“Every meeting we talk about dogs running off-leash in the park,” said Park Advisory Board (PAB) member Bob Benton, who pointed out that almost everyone on the board has a dog, and is sympathetic to dog owners.
“It comes up and we’re always the bad guys,” said PAB member Kenneth Spencer. The two responded to a query from an audience member in attendance at the July 23 PAB quarterly meeting about fencing off a portion of the Palisades Recreation Center grounds for an off-leash dog park.
Recreation Center director Erich Haas told the audience that it isn’t the PAB Board’s choice, but rather a City law, that all dogs in City parks must be kept on leash (L.A. Municipal Code 63.44-B, 2,C.).
Additionally, the city has certain dog park requirements—the acreage needed is a minimum of three acres, with a 50-foot buffer from residential property and available parking.
The quest to find a site in Pacific Palisades has been ongoing since at least 2001. At one time, dog lovers let their animals run off-leash on the Field of Dreams, which caused an outcry from parents of children who played on the field and from individuals who donate to the Palisades Community Center Committee, a nonprofit that spends $60,000 annually to maintain the fields (the City does not contribute to the upkeep).
Currently, dog owners moved to the area behind the library to allow their dogs to run off-leash in the early morning or in the evening. A second site that dog owners now use is Potrero Canyon, where people enter illegally (the area is closed because of ongoing construction).
Haas said that some dog owners are belligerent or hostile if they are told they are breaking a City law. “The signs don’t seem to be working,” said Haas, who has no power to cite individuals for breaking the law. He noted that the special security service division of the LAPD maintain a 24-hour watch and people can report off-leash dogs by calling (213) 978-4670.
PAB secretary Jennifer Malaret, who also serves on the Pacific Palisades Community Council, suggested that if residents want a dog park, one of the first steps was to contact the Community Council and ask to be put on the agenda.
The next step would be to contact Councilman Mike Bonin’s office and ask if there is City land in the Palisades that might be available for a dog park.
It was also suggested that perhaps the City could swap land at Murphy Ranch in Rustic Canyon for the site of the former YMCA pool in Temescal Gateway Park, which now has a grass lawn and parking.
In 2003, it appeared that the former “Oxy” drill site, a strip of vacant land along Pacific Coast Highway between Potrero Canyon and Temescal Canyon Road, was the perfect site for a dog park.
But the neighbors on the Via de las Olas bluffs, who threatened lawsuits, halted the process. They claimed that the park “would bring incalculable damage to their quality of life and could ultimately destroy homes along the bluffs.”
Two years later, a dog-park search committee proposed the following sites: 1. Potrero Canyon (rejected because the Canyon is for passive recreation only), 2. Marquez Canyon, below Marquez Elementary School (lacks adequate parking), 3. Santa Ynez Canyon Park in the Highlands, off Palisades Drive (lack of parking and environmental concerns because of an active stream), 4. Temescal Canyon Park (too small and too near the roadway and residences), 5. Los Liones Gateway Park (no dog parks on state land), 6. Open-space parcels acquired by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, 7. Temescal Gateway Park (multiple jurisdictions) and 8. a dry-sand location on Will Rogers Beach.
“It has to be a community-wide effort,” Malaret said. “It seems that for everyone who wants a park, there is someone who doesn’t want it.”
“It’s an emotional issue,” said board chair Mike Skinner.
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