A park in Little Italy is dividing parents and dog owners with each side wanting to use space differently, either as a playground for kids or as a dog park.
The heated, decade-long controversy involves Amici Park at Date and State streets. It's technically a student playground, but for years, it's been also used as a park for unleashed dogs.
Dog owners in the urban community want a place for their pets to run around. Parents want the student playground to remain clean and safe for children.
“Dog owners are coming in and letting their dogs run around while kids are there,” said Monica Macera, a grandparent of a local student. “The dogs are running wild. There are feces all over.”
Some dog owners disagree, saying they do their best to clean up after the pets if they use the park.
“This is actually one of the cleanest ones where a lot of people pay attention to cleaning up after their dog,” said Gabby Moussa. “I have a puppy who needs so much exercise. It’s the only park that’s walking distance to anyone here.”
The San Diego Unified School District owns the entire property. In December, the district leased all of the area around Washington Elementary School to the Little Italy Association, the intention being to resolve the longstanding conflict between parents of students and dog owners.
The Chief Executive Administrator for the Little Italy Association told NBC 7 the group has a possible solution. If approved by the school district, it wants to build a designated dog park at the far end of Amici Park's grassy area.
This would cost between $100,000 and $150,000 and the money would come from fundraising. The plan is to have the dog park open by Labor Day.
Moussa said she understands the battle for the park from both sides.
“It isn’t that big of a park to begin with, and if you put the fence up it will cut it in half. I understand the school wants some use of it too,” she said.
Parent Angela Macera hopes the solution works for all.
“Compromise is going to keep everybody safe,” she said.
If approved, a temporary fence will be installed in the next week or so to separate the student area from the dog area. The school district and the Little Italy Association plan to meet on Monday.