La Jolla Town Council hears pros, cons of off-leash dog plan

During its Oct. 9 meeting, the La Jolla Town Council became the latest board to hear presentations on a proposed off-leash dog area in La Jolla. The proponent group, now calling themselves Limited Off Leash Access (LOLA) Beach Supporters, wants to see dogs able to run leash-free before 9 a.m. only on a defined part of one La Jolla beach (suggestions include Marine Street Beach or a portion of WindanSea beach) for a one-year trial period.

The proposal was also discussed at the Sept. 22 La Jolla Parks & Beaches meeting, where a detailed plan was distributed. Tackling concerns brought up in September, founding proponent Nancy Linck presented to the Town Council in a point/ counterpoint format. Barber Tract resident Cynthia Chasan spoke for the opposition.

“We love our beach but we also love our dogs and we want our dogs to enjoy our beaches with us, in part with limited off-leash activities,” Linck said. She responded to arguments against the plan as follows:

1) Too close to residences: The successful Dog Beach in Del Mar is also near densely populated residential areas.

2) Limited public parking: By not having public parking, outsiders would be deterred from using the leash-free dog beach, preserving it for La Jolla residents.

3) No vehicular patrol: The beach is already patrolled (when possible) on foot for offenses like drinking, littering and sleeping on the beach.

4) Not enough trashcans: While agreeing that more trashcans are needed, Linck argued the majority of trash comes from negligent beach users, not dog waste.

5) Danger to people: With a designated leash-free area, those who go to the beach in the early morning would be advised of the off-leash dogs. Should they be concerned with being approached, these residents could go to a different beach.

6) Scheduled cleanup: Linck said additional beach cleanup would not necessary, since dogs are already present on the beach during certain hours, on leash.

Speaking in opposition, Chasan used video, comparisons to other dog beaches, and the LOLA proposal to illustrate her concerns.

She showed video of dogs defecating on the beach without their owners picking it up (in some cases, walking right by); and time-lapsed video of Marine Street Beach to show how many cars pull up to the entrance.

Chasan also questioned the locals-only goal, pulling dog ownership data from the 2010 census and a study conducted by the Humane Society in 2012, which indicated people would drive 15 miles to get to a dog beach. “If we were even talking about a five- mile radius, (based on the data) we’d be talking about 50,000 dogs (a year),” she said. “If we are talking about 10 miles, we’d be talking 148,000 dogs. The whole 15 miles, we are talking about 321,000 dogs in this area.”

Chasan also expressed concern that the off-leash area might end up on websites such as BringFido.com or Yelp.com

With a possible spike in usage, Chasan brought forward other concerns, including health and safety standards (along with questions as to who would enforce compliance), maintenance, neighborhood impact and environmental impact.

Other 24-hour dog beaches, such as the one in Ocean Beach, had high levels of bacteria that led to beach closures on a regular basis, according to the California State Library report “Dogs on the Beach: A review of regulations and issues affecting dog beaches in California,” which was included in the proposal.

Regarding maintenance, Chasan said (quoting the LOLA proposal itself), that sand is often “difficult for municipalities to maintain and keep clean, often requiring special equipment.” The quoted material, which was also included in the proposal, came from a UC Davis report “Guidelines for establishment and maintenance of successful off-leash dog exercise areas.”

The Davis study also suggests: “Locate the park so that it is not directly adjacent to residential property lines, to help decrease the chance of actual and perceived problems between park users and their neighbors.”

One of the proposed areas lists rocks as natural barriers, which Chasan said are actually tidepools. “If a dog defecates on the beach and a high tide or rain washes it to the water, you are talking about decimating the life in the tidepools,” she said.

Chasan said she also collected 561 signatures (as of the meeting date) of those opposed to the proposed location, with at 250 of them La Jollans. Insisting that she and other residents do not take issue with having dogs off leash, just the proposed location, she said she hoped the Town Council would “find an alternative site for these off-leash dogs ... and consider keeping the rules (prohibiting off-leash dogs) in place without change.”

Town Council president Steve Haskins said it would vote on the proposal as a consent agenda item at its next meeting, 5 p.m. Nov. 13 at the La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. The off-leash dog proposal now moves to La Jolla Parks & Beaches next meeting, 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 27, at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.

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