With a unanimous vote, Santa Monica’s City Council settled the Airport dog park controversy that had been ongoing since the park’s April 29 opening by voting to allow non-residents and their dogs complete access to the park.
Now, non-residents who wish to utilize the Airport Park’s .83-acre off-leash area can do so by annually purchasing a recognizable dog tag from the City of Santa Monica for a processing fee of $15.50. However, according to the City staff report, “If usage patterns change and grow to a point where maintenance needs cannot be met with budgeted operating funds” the policy will be re-examined.
Like other City off-leash dog parks, Airport Park was limited in use to residents only in order to comply with the policy that was adopted by the City in 1998 because of the significant demand placed on the dog parks by residents. Mar Vista dog owners who live near the park have been particularly upset by the policy because the park is within walking distance to many of their homes. The Mar Vista Community Council’s Board of Directors passed a resolution on May 8 calling for Santa Monica to “reconsider its ban on Mar Vista dogs” and open the dog area “to all licensed dogs regardless of their city of origin.”
Before making a recommendation to the Council at the September 11 meeting, City staff assessed the use patterns of the off-leash area. According to Karen Ginsberg, the City’s Assistant Director of Community and Cultural Affairs, the assessment found that since the April opening, “At no time has the off-leash area reached its capacity of 45 dogs at any one time. In fact, only a maximum of 24 dogs were found.”
Mar Vista Community Council Board of Directors member Tom Ponton told the Council “the $15.50 fee is not an issue for us.”
Mar Vista resident Glen Wynn emphasized that even though the City would be allowing non-residents to use the park, she and others would “continue to work for more dog park space in Los Angeles parks.”
Before the Council vote, Mayor Richard Bloom stated, “This was a contentious issue. I understand why people were upset. They couldn’t access the park in the beginning, but the fact is [City] staff was on top of the issue from the get-go.”
The approved policy differed from what was recommended by the City Parks and Recreation Commission, which suggested “that non-residents with valid dog licenses and rabies certificates be granted access to the…off-leach dog area at no charge for a six-month pilot period, during which time data would be collected to better understand use patterns.”
2008 Santa Monica Dog Tags go on sale around November 1.
In other Council news, approvals were given to Macerich which will allow the company to proceed with its remodel of Santa Monica Place.
The remodel, according to Macerich officials, will include tearing off the mall’s roof and doors, creating an open-air extension of the Promenade, moving the food court to the third level, creating open public spaces, modifying the mall’s entrances and creating a more vibrant dining and shopping experience.
Macerich officials also noted that the remodel would give the City public benefits such as additional tax revenue for City programs, family restrooms, a public art installation, a community gallery and an improved community room.
The Council approval included the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) findings which found that the project “could have a significant effect on the environment,” but that those effects could be mitigated. Also approved was the finding that the project conforms to the City’s Downtown Redevelopment Plan.
The City’s Architectural Review Board and Arts Commission will now review the project. Construction is expected to start in 2008, will last approximately 20 months and the mall will reopen in 2009. During construction, only the parking decks and Macy’s will remain open.
The Council also approved the creation of Preferential Parking Zone U to restrict parking in the neighborhood south of Pico and west of Lincoln, across from Samohi. Now, only those with a permit will be able to park on Bay Street between Lincoln Boulevard and 6th Street, and on 6th Street between Pico Boulevard to the dead-end (eastern portion of 6th) between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. The other streets in the zone will limit parking to two hours for those without a permit.
According to the City staff report, this residential neighborhood “is the last remaining neighborhood adjacent to the high school that does not have preferential parking regulations. This area has not been granted restrictions because it is located in the California Coastal Zone, and the Commission had previously indicated that additional daytime restrictions would not be approved. However, Commission staff has recently indicated that the City could ask, clearly stating that the parking demand is from the high school and not related to beach access.”
Samohi Class President Elan Benmir told the Council, “The hours we [the students] park are generally those the residents are working or not at home.” However, the Council’s vote reflected the sentiments of those residents who live near the high school, as expressed by Jennifer Hornstock: “I’m a prisoner in my home eight, nine months out of the year. I can’t leave during the day for fear of not being able to park anywhere on my street when I come back.”