A dog park for Lake Merritt

You know what I love? Dogs!

I don’t have a dog now, my family always had dogs when we were growing up. Both of my sisters have wonderful dogs that I adore. I often think I would like to get one, and I’m sure I will someday. But for now, neither my apartment nor my schedule can accommodate one.

Anyway. One of the things I think about when I think about how I’d like to get a dog is that it seems like it would be hard to have a dog in Oakland. Or at least, for someone who lives in my part of the city without a car, it seems like it would be hard. There is nowhere for you to take them to play.

Or even to be with you when you want to hang out outside. I’m sorry, but I think Oakland’s no dogs in any park even on a leash unless it is a dog park policy is totally psycho. Everywhere else you go, you can take your dog to any park as long as you keep it on a leash. Sometimes I will complain about it to people who have clearly lived here too long, and they will immediate start back with this insane string of elaborate paranoid imaginings about all the terrible things that could possibly happen if there were a leashed dog in a park. I’m like “Dude, you know what? Somehow they make it work everywhere else. So I think it’s going to be okay.”

Wev. Anyway, one nice thing about the City recently is that we are adding all these dog parks. A new one opened in November at the a new one opened in November at the rededication of Old Oakland’s Jefferson Square Park. And there is going to be a new one at 37th and MLK. They are having a grand opening party on January 15th. The paranoid conspiracy theorist in me says that the reason the City is all of a sudden so eager for dog parks is because they know the dog owners are so desperate for a place to take their pets that the City can extort them into taking care of the property, so the City has less work. But hey, maybe it is just because people are really pushing hard to make them happen.

Lakeview Park Dog Park

Anyway. One neighborhood that has been clamoring for a dog park for a great deal of time is Adams Point. And tomorrow, they have a chance of coming one step closer to getting one. The Oakland Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission will consider, at their meeting tomorrow, Wednesday, December 8th, a request for approval of the design of an off-leash dog play area at Lakeview Park.

Lakeview Dog Park

Where is it, you ask? At the corner of Lakeshore and MacArthur, nearby the adorable and tiny Lakeview Branch Library. From the report (PDF):

The Lakeview Dog Play Area will enclose the corner of the park bordered by MacArthur Blvd to the north and Lakeshore Ave to the southeast. The long-awaited dog play area will contain separate off-leash areas for large and small dogs to exercise and socialize.

If you were wondering what I meant above when I said “a great deal of time,” the report (PDF) offers a brief history of this project:

The Lakeview Dog Play Area was included in the Lake Merritt Park Master Plan, which was accepted by the Oakland City Council in July 2002, and in the Adams Point Urban Design Plan, submitted to the City of Oakland Community and Economic Development Agency in December 2002. The development of both these plans included extensive public review and comment. Both of the plans included graphic exhibits showing the dog play area in the location adjacent to MacArthur Boulevard where it is currently proposed.

The creation of a dog play area in the Lake Merritt area was identified as an unmet community need by the Northlake Neighborhood Group (NLNG) in 1998. In 1999, volunteers from ODOG and the NLNG collected 740 petition signatures of residents in the Lake Merritt area, supporting the creation of a dog play area near Lake Merritt. Important factors in selecting a possible location for the dog park included adequate distance from the wildlife sanctuary and low impact on other park user groups and the surrounding community. NLNG met with my office to discuss the dog play area in December 2001. Councilmembers Chang and Wan held a public meeting on behalf of the dog play area in February 2004. At that time Councilmember Chang offered $20,000 for the dog play area but the City was not able to commit to building it in time to accept the funds. Thus, Councilmember Chang’s funds were used to create the Joaquin Miller dog play area.

Public meetings for the Lakeview Dog Park were also held on November 7, 2005, and on June 29, 2006, and community input from those meetings was incorporated into the design. The meetings were sponsored by Councilmember Nancy Nadel and community outreach was extensive. The needs of other user groups in Lakeview Park, including tot-lot users and soccer players have been addressed in the plans.

In July 2006, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission gave one-year probationary support for the construction of a dog play area at Lakeview Park. The creation of the dog play area was conditional upon approval by the City Council to amend the Oakland Municipal Code, Title 6, Chapter 6.04, Article 6.04.080 to include the Lakeview Dog Play Area as an off-leash dog play area in the exempted list of such parks. Unfortunately, the project stalled before the Public Works Department could approve the final design. The delay was in part due to the larger scope of the original dog play area project, which would have required several hundred thousand dollars to construct.

For the past 18 months, volunteers, including design and landscape architects, have worked diligently to scale back the project to meet the City’s resource constraints while still fulfilling the design and maintenance requirements of the City. Extensive discussions took place between volunteers and City staff from PWA, OPR, and ADA programs. ODOG also presented to and received approval from the Adam’s Point Action Council (APAC) in October 2009 Additionally, my office continues to receive frequent constituent calls and emails requesting a dog play area in this area.

The project has identified funding from the following sources: Public Works Agency Capital Reserves Fund ($21,000), Council District 3 carry-forward Pay-Go funds ($10,000), Council District 2 ($2,000), At-large Council office ($2,000). ODOG continues to seeking funding for the remainder of the cost.

Lakeview Dog Park

At tomorrow’s meeting, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission will be asked to approve the design for the park. The project specifics listed in the report are as follows:

To enclose/fence a section of the Lakeview Park for use as an off-lease dog play area for dogs to exercise, and for both dogs and their guardians to socialize.

Specific elements of the project include:

  • Separate play areas for large and small dogs
  • Fencing to enclose the dog play area, which will be 21,3000 sq. ft. total in area. The fence fully separates those on the inside from those on the outside without imposing unnecessary visual impact on the park
  • Double gate entries that are ADA accessible with supply vehicle access
  • Concrete mow-band around 2/3 of the fence to provide easy access for lawn maintenance
  • Two in-ground waste receptables
  • Wood chips to provide the ground cover
  • Tree planting between the fence line and MacArthur Blvd

And here’s one more picture.

Lakeview Dog Park

So I think this is just great. As I said, I think dog parks are awesome and Oakland should have more of them. And it is true, as the report says, the dog parks serve the important function of giving dog owners a place to socialize. My little sister used to go to college in the middle of nowhere in eastern Washington. And she would always be telling these stories about friends of hers where I could not for the life of me imagine how she ever ending up crossing paths with this person. Like, she’d be all “My friend Doug, who is a 60 year old prison guard at the state penn…” and I’d be like “Wait, what? How are you friends with this person?” And she would always be like “Oh, I met him at the dog park.”

And it is totally true. Whenever you go to the dog park, everyone there wants to talk to you. I’m not very social myself, so I don’t particularly like that aspect of it all, but I see how it would be important to a lot of people.

Opposition to the dog park

But not everyone thinks the dog park is such a great idea. There are all these people, and honestly I don’t know if there are only like five really angry people, or if these five people are representative of a lot of other people or what. But there is all this craziness on the neighborhood listservs that people forward me against this dog park. All these e-mails being like “I don’t think a dog park is right for this neighborhood” and “the dog park excludes people” and “the rights of humans to use their parks are being usurped by dogs” and “the fence around the park will cause traffic accidents” and “well I want a dog park that’s closer to my house than that” and “the dog park should be on the estuary” and “we need more community input” and “but I just moved here” and “the dogs will destroy the beautiful grass that my only joy in life comes from looking at every day as I walk to the bus stop.”

So, to those people — look, I am sorry you don’t want a dog park. My advice is to chill out and learn to live with it. It’s a dog park, not a nuclear reactor or a surface parking lot. People all over the place manage to deal with them somehow, I’m sure you will find a way to cope too. Dogs are a very normal thing to have.

Because seriously, at some point, you have to just admit that there has been enough community input on whether or not something is a good thing and you have to accept the decision that was made. This has been discussed and decided for a long time. And it’s not like it was just once twenty years ago or something. If that were the case, it probably would be appropriate to revisit the decision. But public input and planning on this issue has been ongoing for over a decade. I’m sorry if people who just moved here and missed all that don’t like it, but you know, we can’t just start deciding everything all over again every time somebody moves. We just can’t.

Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee

Anyway, if you’re interested, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee meeting tomorrow, Wednesday, December 8, 2010 meets at 4:30 PM at the Lakeside Garden Center, which is located at 666 Bellevue Avenue

I am actually interested in this, but I will not be able to attend the meeting, because I am more interested in the Pleasant Valley Safeway at the Planning Commission’s Design Review Committee, which is also happening tomorrow. If anyone does go, I would love it if you’d leave a comment informing us all about the discussion.

Help fund the dog park

And if you’re into the dog park and want to help, but don’t feel like going to the meeting? Well, here is one suggestion, from ODOG’s recent newsletter:

The city is providing only about half the $50,000 cost of the dog park. The rest is up to us. A holiday gift to yourself or another dog lover would be a donation to support the dog park. You can contribute here with a credit card of PayPal account.

Please note that for technical reasons your receipt and credit card might show the name Emily Rosenberg instead of Oakland Dog Owners Group. Please be assured that every penny will go to the non profit account of ODOG.

Another convenient thing about the park is that is dog owners feel like a drink when their pets are done playing, they can just walk across the street and go to dog-friendly bar the Heart and Dagger.

31 thoughts on “A dog park for Lake Merritt

  1. len raphael

    Besides rental restrictions on dogs and cats, another big impediment to owning a larger dog is the prohibition on taking them on buses and BART full fare of course.

  2. Karen Smulevitz

    st Oakland, and with no car, we are conscientious lawbreakers when my dog runs in parks. I clean up after her and make sure she doesn’t disturb any migratory birds. I would jump for joy if we had a dog park out this way, but more power to ODOG and its supporters.

  3. Marie

    Actually, Len, if you have a muzzle you can take them on both BART and the bus, as I did when the bridge was closed. My dog loved the social aspects of transit and, as he is very, very well behaved, the commuters seemed to enjoy his company as well.

  4. Kari Jo M., The OGSG

    Love this! Thanks for supporting the new Park, I hope we get it! It’s been a long time in the making and Oakland dogs deserve it!! Great article, well written, thanks for laying out all the specifics. I hope a lot of dog owners show up to support this tonight!

  5. grrljock

    Re: taking your dog on BART, the one time I tried to find out their policy I couldn’t find anything on their website, but maybe now it’s easier to find. Personally I’ve seen people bring their dogs on a leash on the train. If enforcement is lax, maybe BART should just do away with it and instead do what the public transit in Berlin does: charge a kid fare for dogs.

    It’ll be nice to have another off-leash dog park. I’ve only taken my dog once to the one in Joaquin Miller Park. We disliked the rough dirt/tan bark surface so much we haven’t been back since. I also take my dog to Redwood Regional Park where she can run off leash, but last time her sensitive paws got all torn up by the rocky ground.

    Wait a minute, maybe my dog is the problem here. Geez.

  6. dogwood

    I agree with your analysis that Oakland’s current anti-dog policies are misguided. As a dog owner (in the glenview neghborhood) I think that the presence of dogs increases public safety in a number of important ways. 1- they deter home burglaries, not only in the home they live in but in the surrounding homes as well. 2- people walking their dogs serve as important eyes and ears in the neighborhood that deter crime as well. (I walk my dog every night, rain or shine, and the only people I see on my walks are other dog walkers and those who are up to no good. On multiple occasions, by virtue of just my presence, I believe I have foiled a potential criminal act, and I feel safe doing so because criminals are not likely to mess with me and my dog (who wouldn’t hurt a fly by the way) and 3- dog owners create community, especially at dog parks. Just because someone is not part of that community does not mean that it is not publically beneficial.

    On my neighborhood weblist there is almost daily complaining about dogs. How they poop and bark and generally bother a few vocal complainers. I just wanted to add some dog appreciation to the mix and thank you for posting about what I believe is a very positive development for the grand lake nieghborhood.

  7. V Smoothe Post author

    grrljock -

    My little sister’s dog has really sensitive feet, and used to have a lot of problems walking on trails. At the suggestion of her vet, she ended up buying him these little booties to put on his paws for whenever they go out somewhere with a rough surface or in the snow. He kind of flips out when you put them on him indoors (and looks ridiculous), but as soon as he gets outside, he doesn’t seem to mind, and can run around freely without problems. It might be something worth looking into.

  8. Matt C.

    The dog park looks very well planned. It’s the perfect solution for a corner of the park that’s near a busy/noisy intersection. Being next to the tot-lot makes it extra family friendly. It’s highly visible, allowing visitors to scope out yet another Lake Merritt asset. Well done everyone.

    Now can we get one near Uptown? Oh, I know: Frank Ogawa Plaza! I can dream…

    Ya know, this no dogs in parks issue makes our city look really out of touch and rather irrational. What would be the most economical way to strike down the ordinance? I’ll volunteer to help! Does anyone know if Allen Michaan is dog lover?

    V, thanks for another report that you won’t find in the Trib or Chonicle. You’re really the tie the binds around here.

  9. Steve

    I guess I’m in the minority amongst the comments here, but I’m going to have to say two thumbs DOWN this plan to promote dogs in Oakland.

    There seems to be a dark abyss between the mindset of dog owners and people who don’t care for dogs. A couple thoughts from one of the latter:

    Living within blocks of the planned spot, a day has never gone by when I have not seen dog owners completely ignore the “no dogs in park” signage at our nearby parks. Take 10 minutes and watch how many dog owners not only let their dog off its leash in the park, but how many let their dogs defecate on the grass AND LEAVE IT!

    I mean you can make a philosophical arguement that dogs have as much place as humans in our world, but who would accept me taking my one year old to the park without a diaper on, letting him defecate right next to people picnicking and then leaving his crap on the grass. Even if you try to clean it up after, there’s no arguing that that’s not disgusting.

    So why is it ok with dogs? We do not live in the countryside; this is urban living people. It’s a people thing. Do we see horses, pigs, cows walking down Lakeshore? No. So then why dogs?

    Who actually enjoys hopscotching around dogcrap as you walk around the Lake? It’s about respecting public space we share in a dense urban environment.

    Moreover, I submit that 3/4 of the dogs being walked near the Lake are pitbulls or other potentially agressive guarddog-style varieties. These are not gentle animals. Why would we want them congregating within 50 feet of a children’s playground?

    I’ve been bitten by a neighbor’s dog of this variety. It sucks. Now we’re going to encourgag them to be within a stone’s throw the the park where my kid plays? Even if no one gets bit, it creates an uncomfortable environment for some of your fellow Oaklanders. How can I support that?

  10. Max Allstadt

    I’m with V.

    Every city I’ve lived in other than Oakland has had leash laws and heavy fines for people who don’t pick up after their dogs, but this is the first place I’ve lived with an outright ban on dogs in most parks. It’s stupid.

    It’s also amazing to me that the dog owners in this town cannot get it together to have this stupid law changed. I believe there are more households with dogs in Oakland than there are households with kids. You’d think this stupid law would be easy to organize around and easy to fix.

  11. James

    Doesn’t San Leandro also have a ban on dogs at “regular” parks? In fact, I thought it was an Alameda County thing.

  12. Dax

    One point about dogs in parks.
    If your dog does “pooh” in the park, then if you use a plastic bag, please take the bag with you to a proper disposal bin/can.

    The only thing worse than “pooh” on the ground is “pooh” left all over the place in plastic bags where neither the “pooh” nor the bags bio-degrade in the air.

    This is especially important in open space areas in the hills and large parks.
    I see far too many “responsible” dog owners who feel 100% obliged to pick up after their dogs, who then deposit the bag full of “pooh” on the side of the trail or fire road, thinking they’ve done the ecological thing.

    Far better in those locations to just let the dog “pooh” and leave it on the ground to dry up as nature intended and as all the other animals do in those larger parks.
    Tired of seeing bags filled with “pooh” left on the trails. The “pooh” filled bags take months, even years, to bio-degrade.

    The dogs are fine, its the unthinking owners who do such things, never asking themselves who is gonna pick up their bag of “pooh”.

  13. len raphael

    I could get “behind’ greatly increasing dog poop fines, and enforcement of on leash laws. I’m sick of picking up other people’s poop.

    Don’t see how to enforce anti poop laws when littering laws aren’t enforced either.

    Any factual basis for leashed dog attacks around the Lake?


  14. livegreen

    Totally agree with Dax. WTF is it all about putting poo in plastic & then leaving the plastic on the ground? Can someone explain it to me?

    The closest I’ve come to understanding is while visiting my Aunt in another state, she put the poo in the plastic & left it on the side of the path. On the walk back she a) forgot about it; b) when reminded, couldn’t find it.

  15. livegreen

    Oh. & big environmental progress to report on this front: At the pet store I saw they now sell biodegradable dog poop bags. ??

    This should get a Green Festival green consumer prize, right along with “Flushable” diapers…

  16. Dave C.


    It’s not necessarily an issue of being unable to “get it together” enough. I can’t speak for other dog owners, but the reason I don’t feel any burning desire to get the stupid law changed is that it seems to be so rarely enforced. Why spend a lot of energy organizing to overturn a dumb law when most of us walk our dogs in city parks on a daily basis with basically zero fear of being penalized?

    Dax and livegreen,

    I think most of the people who leave poop-filled baggies on the side of the trail intend to pick it up on the way back to the trailhead, where there is usually a trash can. Then, like livegreen’s aunt, they forget about it on the return trip, or they can’t find the bag, or some good samaritan (or annoyed person) has already picked up the bag, or they change their route and don’t return the same way they came, or… I’m not necessarily defending the practice, but that is the logic behind leaving the baggies alongside the trails in Redwood and other parks.

  17. Dax

    Dave, I’m sorry, but I’ve seen far too much of these left-behind pooh-bags, placed in exactly the same spots on a regular basis. They have not forgotten where it is.

    Same people, using the same brain-dead logic of being “ecological” and “green” as they leave bags of pooh day after day.

    Never stopping to think that in these open spaces, with wide fire trails, there is NO need at all to even put it in a plastic bag in the first place.
    Just leave it where it drops and let the sun, rain and wind take care of it in a day or two.
    Unless people are walking in the dark, they can avoid it just like they avoid all the pooh from the other animals.

    A few weeks and its all but gone or so dry it doesn’t harm anyone.
    Even in the worst case, its hardly toxic.
    Besides, other dogs like to examine it, checking out who has been there recently.

    “Oh, I see my friend Rover was here recently, I’ll leave him a reply”

    That is dog email, etc. The park is their FaceBook.

  18. Dave C.


    While you might prefer dog owners to simply leave their dogs’ piles in the middle of the trail, I can assure you that there many other hikers and joggers etc. who would consider that to be even more anti-social than leaving the bags alongside the trail for pickup on the way back.

    I’m sure there are some dog walkers who have no intention of retrieving the bags they leave, but believe me, many other people who leave those bags do retrieve them on the return trip, and others intend to retrieve them but absent-mindedly forget.

  19. len raphael

    Dax, you really don’t want dog poop composting. Lots of pathogens in any mamal poop, that could infect other mamals.

    another reason it should not be thrown into the green garbage bins as many do. You can not count on Waste Management’s outsourced compost service to properly compost the stuff.

    One of my beasts contracted a wierd parasite commonly found in SE Asia and warm parts of SE USA soon after spreading several yards of WM’s finest compost. Parasite one of the rare ones that can go to humans from dogs.

    I avoid most dog parks.

  20. Dax

    Dave, I can see not leaving the poop on narrow trails, but in the case of fire roads which are 6ft to 8ft wide, it really isn’t a concern. You can just step around it.

    I am on certain fire trails on a very frequent basis.
    I can assure you the individuals leaving the bags of pooh, are the same ones over and over.
    I have now been stopping and talking to dog owners, telling them to just let the dog go and allow it to dry up naturally.

    I think the idea is beginning to spread…

    Perhaps “spread” is not the best choice of words in this case.

    The only pooh that ends up on my shoes these days is that from wild animals that I might step in when off in the brush.
    I don’t think I’ve stepped on dog pooh more than once in the past year.

    Of course dog parks are a different matter.

  21. Dave C.


    “in the case of fire roads which are 6ft to 8ft wide, it really isn’t a concern”

    Maybe it “really isn’t a concern” for you, but believe it or not, different people sometimes feel differently about various things. Since I assume we are mostly talking about trails in places like Sibley, Redwood, and Chabot here, I’ll just note that the East Bay Regional Park District’s rules require dog owners to pick up and dispose of our dogs’ waste, and many trailheads have plastic-bag dispensers for that very purpose (park rules also explicitly ban leaving waste bags along the side of trails, incidentally). So while you may personally prefer that people just leave their dogs’ excrement in the middle of the trail, the park authorities are apparently among those who don’t share that view.

  22. Dax

    Well, situations vary and the parks set blanket rules.

    Speaking of the EBRPD locations, I would think I’d rather that a dog owner just take a stick and move the pooh to the side rather than carrying a bag several miles.
    Mostly because so many won’t do that. Instead they’ll half way comply by putting it in a bag and then leaving the bag.

    BTW, the place where this has been a issue for me is in a park owned by Oakland, not the EBRPD.

    Dog pooh, kicked the side of a fire trail harms no one. Kicked meaning moved, perhaps with a branch.
    Of course if you want to actually kick it with your shoe, go for it.

    Really though, when I see what wild animals leave all over….not to mention the industrial sized horse loads….

    Of course I will survive no matter what folks do… Not one of the greater problems facing the world.

  23. Livegreen

    Interesting Len. I recall they’ve associated cat poop with parasites the sea otters have. Apparently they come from eating mice & rats.

    + There are a LOT of cats in some neighbor-hoods and they kill off a LOT of song birds. And nobody picks up at all after the cats.

    Our environmental impact isn’t just us, it’s everything that comes with us. The rats too…

  24. ff

    You are an idiot. If every dog owner on Redwood’s trails just pushed the poop to the side of the trail, it would be like walking through a toilet.

    I have dropped the bag on the trail and picked it up on my return. I am always greatly pleased by the lack of poop on Redwood’s trails. Given I generally run into over 50 dogs on my Saturday hikes, I cannot fathom encouraging that many people to leave it behind, gross!

    I am all for a Lake Merritt dog park.

    And, I stand ready to shame other dog owners into doing the right thing. Speak up people! Don’t just watch it happen! If you get attacked by 10 people when you leave poop behind, maybe you won’t do it anymore! Don’t be silent!

  25. Dax

    Dear FF,
    You are an idiot.

    I have dropped the bag on the trail and picked it up on my return.

    Well, first of all I was not talking about narrow trails such as those you seem to speak about.
    I was talking about fire trails. 8 feet wide, not 2 feet wide.

    Additionally, the park I refer to doesn’t have 50 dogs a week on the fire trails.
    There is 10 times more animal pooh than dog pooh.
    Pooh is OK, plastic bags left to sit for 12 months are not OK.

    However, I don’t like seeing bags of crap left all over the place EVEN by dog owners who say they’ll come back for it.

    If you like it so much, why don’t you just pick it up and take it with you. What is wrong with it that makes it unacceptable to carry it, but OK to leave it there for a hour?

    How about doing the following.
    Pick it up, carry it a few feet off the trail, then drop it out of the bag. Then take your bag with you…. the bag that so many dog owners just never seem to come back for.

    Or how about not only picking up YOUR bag, but those left by other dog owners.
    Be a little pro-active for the bozo dog owners who often never come back.

    Hey, and while you’re at it, pick up that piece of paper you see on the trail.
    Its your duty to do that also, isn’t it?


  26. len raphael

    dax, now you’re on to something. the volume of dog poop around town is tiny compared to the amount of litter.

    gotta encourage residents to adopt sections of blocks for continual litter pickup and dog owners for other people’s dog poop pickups.

  27. Dax

    Len, Every dog owner should carry two bags.
    One for pooh, which they should not leave on the trail until they return, and a second to pick up a few pieces of liter that was “left by someone else”…
    As long as you’re out there, why not pick up a few wrappers or other such items…
    Not just on the trail, but even when you return to your car on the street or parking lot.

    Minimum one piece each time you walk.
    Your duty as a citizen.
    If not YOU, then WHO?