Parks committee splits vote for new Lake Merritt dog park
on July 14, 2011
To alternating applause and boos, supporters and opponents of a proposed dog park at Lakeside Park broke even on Wednesday evening during a meeting of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission when the plan drew a tie vote from the commission.
The project, called the Lakeview Dog Play Area, is being proposed by the Oakland Dog Owners Group and would fence off a 21,000 square foot lot at the northeastern corner of Lakeside Park between MacArthur Boulevard and Lakeshore Avenue, where dog owners could allow their pets—large and small—off-leash to exercise. But opponents say the area is the gateway to the city and thus not an appropriate location for off-leash dogs.
“The Eiffel Tower doesn’t have a dog park, ” said Jerry Wolfe, who spoke against the project in front of the commission. “Lake Merritt is the Eiffel Tower of Oakland.” Many echoed Wolfe’s remark and argued that an open green space should not be replaced by an “aesthetically unappealing” lot filled with brown wood chips.
“We need a dog park in our back yard—not in our front yard,” said Brad McCrea, spokesperson for Save Astro Park (SaveAstroPark.org), a group formed by opponents of the dog park. In addition to the aesthetic issue, McCrea said, off-leash dogs would pose safety concerns since the proposed location is next to a toddlers’ playground.
The dog park “is a really good idea in a wrong place,” McCrea said.
As an alternative to the Lakeview site, McCrea and his group suggested moving the dog area to the other side of Lakeside Park, into the former police horse stable area, which is next to the southern border of the Children’s Fairyland and not directly visible to the public.
However, the suggestion didn’t receive much recognition from supporters of the original location. Emily Rosenberg, co-founder of the Oakland Dog Owners Group, said the alternative site is isolated and lacks ambient lighting from the surrounding environment, making it difficult to use during winter evenings.
In addition, she said, a change of plan would result in a delay of the project for probably more than 24 months due to the city’s complex and time-consuming approval process. “The so-called alternative location puts the creation of a dog park for the Lake Merritt area at very high risk of never happening, ” she said.
In response to the opponents’ arguments about aesthetics, Sean Sullivan, another leader of the dog owners’ group, said that flowers and vines would be planted around the new dog park to improve the appearance of the fence. As to the safety concerns, Sullivan said that there seem to be no problems between children and dogs at other dog parks around the city. In addition, he said, the proposed alternative location makes no difference on this matter since it’s next to Children’s Fairyland, where tens of thousands of toddlers visit each year.
Design plans for a dog park in the Lake Merritt area date back as early as the 2002 draft of the city’s Lake Merritt Park Master Plan. Today, after working for years to bring the plans to fruition, supporters of the Lakeview location said they can’t wait any longer to have a functioning dog park in their neighborhood.
“The Adams Point neighborhood is full of people living in smaller apartments” with no yards where their dogs can exercise, said Sullivan. “They need this dog park.”
After hearing a two-hour debate between the two sides, the seven commissioners (with one abstention) evenly split the vote. The tie means that the commission will not make a recommendation to the city’s planning department to issue a Minor Conditional Use Permit for the project, said commissioner Barry Miller, who voted “no.”
However, without a recommendation, the proposal will still be submitted to the planning department for consideration, Miller said, and further hearings may be arranged to gather public input. “Stay tuned,” he said.
You can read Oakland North’s previous coverage of the city’s most recent dog park addition, the Grove Shafter Dog Park, here.
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