Logo horizontal ruler


About Us Contact

Mar Vista Dogs Bark a Sigh of Relief

By Anita Varghese
Staff Writer

September 12 -- Dogs from Mar Vista and their owners can now take the short wag over to Santa Monica’s Airport Park off-leash dog area after the City Council unanimously agreed Tuesday to let them purchase non-resident user permits.

Council members agreed to allow non-Santa Monica residents to buy an annual $15 tag for their dogs to use the city’s newest off-leash dog park, which opened in April to fanfare by local residents and hollers from nearby Los Angeles residents who were barred from the park.

The dog tags would be easily recognizable to park maintenance staff and offered to any non-Santa Monica resident who wants to bring a maximum of four dogs that are licensed and have had rabies shots.

“I appreciate the consideration given to Mar Vista residents and their dogs,” said Tom Ponton, chair of the Mar Vista Community Council Recreation and Open Space Enhancement (ROSE) Committee.

“Many of us are Santa Monica employees, Santa Monica business owners and we support the tax base throughout Santa Monica,” Ponton said. “We are one big community; we are not two separate groups of people.”

Santa Monica residents do not pay fees for use of the four off-leash dog areas in the city, while surrounding communities such as Culver City and Los Angeles do not charge fees for either residents or non-residents.

Ponton said Mar Vista residents support the $15 annual fee, rabies shots requirement and four-dog limit.

He also said the ROSE Committee meets every month to actively seek open space for dogs in Mar Vista and acknowledged “they are sorely needed.”

Before April, Community and Cultural Services staff believed Airport Park would reach its capacity of 45 dogs because of high demand from Santa Monica residents.

But when City staff studied “use patterns” by Santa Monica residents since the park opened, they discovered that a maximum of 25 dogs have been counted at any one time with far fewer dogs at the park most of the time.

Taking these studies into account, the Recreation and Parks Commission recommended opening the Airport Park off-leash dog area to non-residents.

Council member Kevin McKeown disputed allegations made by some Los Angeles residents in the past few months that the City of Santa Monica never gave them a non-resident user permit opportunity for Airport Park.

Karen Ginsberg, assistant director of Community and Cultural Services, said City officials approached the Mar Vista Community Council and the City of Los Angeles with a suggestion of issuing a maximum of 15 non-resident permits.

The suggestion was rejected, she said, because it was unclear how the permits would be distributed and if they would be reserved only for Mar Vista residents or be given to any Los Angeles resident.

“This was a contentious issue and there were a number of reasons for that,” said Mayor Richard Bloom, of the ongoing discussions that have taken place before and after Airport Park opened.

“I am extremely pleased with the responsible manner in which the City handled this issue from the beginning,” Bloom said. “Staff was on top of this issue from the get-go.

“We could not have known ahead of time that the park could handle utilization by more people and more dogs. We can all now walk away happy.”

Council members also clarified operation hours of the off-leash dog areas at four city parks and agreed to Mayor Pro Tem Herb Katz’s motion to raise the unleashed dog limit from staff’s recommendation of three dogs to four dogs.

At Joslyn Park, Pacific Street Park and Airport Park, off-leash dog areas are open from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on weekdays and 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on weekends.

Off-leash dog areas are open at Memorial Park from 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. weekdays and weekends.

Dog walkers have at times brought as many as six dogs to the off-leash areas, which Ginsberg said prompted complaints to City staff by those worried it could be difficult to control so many dogs and clean their droppings.

Katz, who was not pleased with the three-dog limit, accepted Council member Ken Genser’s suggestion of allowing four dogs.

Staff was directed to review how the four-dog limit works in the next few months and return to council with the possibility of raising the limit if surveys show people can handle multiple dogs.

“If the goal is to get people to pay attention to their dogs, there is no evidence of the number of dogs making a difference,” said Santa Monica resident Sean Butler, who has used the Joslyn Park off-leash area for his two dogs.

Butler has brought his dogs to Joslyn Park since it opened and said he handled four dogs easily at the park.

“I know some people who don’t pay attention with only one dog,” Butler said. “A dog’s love is conditioned on its care by the human. The off-leash dog parks are a great benefit.”

Readers Fine Jewelers Advertisement


“We are one big community; we are not two separate groups of people.” Tom Ponton


“This was a contentious issue and there were a number of reasons for that. . . We can all walk away happy now.” Richard Bloom


“If the goal is to get people to pay attention to their dogs, there is no evidence of the number of dogs making a difference.” Sean Butler


Lookout Logo footer image
Copyright 1999-2008 surfsantamonica.com. All Rights Reserved.
Footer Email icon