Beverly Hills News – Dog Park Is A Reality: Council Moves to Go Forward
Posted: Wednesday, October 21, 2015 – 11:48 AM
By Victoria Talbot
Following a session with the Council Chamber filled to capacity and spilling over into an overflow room that lasted until nearly 1 a.m., the Beverly Hills City Council gave staff directions to go forward with an off-leash dog park at the corner of Alden Drive and Foothill Road.
All five councilmembers agreed to move forward with the project, with some details yet to be worked out. The dog park is going forward, and the next step is to consider approval of the design/construction document and the Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) presented in August, said City Manager Mahdi Aluzri.
Supporters and opponents filled over 100 speaker cards and public comment continued to about 11:30 p.m.
Passions flared on both sides, with some comments eliciting remarks from the crowd, others ending in applause from one side or the other.
But the dog park prevailed and the City will go forward with plans.
City staff have been directed to examine issues related to limiting access, having a full-time ranger and possibly shortening the recommended hours of 6 am- 10 p.m. to 8 a.m – 8 p.m.
Staff has been asked to investigate a way to determine that dogs who enter the dog park have been vaccinated and are spayed or neutered. Staff has also been directed to examine limiting access and keyed entry, but also to examine ways to expand the entry to include the City’s hotel guests and businesses, which Aluzri said was doable.
Councilmember Lili Bosse, who made the dog park her top priority last year as mayor, championed the evening.
Looking at the huge stack of comment cards, Mayor Julian Gold asked if speakers could limit their comments to just, “oppose” and “support” to facilitate an earlier ending to the meeting.
Councilmember Bosse objected, pointing out that the public had made a great deal of effort to come to the meeting so their voices could be heard, and they should be permitted to speak. Gold relented, granting 90-seconds to each speaker, instead of the usual three minutes.
Opposition came from the four orthodox synagogues located in the area, particularly from Young Israel of North Beverly Hills, led by Rabbi Pini Dunner. Clearly, congregants fear that dogs pose a danger to their families walking to and from the synagogue. Though other issues were brought up, such as the American With Disabilities Act compliance (for which City compliance is mandated), to complaints of dog waste on the sidewalk, the majority of the speakers in opposition feared being bitten or attacked by dogs.
Support came from commissioners past and present, hotel owners and the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce, as well as neighboring Bruce Schulman of Beverly Hills Mercedes Benz, Teri Austin, president of the Amanda Foundation, Dr. David Winters of the Beverly Hills Small Animal Hospital, Animal Advocates Tina Sinatra and Bill Crowe of the PetCare Foundation and many members of the community, both with and without dogs.
Several residents pledged financial support, as well, including Marcia Hobbs, president and publisher of the Beverly Hills Courier.
Rabbi Dunner said that he is against the dog park. “I have legitimate concerns, that it would have a detrimental affect on the local synagogues,” he said. “With mitigations and compromises we could tolerate it. Despite attempts and promises, this has not been the case.”
Through three very long and detailed special public meetings with the Recreation and Parks (R&P) Commission, four meetings with city council and R&P liaisons, and numerous efforts to meticulously walk through every single point he brought up, Dunner insists that not one thing has been done to satisfy his conditions of mitigation.
Dunner has said that he wanted a children’s playground there and that he wanted to close the park on Saturdays for the Sabbath and on high holy days, so that no dogs will be on the sidewalks when his constituents walk to temple.
Mitigation of the arsenic-tainted soil on the lot would be prohibitively expensive if it were to be used for a children’s playground, residential use or habitation, including removal of soil to a much deeper level. Passive use, such as a dog park, requires a different level of mitigation, digging down to remove the top 12-inches of soil. Clean soil will fill to six inches, and a barrier put in place; then another six inches of clean soil. On top of that would be decomposed granite. Arsenic does not travel within the soil and it does not seep into groundwater, according to the Department of Toxic Substance Control. Once mitigated, it would remain stabilized.
The R&P Commission did not support closing the park on the weekend, when most people will be off work to use the park.
Councilmember Willie Brien gave his support and conditions, but left before the meeting ended. He stated that he would have liked to have had time to be more detailed in his questioning. Councilmember Nancy Krasne almost departed before the final poll was taken, but remained at Bosse’s insistence. “Let’s finish this,” she said.
Bosse was intent on seeing that the item was not continued over to the next meeting of the City Council and that the ball was moved forward after ten years of trying to get a dog park in Beverly Hills.
The Council made concessions to Dunner that included having staff look into having a ranger posted when the park is open, at least for the first six months, to see if it is necessary. The Council also said that they wanted to keep communications open and frequent between the R&P Commissioners, City Staff and the synagogues, to monitor any issues.