During the “Save Astro Park” stakeout: this is where they choose to leave an entrance. In reality, the entrance to the dog park is on Lakeshore. (click to enlarge).

Recently, the anti-dog park group has again been spreading misinformation to rally opposition to this long-planned park. They staked out the footprint of the park. But, in their continuing effort to scare parents they made an entrance to the dog park right next to the tot lot. (See photo).

If this blatant fear-mongering makes you as angry as it did at the Planning Commission meeting, let Oakland City Council know! Send an email and tell City Council they should reject these lies.

Send an email to: council@oaklandnet.com and CC: odogparks@comcast.net

Or use our handy form:

Welcome Aboard!

> The Truth About “Save Astro Park”

If you’ve stopped by our website because you met us at our table at the park: Welcome! We’re an all volunteer group dedicated to finally getting the Lakeview Dog Play Area built. It’s been in the works for over a decade now and it’s been through dozens of public hearings. It has been approved twice now (in 2006 and again in 2010) by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee.

It was included in the Lake Merritt Master Plan, and has been featured on television and radio news, and covered in every major local newspaper. Chip Johnson of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote an editorial in favor of this park. ODOG (the Oakland Dog Owners Group, who started this process in 1998) has talked about the dog park in its newsletters, sent emails and given presentations to local neighborhood groups. We even went door-to-door delivering flyers.

Why hasn’t it been built yet? Good question. After all these years of publicity, a small but vocal group led by an uptown bar owner stepped up just this year to oppose the project. First they said it was too small and too close to the childrens’ play area. Then, they proposed a different location that was smaller and adjacent to a landmark children’s amusement park and the lake’s wildlife sanctuary. They claim on their website that dogs will scale the fence and attack children. (“The physical and psychological impact of being menaced or attacked by a dog exceed the impact of being hit by a soccer ball” — quote from their website in section about the height of the fence) They also claim on their website businesses will go bankrupt (“restaurants struggle, sales taxes reduce, and perhaps they go out of business” —  from their website).  They claim property values will decrease. As the executive director of Children’s Fairyland recently wrote on the topic, “can we not just tone all this down a little?”

Oakland’s Hardy Dog Park (scroll down in that link for the image) is even closer to the kids’ play area and hasn’t had any incidents in 20 years. We propose (and there’s plenty of evidence to support it) that amenities like dog parks are good for the community, good for business, and increase property values.

There’s 155 acres of parkland surrounding the lake – and none of it is available for walking your dog – even on leash. You can be ticketed if one paw steps on a blade of grass. If you live by the lake and want to socialize with your dog, you’ve got to drive somewhere else like Alameda. Almost every Oaklander we interviewed that drove out to Alameda’s Lower Washington dog park, also stopped and spent money there. Money they would otherwise have been spent closer to home. Trader Joe’s was the most oft-cited example. Local business supports us.

Today, this lawn at Macarthur and Lakeshore next to the roaring 580 freeway sits empty more often than not. We want to see this diamond in the rough really become the gem that the opposition claims it is. We want a gathering place for people and their dogs. We want people out of their cars and into their neighborhood parks. We want to build community.

A dog park here would be used daily by residents in the Cleveland Heights and Grand Lake neighborhoods. Apartment dwellers would have a place to exercise their dogs. Those without transportation could walk to their neighborhood dog park. This location provides easy access for those with mobility issues and the elderly. Baby boomers are aging, and people over 50 make up over a third of residents by the lake. A dog park in this area would be a vital resource for older people to get out and socialize with their dogs.

Again, thank you for stopping by. We’re glad you did. There’s a lot more information available here, so poke around. If you want to join our cause: Like us on Facebook and consider writing a letter to Oakland officials about your support for this park; or subscribe to this blog with the “Sign Me Up” button up top. If you have any questions, feel free to comment here, or send us an email.

> We debunk some of the misconceptions and fear that “Save Astro Park” has been spreading. Read the Truth About “Save Astro Park”

Crazy Laws

Don't shoot me, bro!

Did you know that in California, it’s against the law for a woman to drive in a housecoat? You’re also prohibited from shooting any sort of wild game from a moving car — unless it’s a whale. In San Francisco, “persons classified as ‘ugly’ may not walk down any street.” There are lots of silly or antiquated laws still on the books all across the country.

We’re no different here in Oakland. Almost every park in our lovely city is off-limits to dogs and their owners — even if that dog is on a leash. People up in the Oakland hills have some respite, since they have the lovely off-leash area in Joaquin Miller Park. ODOG worked tirelessly to build it six years ago. It’s been a big hit with the neighbors. Initially, the Woodminster Theater adjacent to the off leash area was worried it would smell and wouldn’t be properly maintained. But, last March Harriet Schlader, the director of shows at Woodminster sent an unsolicited letter of praise to ODOG for how “clean” and “odorless” it’s been.

If you live near Lake Merritt you’re somewhat out of luck, and probably unknowingly breaking the law (much like those aesthetically-challenged folks across the bay). You most likely enjoy walking with your family and your dog near the lake and/or in some of our beautiful parks. Who wouldn’t? Walking a dog in a park is a natural occurrence that happens millions of times a day all across the globe. It knows no racial, age, religious or socio-economic barrier. But, people can (and sometimes do) get ticketed when paws touch grass in Oakland.

ODOG has worked with city planners and politicians for years to identify a suitable space for dog owners in the area to legally exercise their dogs and socialize with other people. Initially, Splash Pad Park was identified as the place. But, a separate proposal to put a Farmer’s Market there won out. (Incidentally, some neighbors fought the Farmer’s Market with almost as much veracity as they’re now fighting this proposal; and by all measures the market is an unqualified success).

Save Astro Park "fake out stake out"

Screen shot of the opposition’s Facebook page showing their recent “stake out" of the proposed site. Sports are clearly being played, despite their claim that the half of the field to be left unchanged is “unusable.” Also notice the patchy yellowish color of the grass. Click to Enlarge

Now a decade later and after literally dozens of public forums, Lakeview Park has been found to be the only spot anywhere around that an off leash area would be even remotely possible. And, why not? Sports will still be able to be played there despite what our opposition claims (see picture in sidebar). The tot lot will remain untouched, and is over 25 feet away.

This spot we’re asking for is less than one half of one percent of the parkland in the area. It would be space where we won’t be forced to break the law. And, for those that don’t want dogs in the other 154.5 acres of park for whatever reason, a study by the University of California, Davis confirms the obvious: “The establishment of a well-maintained and responsibly-used dog park may actually improve the value of some neighborhoods. Another benefit for a well-located park, according to park managers, is that the availability of an off-leash park reduced the tendency for people to allow their dogs off-leash in areas where it is not legal.” This proposed off leash area is a win-win all around.

Best Case Scenario

The Children’s Fairyland Board of Directors voted unanimously last week to not support a dog park at the former police stables. They voiced several concerns, their overriding one being the well-being of children afraid of dogs. And really, who could blame them for being overly cautious when their raison d’être is to provide a safe place for all children, even those who might be afraid of dogs?

Beyond that, many of the arguments against supporting a dog park were ones we’ve heard over and over in trying to site the Lakeview Dog Play Area: there will be more noise, people won’t pick up after their dogs, it won’t be clean, it will smell, there’s no formal maintenance from the city, etc., etc., etc.

As I listened to the mostly negative comments and potential fears expressed by the Board, it got me wondering why we as a society so often react with negativity and fear to change? Instead of looking for opportunity and possibility, why do we tend to look for misfortune? I’m no psychologist or sociologist, so I don’t have an easy answer to the question.

Politically, however,  I can see clearly that fear can be a great galvanizing force in getting people to support your agenda. Our neighbors against the dog park at Lakeshore and MacArthur have done a pretty good job of stirring up a lot fear with worst case scenarios. I’m not going to enumerate them here. Poke around on their website if you’re up for a downer.

So… How about a best case scenario for a change when thinking about the Lakeview Dog Play Area? In a city where no dogs are allowed on leash in any city park, in a 155 acre area off-limits to an untold number of dog owners, what if we sacrificed half an acre sited away from the wildlife sanctuary for dogs and their owners to legally play off-leash?

The neighborhood gets a new gathering spot where people spend some time with other like-minded people. Over time friendships develop and people come out to catch up with their friends while the dogs play. Dog owners with kids bring the kids and get a two-for-one – kids and dogs tire themselves out in a single outing. Families thinking about getting a dog get to see a variety in action and get to ask questions. Kids afraid of dogs get to watch safely from behind the fence and over time get more comfortable with dogs. Those who love dogs are frequently distracted from the goings on in the tot lot by the goings on in the dog play area. A few get dragged away in tears, not ready to leave their furry friends.

The community embraces the park. It’s so easy to walk to—no more driving to Alameda(!) and it’s situated in a spot that’s clean and attractive. It’s not stuck under a freeway or in a blighted area that feels unsafe if there’s no one around. Most people pick up after their dogs. They don’t want to get a bad reputation with the other users. Volunteers routinely clean up after the few neglectful owners and perform other routine maintenance. Why? Because it’s their park and they take pride in it.

A little café on the other side of the dog park sees an upturn in business from the increased foot traffic in the area. A business developer thinks that empty lot where the gas station used to be might be a great place for a café or restaurant with outdoor seating. There are passersby every day of the week, not just Saturdays during the Farmer’s Market.

Lakeview Dog Park becomes a model for future Oakland dog parks, attractive, easy to walk to, in locations people want to visit. The days of dog parks as an afterthought, tucked out of sight and out of mind are over. Public perception of Oakland as the unfriendliest city in the Bay Area for dogs starts to change. Property values nudge upwards because amenities like dog parks are a drawing point for new buyers. Oakland’s walkability score increases.

All this from a dog park? Who knows? It’s not impossible. But, we’ll never get a chance to find out if their campaign of fear succeeds.

Thanks for Stopping By!

If you’ve stopped by our website because you’ve picked up a card at ODOG’s Pet Food Express fundraiser this weekend: Welcome! We’re an all volunteer group dedicated to finally getting the Lakeview Dog Play Area built. It’s been in the works for over a decade now and it’s been through dozens of public hearings. It has been approved twice now (in 2006 and again in 2010) by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee.

It was included in the Lake Merritt Master Plan, and has been featured on television and radio news, and covered in every major local newspaper. Chip Johnson of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote an editorial in favor of this park. ODOG (the Oakland Dog Owners Group, who started this process in 1998) has talked about the dog park in its newsletters, sent emails and given presentations to local neighborhood groups. We even went door-to-door delivering flyers.

Why hasn’t it been built yet? Good question. After all these years of publicity, a small but vocal group led by an uptown bar owner stepped up just this year to oppose the project. First they said it was too small and too close to the childrens’ play area. Then, they proposed a different location that was smaller and adjacent to a landmark children’s amusement park and the lake’s wildlife sanctuary. They claim that dogs will scale the fence and attack children. They claim businesses will go bankrupt.  They claim property values will decrease. As the executive director of Children’s Fairyland recently wrote on the topic, “can we not just tone all this down a little?”

Oakland’s Hardy Dog Park (scroll down in that link for the image) is even closer to the kids’ play area and hasn’t had any incidents in 20 years. We propose (and there’s plenty of evidence to support it) that amenities like dog parks are good for the community, good for business, and increase property values.

There’s 155 acres of parkland surrounding the lake – and none of it is available for walking your dog – even on leash. You can be ticketed if one paw steps on a blade of grass. If you live by the lake and want to socialize with your dog, you’ve got to drive somewhere else like Alameda. Almost every Oaklander we interviewed that drove out to Alameda’s Lower Washington dog park, also stopped and spent money there. Money they would otherwise have been spent closer to home. Trader Joe’s was the most oft-cited example. Local business supports us.

Today, this lawn at Macarthur and Lakeshore next to the roaring 580 freeway sits empty more often than not. We want to see this diamond in the rough really become the gem that the opposition claims it is. We want a gathering place for people and their dogs. We want people out of their cars and into their neighborhood parks. We want to build community.

A dog park here would be used daily by residents in the Cleveland Heights and Grand Lake neighborhoods. Apartment dwellers would have a place to exercise their dogs. Those without transportation could walk to their neighborhood dog park. This location provides easy access for those with mobility issues and the elderly. Baby boomers are aging, and people over 50 make up over a third of residents by the lake. A dog park in this area would be a vital resource for older people to get out and socialize with their dogs.

Again, thank you for stopping by. We’re glad you did. There’s a lot more information available here, so poke around. If you want to join our cause: Like us on Facebook and consider writing a letter to Oakland officials about your support for this park; or subscribe to this blog with the “Sign Me Up” button up top. If you have any questions, feel free to comment here, or send us an email.

Great Night Out

National Night Out and Reducing Neighborhood Crime

Not to toot our own horn, but our National Night Out party was awesome! Big thanks to all of our neighbors (and new friends!) who came out and participated. In case you missed it, we were on the parking lot side of the Lakeview Library. We would have had it in the park, but we wanted it to be family- and dog-friendly. Dogs at this little, empty lawn are canis non grata; it’s completely off-limits to dogs and their humans, just like every other park near here. Over at the spot we would have liked to have been, it was empty for most of the night.

But, we had a great time regardless. What could be more fun than hearing the laughter and joy of kids and dogs together? While we were setting up we were mobbed by kids from “Astro Park” (the tot lot), who were anxious to pet our dogs and get some swag. A very nice officer from Oakland Police stopped by to thank us for participating and offer us encouragement. Almost everyone who dropped by walked over from Cleveland Heights and Grand Lake.

For those who haven’t participated before, National Night Out started in 1984 as a way to increase community awareness of police and neighborhood crime prevention programs. The underlying thought is that if you get people out of their houses, and get neighbors to actually know one another you can prevent crime. Our volunteer team couldn’t agree more! Communities across the nation (and world) are recognizing the fact that taking a mostly unused plot of land and allowing dog owners to socialize there will reduce crime.

Boston Police agree: “It’s an effective tool,’’ said Boston Police Superintendent William B. Evans. “People with dogs who are out in the neighborhood – that’s more eyes and ears for us.’’

“This is considered a crime hot spot …’’ said Paige Davis, who lives near Boston’s Ronan Park where a new dog park is being proposed. “People who are out walking their dogs are going to meet everyone using the park. If you want to know what’s going on in the neighborhood, it’s the dog owners who know everything.’’

At this little spot in Oakland in the past two weeks, there have been three serious aggravated assaults, several car break-ins, and two robberies. Throughout the year, there’s dozens of cars stolen on the streets bordering this park. The “Save Astro Park” folks claim that building a dog park would aggravate the neighborhood parking situation and put local stores and restaurants out of business. Won’t cars being stolen and people getting beaten and robbed deter more people from dining here than the possibility of it taking five extra minutes to park? Most customers would feel safer after eating at Sidebar or Cana walking past a lively park filled with neighbors and their dogs, than a deserted lawn. It would be nice if we were able to facilitate a “night out” every night. With upwards of 40% of households in Oakland having dogs, that’s exactly what will happen once this dog park is built.

> Find us at the ODOG fundraiser, August 13 and 14.

> Look for our future events, coming soon!

> Join us on Facebook.

PFX Fundraiser 8/13 & 8/14, Natl Nite Out 8/2

Pet Food Express has generously allowed ODOG to fundraise at five of their East Bay locations! There will be a bake sale, and all proceeds from sales of dog wash tokens will benefit dogs and parks in Oakland! You can also donate whatever amount you like directly at the register. Come on down! For more details, click here.

Also, we hope to see you for our National Night Out party on Tuesday, August 2, 7-9 pm at Lakeview Park. There will be food, games, prizes, kids and dog safety information and more. Everyone is welcome! We’ll be by the library parking lot.

> Find us on Facebook!

Community

> Like us on Facebook!

Dog Parks and Café Society

At a recent gathering of our volunteers, we were bantering about 1920s café society. Back then, community was forged in coffee shops. It wasn’t unusual for a wealthy industrialist to strike up a conversation with an unemployed poet. Nowadays, everyone at Starbucks is too engrossed in their iPhones for casual conversation. Or, too suspicious of a stranger talking to you at a café. One woman who spoke at the March 23rd meeting said she’d moved to the Lake Merritt area a year prior and hadn’t met any of her neighbors, and hadn’t made any new friends in the area.

We couldn’t help but notice the similarities between cafe society and the interaction we’ve seen at dog parks. Where else can you chat with complete strangers without feeling awkward or creepy? Mothers certainly get to socialize at children’s play areas. But what if you don’t have kids? Increasingly, people are turning to dog parks to forge a community, make friends, and socialize. Even the Catholic Church is getting in on the act.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has partnered with the Downtown Center Business Improvement District to put on Dog Day Afternoons, where people and their dogs can meet and socialize.

“The purpose of this is to create community,” explained Monsignor Kevin Kostelnik, co-sponsor of the event along with Joaquin, his black Labrador retriever. “It’s to allow residents, the humans, to get to meet one another because the animals are one part of God’s creation that brings everybody together. And I thought, you know, we’ve got a beautiful space here in downtown, and there’s a great necessity for dog parks downtown. So this was a great space I thought we could gather downtown residents and their pets.”

Hal Bastian, the director of the business improvement district said, “this is all about creating community, because downtown isn’t a place. It’s 15 different neighborhoods. And even those of us who live in a building, we never see each other ’cause we’re working and out and about.”

Dog parks are a great social equalizer: rich and poor, old and young, black and white, gay and straight. All gathering there have one obvious thing in common from the get-go, and conversation is not only easy but expected. Bonds are formed. Friendships are made.

“Dogs facilitate friendly interactions among people, as they so actively solicit play and offer greetings. Establishing a dog park creates a community center of activity where friends and neighbors gather to relax,” said Dr. Lynette Hart, director of the Center for Animals in Society at U.C. Davis.

Business improvement districts (such as the Lakeshore Business Improvement District that supports our planned park) know that having this kind of amenity in the area can only help business. You meet at the dog park (instead of driving to another town), meet your neighbors, make friends, then meet up later for cup of coffee, or grab lunch, or go to the gym. Right now, Lake Merritt dog owners are going to Alameda, and then stopping for coffee at South Shore, or some groceries at Alameda’s Trader Joes. All that money could be staying in Oakland.

The upcoming National Night Out is one night aimed at creating community, getting neighbors to know one another, getting people out of their houses, and reducing crime:  all benefits you get daily from a dog park. Shouldn’t Oakland support this type of thing?