Vista Dogs Bark a Sigh of Relief
By Anita Varghese
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
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
“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
Ponton said Mar Vista residents support the $15
annual fee, rabies shots requirement and four-dog
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
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
“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
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
“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.”