Parks and Rec officials hear pros and cons of dogs in parks

They’re known as man’s best friend and, in many cases, valued members of families.

But dogs also do their business in parks where people congregate, and may be prone to unpredictable behavior.

Speakers at last week’s Los Altos Parks and Recreation Commission meeting underlined these latter points as commissioners reviewed a draft community survey to determine interest in a fenced-in dog park or off-leash hours at city parks.

Pros and cons

Zahra Ardehali, who lives in the Grant Park neighborhood, described the park as overrun with off-leash dogs, in violation of current city code.

“It’s very disturbing that (dog owners) do not follow the law,” she told commissioners at their Nov. 8 meeting, adding that many owners do not clean up after their dogs.

Ardehali noted that the draft survey did not allow a voice for people objecting to either the fenced-in park or off-leash hours option.

Los Altos resident Premika Ratnam, a self-described dog lover, said dogs are a “health hazard,” especially for children. She cited a statistic that kids are the victims of 95 percent of dog bites.

“If you do have a dog park, it should be in a fenced-in area,” Ratnam said. “It’s very important to respect our children. … Not all dogs are trainable.”

In response to feedback, commissioners agreed to amend the survey to allow input from those opposed to the off-leash hours or fenced-in park.

Dog park supporters also were on hand to remind the commission of the benefits.

Catherine Stansbury, who grew up in Los Altos Hills and has trained dogs for years, said the number of dog parks is on the rise across the country and noted that they offer opportunities for people to meet and socialize.

“Dog parks are booming,” said Stansbury, who has collected more than 1,000 signatures in support of a fenced-in dog area at Lincoln Park. “They create a sense of community.”

The online survey will be part of an “Open City Hall” forum on the city’s website at a date yet to be determined.

Weighing in on Hillview

The Parks and Recreation Commission, with five of the seven members attending last week’s meeting, offered feedback to the Hillview Community Center Project Task Force as it wraps up its work on the center rebuild.

Commissioners’ feedback included an emphasis on increased park or green space, creating opportunities for multigenerational space and an option for drop-in child care for school-age kids.

The child care element resulted from discussion of a controversial proposal to retain Children’s Corner preschool as part of the Hillview plans.

Several speakers feared that the city would pay the costs of adding space to accommodate what they consider a private entity.

Commissioner Mike Ellerin, in particular, pushed the discussion over whether the commission should consider alternative uses for the preschool at the center.

Resident Maria Lonergan, who lives five blocks from the Hillview site, reinforced a message that she has relayed at numerous public meetings: The city should build a modest-sized center “in keeping with our small-city character.” Lonergan co-founded the grassroots group Community Center Alliance, which has lobbied for more public engagement and for the city to consider a master plan for all its recreational buildings.

Citing Cuesta Park in Mountain View as an example, Los Altos resident Robin Chapman said city leaders should focus more on creating open park space around the center, keeping it “simple and beautiful.”

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