Monday, April 30, 2012

Lake Merritt Dog Park Showdown at Wednesday's Planning Commission Meeting

By Nate Seltenrich
Mon, Apr 30, 2012 at 1:16 PM

Controversy over a proposed Lake Merritt dog park in the works since 1998 should come to a head at Oakland City Hall on Wednesday, when the Planning Commission decides whether or not to grant the project a Conditional Use Permit.

Despite support from councilwoman Nancy Nadel, in whose district the 20,000-square-foot park would be located, it’s not clear which way the vote will go due to potential conflicts with Oakland's Open Space, Conservation, and Recreation zoning guidelines, which prioritize active recreation and open space preservation in the Lake Merritt area and encourage development of underutilized resources. The dog run under consideration at the corner of Lakeshore Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard would replace a portion of the popular lawn area at the northeastern corner of Lakeside Park.

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One thing is certain: Both sides will be out in force at the Wednesday meeting. Our story on the conflict last March drew eighty mostly heated comments within a week, and a strictly informational public meeting the following week drew more than 200 people.

In the year since then, the two sides have only dug in. Proponents with the Oakland Dog Owners Group submitted a final Conditional Use Permit application in November, and in recent weeks have encouraged backers to voice their support at the Planning Commission meeting. A post on the ODOG website promises “dog owners by the hundreds” at the meeting, saying, “We need to make it very clear to city officials that Oakland will benefit from having new community space at the corner of Lakeshore and MacArthur.”

Opponents with Save Astro Park have been doing their share of outreach, too. According to member Steve Saffold, the group collected the names and emails of more than 1,700 local residents concerned about the dog park proposal via an informational table over the course of eight Saturday mornings.

The Planning Commission meeting takes place at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 2, in the council chambers at Oakland City Hall, One Frank Ogawa Plaza. No matter the outcome, an appeal is likely.

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