Category Archives: Tourism

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.

Popular Tourist Destinations and their Dog-Friendliness

The Ile Saint-Louis in Paris

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Last Thursday’s post on dogs at the Eiffel Tower generated a lot of buzz – boy did we get letters! Ironically, it was Bastille Day: the French celebration of liberté, fraternité, et égalité. We got a lot of letters about how the French regard their dogs.

As we noted, Paris welcomes dogs to its most exclusive of parks, including the Tuileries and the Palais Royale. But, did you know many restaurants and cafes also welcome dogs? Eponymous luxury ice cream parlor Berthillon on the ile Saint-Louis allows you to bring your dog with you into its dining room. It’s been this way in Paris for decades, and none of the dire consequences we’ve heard predicted by the anti-dog park folks here have happened. Paris is not devoid of businesses, its parks aren’t ugly, children aren’t being attacked by loose dogs. In fact, France consistently ranks at the Number 1 global tourist destination, with 76.8 million tourist visits in 2010.

According to Condé Nast Traveler, the Number 3 city destination in the world is San Francisco. Our neighbor across the bay has three times the number of dog parks than we do, and an increasing number of cafés and bars are catering to their growing locals and visitors that own dogs. Also on the top 10 list of U.S. destinations is Carmel, which is also listed as one of the most dog-friendly locations. Long-time Carmel resident and animal welfare activist Doris Day started Carmel’s dog-friendly trend more than 30 years ago. And, by all accounts, business in Carmel is booming.

Now, let’s look at Oakland. Sadly, despite our scenic beauty and an abundance of activities, we didn’t make any top destination lists. We made some other lists. In contrast to San Francisco and Carmel, Oakland is one of the most hostile cities to dogs in the United States. Almost all of our parks are completely off-limits to dogs – even on leash! We have 5 dog parks, tucked away in mostly isolated areas or under freeway overpasses, because that’s all that the city will give us. San Francisco is smaller in area than Oakland, but they have more than 3 times the dog parks. And, they’re not tucked away in some crummy space. Beautiful Dolores Park, for instance has a dog play space. Dolores Park is surrounded on three sides by busy streets, and one side by MUNI train tracks. Mission High School is right across the street, and there’s a children’s play area right next to the dog play area.

Dolores Park in San Francisco

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Dog Parks in Paris? Mais Oui!

One of the funnier things we heard at Wednesday night’s Park and Rec meeting, was “Save Astro Park” anti-dog park activist Jerry Wolfe comparing Lakeview Park to the Eiffel Tower. “Did they,” he bellowed, wagging his finger at the commissioners, “put a dog park at the Eiffel Tower!?” zut alors, they did! Champ de Mars, the park at the Eiffel Tower is available to off-leash dogs. So, too is the Jardins des Tuileries next to the Louvre. The exquisite gardens next to the French Senate building (the Jardins du Luxembourg) also dog-friendly. Parisians love their dogs and the French capital is amazingly welcoming to them and their owners.

In Tuesday’s San Francisco Chronicle, “Save Astro Park” member Sue Levin was quoted as saying, “would you put a dog run at the entrance to Golden Gate Park or Central Park? No.” Sue should have done just a wee bit more research. Golden Gate Park has four designated dog areas (including as you first enter the park from the Haight at Stanyan Street). There are 17 spots across San Francisco. Central Park has 23, and Manhattan has dozens more.

Indeed, just about every major city in North America has a “signature” park – and almost all of them include space for dogs. Even America’s first public park, Boston Common, has a dog park. Boston Common is often described as the “beating heart of Boston,” and is less than one-third the size of the parkland available at Lake Merritt.

Other famous world signature parks with space for dogs: Grant Park in Chicago, Stanley Park in Vancouver, Hyde Park in London, Berlin’s Tiergarten, Griffith Park in Los Angeles, and Balboa Park in San Diego. So, this notion that world-class cities would never have dogs near their special parks or “front yards” is not supported by the facts.

>  For more debunked myths, check out our Truth About “Astro Park” page.

>  See what your neighbors are saying at our new Community Voices page.