Seeking to end a politically touchy dispute, Los Angeles City Councilman Michael Woo has proposed that the city, on a six-month trial basis, allow dogs to run free in Laurel Canyon Park during limited hours.
Woo's compromise "share-the-park" proposal requires the approval of City Council and the Recreation and Park Commission. In December, 1985, the commission went on record supporting a dog run in a fenced-off section of Laurel Canyon Park.
The council usually defers to its members on matters affecting their districts. The park became part of Woo's district after last year's redrawing of council boundaries. It had been in Councilman Joel Wachs' district.
But Woo's proposal first must go through the council's Recreation, Library and Cultural Affairs Committee, where a proposal to establish a dog run at Laurel Canyon Park has languished for a year because of opposition from Wachs, the committee chairman. Wachs was out of town and unavailable for comment Wednesday. He has said he will continue to take a keen interest in matters involving his old district.
The tiny park off Mulholland Drive has been the subject of a bitter dispute for more than two years between dog owners who let their pets run free and animal-control officers enforcing the city's leash law.
Officers have responded to complaints from people with children who say as many as 50 dogs running free on weekends have interfered with their enjoyment of the four-acre park. Dog owners have complained that the officers have been overzealous in enforcing the leash law at the park.
Woo's proposal, introduced at Wednesday's council meeting, asks the council to call on the Recreation and Park Commission to allow dogs to run free in the park from dawn until 9 a.m. and from 4 p.m. until the park closes at 10:30 p.m. At other times, only dogs on leashes would be permitted in the park. After six months, the city departments of Animal Regulation and Recreation and Parks would evaluate the program and recommend whether or not it should be made permanent.
"I'm trying to develop a Solomon-like compromise that will enable dog owners to use the park but also establish hours when people would be able to have picnics without worrying about dogs off leash," Woo said.
Opposes Woo's Plan
However, Pam Gelles, president of the Laurel Canyon Parents Assn., said in an interview that she opposes Woo's proposal. "It's too hot to go to the park for the hours we're getting it," she said. Gelles complained that parents who hold jobs would be unable to take their children to the park after work without encountering loose dogs.
The leader of Park Watch, a group of dog owners who use the park, said she is thrilled by Woo's proposal. "We intend to do everything we can to implement this plan so there will not be just one dog park but several in the city," Jane Purse said.
Responding to Gelles' criticism, Purse said, "I see no reason why they should complain. They're getting the park the greater part of the day."
Woo's proposal also asks the commission to choose a park where dogs could run off leash at all hours. "This will allow for a comparison to find the best way of allowing the city's parks to be used by dog owners and families with children alike."