At the meeting this past Tuesday, a majority of the City Council voted 4-3 to support this dog park. But, for a resolution to be passed, we need 5 votes. Council Member Jane Brunner was absent, and this matter has been continued on to the Tues., Dec. 18th meeting. Plan to attend if you can. In the event that Councilmember Brunner votes against us, Mayor Jean Quan has the option to be the tie-breaking vote.
Here is how to Council voted in support of the dog park:
YES: De la Fuente, Schaaf, Nadel, Kaplan
NO: Brooks, Reid, Kernighan
CALL TO ACTION
Please take a moment to do the following:
- Email both Jane Brunner and Mayor Jean Quan (and us):
firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Come to the meeting on Tuesday, December 18th at 6:30 pm at City Hall. Although technically public comments can still be heard, both parties (ODOG and Save Astro Park) have agreed that this evening should be about the vote. So while we invite everyone to attend and listen, neither party is encouraging speakers as we all want this evening to be as short as possible. If you have further questions about this, please do not hesitate to email us.
In your email to Council member Brunner, remember to be polite, and ask both Councilmember Brunner and Mayor Quan to join the majority of City Council and support this dog park. Some talking points for your letters:
- It’s in the Lake Merritt Master Plan (approved by City Council in 2002), Adams Point Plan, it was approved by the Park & Rec Advisory Committee (PRAC) in 2010, and the Planning Commission Staff recommended that it be approved in 2012. (The Planning Commission itself denied this proposal – 3 voted against, 1 abstained, 3 were absent).
- ODOG volunteers are out every month at lake cleanups for the past 2 years. Other dog parks across town are so well-maintained that we’ve received letters of praise from other park user groups and Oakland Public Works. Mostly private funds will be used to build and maintain this park, and the Memorandum of Understanding with the city lays out sanctions if standards are not met.
- Oakland has two existing dog parks that are closer to tot lots than this one will be (Hardy Park and Jefferson); they’ve been there for years without any significant amount of incidents.
- San Francisco has nine dog parks adjacent to kids play areas (Duboce, Dolores, Haas, St. Mary’s, Eureka Valley, Upper Noe, Potrero Hill, Alamo Square, Alta Plaza) and according to SF Park & Rec, a “non-existent rate of incidents.”
- There are at least 13 other spots within a mile and a half to play sports (see map), several tot lots, and almost nothing for people with dogs. The Piedmont dog park is at least 2 miles away, one way, and Oaklanders have to pay to use it.
- Dog parks make great neighborhood meeting places, and they build community.
- At least 47% of households in Oakland have dogs as part of their families; and there are more dogs in Oakland than there are children.
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.
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: email@example.com and CC: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or use our handy form:
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).
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.
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.
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.