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Off-Leash Dog Park Gets Go-Ahead

City Council tosses a bone to dog owners and approves the Mary Avenue dog park.

Residents of Casa De Anza showed up in large numbers again for another public meeting Tuesday trying to dissuade city officials from approving a dog park in their Mary Avenue neighborhood. But they were all bark, no bite.

In a 4-1 vote—Councilmember Rod Sinks providing the only ‘no’ vote—the Cupertino City Council moved forward with plans to build an off-leash dog park in a small triangular area on Mary Avenue near Highway 85 and the Don Burnett Bridge.

About 40 residents—only three spoke in favor of the dog park—armed with children carrying posters decrying health and safety concerns, urged the council to leave the land as it is.

“The location is inappropriate. A dog park shouldn’t affect routine life,” said Devendran Rethinavelu, who has lived in the neighborhood for about three years.

Rethinavelu and others who spoke said their main concern was for the safety of their children and themselves. They are afraid of potential dog bites and say all it takes is one dangerous dog to send a child to the hospital.

“The City’s not going to come back to us and say ‘Sorry’,” said Pushparaj Shanmugam.

Referring to an image of a dog-bitten finger on a poster the group brought Shanmugam said, “If it happened to a small child, what would the City do?”

Safety concerns weren’t limited to dog bites; residents say they are afraid of the soil remediation that is necessary to remove the lead in the soil at the park. They worry that disturbance of the soil could cause the toxins to travel to their nearby homes.

Parking around the dog park is another point of contention for residents. Some said there is a lot of foot and bicycle traffic to and from the bridge, and the park will take up the sidewalk space where people now travel forcing them to use the roadway instead. People will have to walk or ride their bikes behind parked cars putting them in danger of being hit either by vehicles backing out or passing traffic, said Philip Zhao.

The lengthy public comment period included councilmembers querying the residents if they would prefer housing in the empty lot as it is currently designated. One speaker couldn’t accept either option.

“Trees would be best,” he said.

In an attempt to find an alternative solution the council tossed around other options for the city’s first off-leash dog park, but ultimately could come to no other conclusion. So, for outgoing Parks and Recreation Director Mark Linder—who leaves Cupertino to become City Manager of Campbell—he ends his tenure with Cupertino the way he began it almost five years ago.

He introduced the dog park at his first council meeting and at Tuesday’s meeting the dog park was approved with a budget of $500,000. An additional $50,000 was added to the budget to provide a barrier, either a wall or fence of some sort, between the park and the adjacent townhomes.

Bob M February 07, 2013 at 02:06 AM
I think the "dog biting children" concern is more of a fear tactic. All of the local off-leash dog parks I know of are all in Parks, near playgrounds and other areas that get heavy usage by children of all ages. There does not seem to be a bite issue with these off-leash parks. I am glad the council approved it even though I do not have a dog.
Local Reader February 07, 2013 at 03:53 PM
Because the dog owners got other taxpayers' land for their animals we can expect very strict enforcement of the leash law at the parks and schools and for leaving feces at private residences. So far packs go out to these sites with no enforcement, and neighbors take to putting 'no dog poop' signs on their lawn to no avail, well that stops with this dog park. Nothing comes for free, time for the citations!
ElaineY February 08, 2013 at 08:52 PM
Yay! This is a great for the "community". With all the geese poop it's been hard walking our dog at the park. And this allows for our little one to interact and play with other dogs. And for the owners to get to know each other... there are definite benefits to having this and I think the location is perfect... My hope is they will gate it so the neighbors won't feel nervous about the dogs being off lease - we do want to respect their concerns. But I can tell you - most of the dogs are fine - after all they're part of a family and most have little kids in the family. Having this dog park will only enhance our community!

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