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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 (, 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.


  1. Mike d'Ocla on July 14, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    If Lake Merritt is Oakland’s Eiffel Tower, then there can be no problem with a dog park nearby. In Paris, dogs are tolerated everywhere, in cafes, restaurants, shops. I would suggest that Parisian dogs are much more a part of the delight of that city than any rusty but quaint engineering project. Dogs are all about love which is exactly what Paris is all about, and what Oakland needs a great big helping of.

    • Patrick M Mitchell on July 15, 2011 at 8:11 am

      “Rusty but quaint engineering project”? I take it you’ve never been to Paris. Dogs may be “all about love”, but not everyone loves dogs.

  2. Mike d'Ocla on July 15, 2011 at 11:34 am

    There will always be a few anti-lovers and haters of various critters. Lots of tourists think the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco are where it’s at. Others, mostly the lover types prefer the Tuileries, the 16th Arrondissemont, the Left Bank, Montmartre. Or in S.F. GG Park, the DeYoung, Land’s End, the Inner Mission.

  3. Melissa Sherman on July 15, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    This isn’t really a discussion about whether the Eiffel tower is a good place for a dog park. This is a discussion about how Oakland best supports city dog owners. A dog park located in a centrally accessed business and residential area with poor drainage and close proximity to a children’s playground is not the best solution to the poor dog policy in our great city. We can do better than this and we should.

  4. jerry on July 15, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    This is not an argument about dog lovers and people who don’t love dogs, that is absurd, This is about the quality of life for all the residents of our city and the need to preserve open green space for families, children, healthy physical activities and just peace and some quiet. My point about the Eiffel Tower is now being used by some to ignore the true issues here. The Astro Park area is not the place for a dog park. This is not just a local neighborhood issue but and issue for all of Oakland. Has ODOG conducted a recent survey of the residents to determine current opinions? Working for years on a bad idea, with little general public awareness of the issue is not reason for it to be approved.

  5. Mike d'Ocla on July 16, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Can the drainage problems not be addressed? What in particular is it about proximity to a children’s playground that is problematic? I thought the dog area would be fenced-in.

    “This is about the quality of life for all the residents of our city and the need to preserve open green space for families, children, healthy physical activities and just peace and some quiet.”

    Some people would include tolerance of pets in the quality of life equation. Some would not.

    The argument goes on without much enlightenment from commenters about why this is a reasonably good compromise location for a dog park.

    The public process comment is appropriate, but is probably appropriate for any such process in this city–where public process are often poorly-managed.

  6. Mike d'Ocla on July 16, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    I should have added that this whole argument has a lot of the NIMBY thing about it. NIMBY stuff is a good way for never changing anything in anyone’s backyard.

  7. username on July 18, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    As an Oakland native who loves dogs and grew up with dogs I am so sick of dog owners taking over the city. Dogs DON’T belong in restaurants, or off-leash at playgrounds, they belong in your home and in your backyard. Hey dog owners: stop letting your dogs walk up to and sniff people/children you don’t know (the next time a strange dog sniffs my crotch or my kid’s face it’s gonna get a kick in the head), clean up your dog’s poop, stop letting your furry friends monopolize the sidewalks/trails, and can we just BAN dogs on Lakeshore altogether? I really don’t enjoy having to step over/walk around/avoid your dog when I’m going to get coffee. Don’t put a dog park anywhere near the lake or any other heavily populated, trendy area. The human transplants are enough, don’t make us play nice with your dogs too. Please.

  8. Ergh on July 19, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Why is the City of Oakland even considering allowing a dog park in that space??!! And the people supporting it complain that the alternate site may be shady during the winter? The Rockridge dog park, which is used by tons of people, is literally underneath a freeway. If anything, the City should improve the existing grass area to enhance the opportunity for people to play soccer, football, or play frisbee with their friends. Get people outside, not dogs!

  9. Jim on July 22, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    But there is a dog park at the Eiffel Tower… and just about every major signature park across the U.S., from Central Park to Golden Gate Park.

  10. David on July 23, 2011 at 9:15 am

    username, you love and grew up with dogs, yet if one sniffs you you’re going to kick it in the head? Right. Sorry for the inconvenience, but Oakland is for everyone (transplants, people with dogs), not just those you deem worthy. Upwards of 46% of households in Oakland have dogs, and they pay taxes to maintain parks and the schools your kid goes to. And, all these taxpayers are asking for is a small space so they and their dogs can socialize. You should learn to “play nice” with others: you’ll be a happier, more tolerable person for it.

  11. […] be allowed. In other outdoorsy news, the parks committee split its vote over the hotly contested proposal for a Lake Merritt dog park, and the city opened the new East Oakland Sports […]

  12. Joe Contreras on June 18, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    I have two small dogs and live in the Lake Merritt area. In the fall of 2010 Oakland reopened Jefferson Square Park at 648 Jefferson st(at 7th st) with a large and a small dog area directly across from a children play area. This park went from planning to completion in short time. Showing dogs and kid play areas can coexist and was approved by the city of Oakland. see my picture posted 09/18/12 @

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