Downtown Growling Over Dog Park

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    One of the skirmishes in the larger battle over redevelopment money involves a proposed off-leash dog park in San Diego's East Village.

    Critics question its price tag and whether the project addresses the problem of urban blight.

    Downtown Dog Park Sparks Discussion

    [DGO] Downtown Dog Park Sparks Discussion
    The need is there, but is now the time?

    The dog park would cost $616,000 and serve a population of 35,000 residents.

    Community leaders say downtown's been shortchanged on a lot of public amenities -- never mind the area's stranglehold on most redevelopment dollars.

    To dog owners, there's a legitimate, "barking need" for this park.

    "Downtown has over 10,000 dogs," says attorney Bill Sauls, a downtown resident and dog owner.

    "This is perhaps one of the most dense areas anywhere in Southern California where there is a very large dog population," Sauls said. "And we have no backyards. There is no place to keep these dogs."

    So on a corner at Market Street and Park Boulevard, now littered with construction junk, the city's redevelopment agency is planning a half-acre, off-leash dog park.

    Supporters say the relatively high cost of the project covers expense elements that wouldn't be required outside of downtown.

    Such as contaminated soil remediation.

    Seismic issues.

    Fossil and relics removal.

    Trees and root barriers.

    Lighting.

    ADA features.

    Just to name a few.

    "This is an urban environment," says Gary Smith, president of the San Diego Downtown Residents Group. "So instead of just throwing stuff down there, we have to have berms to capture all the runoff so it doesn't go in the street -- those kinds of things

    "And every one of those little requirements adds to the cost."

    For all the money that has to be spent to bring it about, the park's backers say it won't look gilt-edged.

    There won't be grass or turf -- just bare ground and disintegrated gravel.

    But critics of the park say there are all too many impoverished, under-served communities around the city that have greater needs for redevelopment funds.

    "The downtown area is getting 60 percent of the money. How can that be?" asked Eva Vargas, a member of the Southcrest Community Council and San Diego Organizing Project.

    "That's not equitable. Would I like the dogs to have their park? Sure. But this isn't the time."

    Downtown residents point out that 17 other communities already have off-leash parks.

    And that their need for one will only grow as the area's vacant housing stock fills up in better economic times.

    "Forty percent of people living in downtown have dogs; we don't have a lot of space to take them," said Claudine Scott while walking her dog, Cosmo, past the off-leash park site Friday morning.

    "Our dogs need to roam and run and exercise -- and socialize with other dogs and people."

    On Monday, the project goes before the City Council for approval, following hearings on San Diego's overall plan to protect its redevelopment money from the state.