Feb 7 2016

Dog Rules Proposed for Dracena Park

At the February 3, 2016  Park Commission meeting, the commissioners voted unanimously to approve the Subcommittee Report recommendations along with the new off leash map, while asking that additional off leash space be incorporated in the area under the trees near Dracena Avenue.   Some Commissioners expressed interest in revising the plan to improve the wooded seating area and the ivy area adjacent to the benches to become off leash.  Staff was asked to devise a plan to accommodate this issue.

The lawn loop would be 50/50 on leash and off leash.

At the start of the meeting, Commissioner Jonathan Levine gave a summary of the Subcommittee report and Chairwoman Patty Siskind told speakers that their questions would be compiled during the public portion of the meeting and answered after the public portion was closed.  There were no direct exchanges with Commissioners.

Based on Commissioner Levine’s comments, the basis for the new plan is an error in the City Code that describes the current off leash areas of the park.  According to the Commissioner, the code says that the off leash area is the “pathway” from Arutna to Dracena,  that means there is one linear off leash trail, the ravine or lower trial, that runs from Dracena to Artuna.  Therefore, he concluded that the current off leash trails designated by city signage are not in compliance with city code and are invalid.   Commissioner Levine also said that the Piedmont Animal Control officer indicated the dog run signs were wrong. He did not address a question about how a Council-approved 2000 modification to the City Code that adopted the current trail designations related to the subcommittee’s finding on the City Code.

A major determinant of support for the recommendation by Commissioners seems to be the need to establish a buffer zone for the Dracena Avenue neighbors, a concept neighbors stated was the basis for the 1993 consensus that established the current trail designations. Minutes from the 1993 Park Commission hearings contain no reference to this concept.

Neighbors have been concerned that the grassy area will be overrun by off leash dogs leaving only dirt and dog messes.  Others expressed a desire for the area to continue to be available for free play by children.

Most speakers asked that the current lawn loop remain off leash, some citing that this flat area is the only off leash trail in Piedmont on which they can walk their dogs. 
Others were concerned that the reduction of the off leash area around the seating area will impact the socialization that occurs there.  Several asked that hours remain as they are or possibly be extended citing their work schedules.
Many speakers criticized the staff analysis claim that 31% of Piedmont parks are off leash dog areas. For instance, Blair Park was included, ramping up the percentage, although the park is little used and is unfenced along Moraga Avenue.  Commissioner Levine acknowledged that this analysis was not a factor in his decision.


The Park Commission proposed changes to the Dracena Park dog area:

  • Addition of an OFF-leash 10-20 foot swath of lawn from the oak tree to the pathway leading to the seating area.
  • A stone wall to define the transition from OFF to ON leash lawn (CHANGE).
  • OFF-leash allowed on the pathways leading to the lawn from Artuna (NO CHANGE).
  •  ON-leash required for dogs entering from Blair Avenue and passing through to the seating area and visa versa.
  • The lawn loop will be 50/50 OFF and ON leash, the section nearest Dracena Avenue will be ON leash, the lower portion OFF leash.
  • Gates at two points along the loop to define the transitions.
  • Owners not allowed to walk their dog OFF leash entirely around the loop.  (reduced OFF-leash area around the seating area in the woods.)
  • All understory from the pathway to Dracena Avenue ON leash – no dogs in the ivy.
  • Benches turned around to face the woods.
  • Reduced hours of use – 7:00am – 8:00pm on weekdays, 8:00am – 8:00pm weekends
  • Possible addition of dog fountain.
 Recommendations are predicated on the conclusion that:
  • Current OFF leash area and signage as defined in City Code is incorrect
  • Piedmont Parks are 31% OFF-lease to dogs already. That number is arrived at by adding up all the off-leash areas in Linda, Piedmont, Dracena and Blair parks, irregardless of slope. In particular, Blair Park is considered 100% acceptable as an OFF-leash dog run.

Staff did know when the City Council would take up the Park Commission’s recommendations.

Send questions and comments to Nancy Kent, City Park and Projects Manager, nkent@ci.piedmont.ca.us  or to the City Council via City Clerk John Tulloch at jtulloch@ci.piedmont.ca.us.

 Read the staff report and committee recommendations here.

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