Let me first explain the genesis of this problem. I have lived in Pacifica since 1978 and although there were always leash laws, they were not enforced. Off-leash recreation was happening, but never was an issue. In the year 2000 time frame, then Mayor Jim Vreeland made a specific demand of the Pacifica Police Department calling for the strict enforcement of the leash law. and the
This demand was made without public notice or comment. However, no provision was made at the time to provide any areas where residents could exercise or play with their dog(s) off-leash. At that time, as is the case today, there existed no public area where one could play the most basic time-honored game of fetch with their dog. As many Pacificans suddenly became the recipients of very expensive off leash tickets, a huge outcry ensued and the city’s Animal Advisory Commission was asked to address the problem. As a member of the Animal Advisory Commission in 2001-2002, it was estimated by several sources, including the Peninsula Humane Society, that 40% of Pacifica households had at least one dog. In fact, there were actually more dogs in Pacifica than there were children. We held many meetings with the public to ascertain whether a dog park or other off-leash area was desired by the Pacifica population. It was indeed a big quality of life issue for Pacifica residents.
As to the issue of expense of a dog park, one needs to consider the point raised by many dog guardians that they, as taxpayers, pay for the education, day care, school lunches and park/recreation facilities utilized by the children of this city without complaint. Is it so unreasonable for these taxpayers to ask for an opportunity to recreate with their dogs? Many of these dog guardians are senior citizens who have lost spouses and friends and live with their dog as their only companion. These seniors strongly preferred an enclosed dog park, because many suffer from disabilities and are unable to run or hike with their dogs. The best choice for an enclosed dog park was and still is Lower .
The area is not usable for any other park purpose because the landfill has created methane gas seepage. Coastside Scavenger/Recology provides the city $75,000.00 annually for rehabilitation of this area. The City has year after year misappropriated that money for their own desired purposes as part of the General Fund. I have in my possession plans for a dog park at Lower Frontierland (with parking) as drawn up by when he was the Director of Public Works in that time frame. It is important to note that Scott Holmes was indisputably highly involved in our environmental projects here in Pacifica, and he believed this was a great use for Lower Frontierland. Does someone have an objection to the $75,000./year being spent for the purpose for which it is specifically earmarked?
Other citizens preferred hiking trails they could utilize with their dogs off-leash— being the most popular. No cost to allow people to hike with their dogs on trails. Would any of the dog park detractors support lobbying the GGNRA for that policy? Pacificans turned over Mori Point to the NPS/GGNRA and we do not derive any revenue from our generosity. Is it too much to make a small demand regarding the usage of this area?
Other Pacificans wanted an accessible beach to play with their dogs—Esplanade Beach is not accessible to the vast majority of the population. We selected Sharp Park Beach south of Clarendon for that purpose. The SPB location was ideal because natural boundaries already existed, there was no habitat for any threatened or endangered species due to the construction of the berm, and we even obtained approval from SF Recreation and Park Department for the use.
There would be no cost to implement this area as an off-leash area except perhaps a few signs.
Open your mind to the possibilities—they are within reach despite the poor economy. Certainly the overall economy was not an issue back in 2000 - although Pacifica has always seemed to be in a recession. Further, who is to say people won’t come from out of town to utilize our off-leash beach/trails/park and actually spend money here? Dog guardians DO spend money—proof of that is the business model Carmel has built in part because it is a dog-friendly environment.
Yet these same critics of off-leash recreation seem to have no problem with the fishermen who come to Pacifica to fish or crab at the pier or the surfers who come to surf at Linda Mar beach. These two groups are notorious for spending little or no money here, and the fishermen leave a litter mess as well.
For many of us off-leash recreation areas are a quality of life issue. This is why we pay our taxes. Neighboring cities have accepted their responsibility to provide off-leash recreation areas to their residents. Only in Pacifica, where open space far exceeds developed space, is it so difficult to find a small area where our best friends can thrive.