West Hollywood Park will have a place for dogs to play. At a meeting that included comments from various local residents accompanied by their dogs, the City Council last night decided to include two play spaces in the park development plan.
One space would occupy the area to the east of the basketball courts, which sit on the northern end of the park. The other space would be on the eastern side of the basketball courts, facing San Vicente Boulevard. The estimated cost is $1 million. One space could be used for small dogs and the other for large dogs. In both spaces the dogs could play off-leash.
The Council’s decision brings to a close a discussion that began in July when Mayor John D’Amico complained that the then-$80 million park redevelopment plan (it’s now $90 million plus) included three play spaces for children and none for dogs. D’Amico described what he called an “institutional fetishization of kids” by the city, noting that the city’s dog population greatly exceeded its population of children.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2009-2011 American Community Survey estimates that there are 2,465 children in West Hollywood, meaning they constitute seven percent of the city’s 34,361 residents. The Census doesn’t count dogs. The uproar over the failure of the original park plan to include a dog park reflects the gay orientation of the city. Forty percent of the city’s population consists of gay men, who are more likely to be childless than are heterosexual residents. Nearly half of the city’s households are occupied by people living alone or with roommates.
Some speakers last night argued that dogs should receive the same consideration as children.
“For many of us, dogs are our children,” said Heidi Shink, a city planning commissioner who is running for City Council. “I think they deserve the same exact consideration that our children would get.”
There is no count of the number of dogs in West Hollywood because many aren’t registered as required by local ordinances. However Chris Rolczynski noted that “Dudes with Dogs,” a largely gay group of dog owners that he founded in February, already has 2,750 members, most of them in the West Hollywood area.
The Council’s decision incorporates elements of two of five options presented by city staff members. At last night’s meeting, in explaining the $750,000 option, the park designers noted that $505,000 would go toward actual construction of the dog park. Another $110,000 would be spent to connect the dog park and with the alley to its north. And, because the dog park wasn’t included in the initial park plan, another $135,000 was budgeted for design and management of the project.
The proposal endorsed by the Council will mean the loss of some or all of the 11 parking spaces on the alley to the north of the park. But city staff members said they will investigate the possibility of retaining some parking in the area.