Neighbors and dog advocates turned out in force at the May 17th City Council meeting to thrust the Oakland/Emeryville dog park project into the Capital Improvement Plan priority discussion. A project that had lingered in the CIP “unfunded” column for two years prior. A project that had failed to gain any substantial traction with a majority of our council despite fitting their designated priorities of improving public safety, adding to our stock of park/open space & improving our interconnectivity. A project that has challenged the city to look beyond its strict borders and look at the region and how we connect to neighboring cities.
An estimated twenty people including representatives of Oakland Dog Owners Group (ODOG), Target, West Oakland Neighbors (WON), PARC and The E’ville Eye came out in behalf of the project that garnered almost 500 petition signatures and various letters from community stakeholders in barely a week. In fact, everyone in attendance spoke on behalf of the project effectively forcing council to acknowledge the community’s desire for it to come to fruition. The estimated $300K project was low-hanging fruit among the 86 projects on the list totaling $115 million that included the $22 million South Bayfront Bridge and $16 million Center for the Arts.
During the council discussion, Councilmember Davis noted how the relatively small project would “enhance that entire neighborhood … and that is what this city is all about”. Councilmember Atkin reiterated the “Bang for the Buck” factor of the project. Mayor Dianne Martinez likened it to the recently opened skate park and how it brought people together. “I’d like to see the same thing happen with this dog park”. Concerns with the park included the desire for a contribution from Oakland and acknowledging the ongoing challenges with encampment in the area by earmarking budget to contribute to our regional homeless issues.
The Council ultimately voted to fund the project and the city officially adopted the 2017-2021 five-year CIP at the June 21st Council meeting [2:25:51]: A victory for neighboring businesses, dogs and most of all residents.
Additional Benefits of the Project: Bicycle Connectivity and Safety
An additional benefit of the project would be improved bicycle/pedestrian connectivity with the planned Sherwin-Williams greenway extension. A path that will surely be used for trips to neighboring Target and the connecting Mandela Parkway route to West Oakland BART. Bicyclists could choose to avoid the congested 40th & Horton intersection where most documented vehicle collisions with bikes and pedestrians have occurred.
The park would also reduce the burden of having a dedicated space for dogs at the forthcoming Sherwin-Williams project and the two acres of included green space. This could open the space up to other amenities such as a desired community garden, children’s play area or adult recreational facilities.
The Dog Park in tandem with the Greenway Extension at the Sherwin-Williams Project would improve the safety and interconnectivity between Emeryville & Oakland.
Next steps for the project
The project has already been added to the September 6th Council meeting as an action item which should help keep the momentum going. The City is already exploring adding LED lighting to the bridge that should be completed before any park construction takes place. Unresolved challenges for the space include insurance and the inclusion of a maintenance plan but staff expressed confidence that these could be resolved. City Manager Carolyn Lehr estimated the timetable of the project to be between a year and a year and a half. Public Works Director Maurice Kaufman also provided news that the city has procured a $25,000 PetSafe Bark For Your Park grant with the help of The E’ville Eye.
Integral to the project would be public art to enliven the space and The E’ville Eye is already working on facilitating this through Community Development Coordinator Amber Evans. Funding would likely happen through a crowdfunding campaign involving the purchase of donor bricks and selling personalized pet commissions. We’ve already reached out to East Bay Bridge Shopping Center artist Mark Bulwinkle, LA Arts District Dog Park artist Septerhed and The Estria Foundation.