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300 Attend Meeting on Dog Park

Some criticize city plan to reduce off-leash area in Runyon Canyon.

June 13, 2003|Nita Lelyveld | Times Staff Writer

More than 300 people gathered in a school auditorium Thursday night to hear the city's proposed plans for Runyon Canyon Park, the largest off-leash dog park in Los Angeles.

Many were dog owners who loudly protested the proposal to reduce the off-leash area from 90 acres to five and to add an unpaved parking lot in the park's southern end in Hollywood.

Others who live near the park told the gathering in Hollywood that the crowds at the park were ruining their neighborhood and the dogs were leaving their streets smelling of urine and feces.

Gordon Hessler, who lives near the park's Vista Street entrance, called it an "intolerable situation".

"The pure ecological problem is so massive," he said.

Dog walkers and hikers from throughout the city frequent the 133-acre park, which stretches from Mulholland Drive in the north to just north of Franklin Avenue in Hollywood. Though dogs are supposed to remain on their leashes in certain areas of Runyon, they can run free on about 90 acres. That makes Runyon by far the largest off-leash park in the city. The next largest is about five acres.

There currently is no parking designated for park visitors on the Hollywood end of the park, and a small parking lot accommodating about 25 cars on the north end.

Residents on Vista Street, at one of the southern entrances to the park, have been pushing for another lot inside the park, as well as for more control of dogs inside the park. They have long complained about their street being inundated by park visitors, some of whom let their dogs roam free outside the park gates and do not pick up after them. As a result, residents said, Vista Street is covered in dog urine and feces.

Others have argued against a parking lot, saying that no parkland should be sacrificed to cars and that a lot would only make the park more popular and would not solve the parking problem.

City Councilman Tom LaBonge and Manuel Mollinedo, general manager of the city's Department of Recreation and Parks, said they are trying to balance the community's various needs and a desire to take care of a prime natural resource.

Mollinedo said the task is difficult, because there isn't enough open space.

LaBonge said no decision has been made and that city officials will listen to input.

Stuart Krasnow, who brought his Chihuahua to the meeting, said he moved to Los Angeles from New York six years ago. When he discovered Runyon Canyon, he said, he bought a house nearby.

He said it's a place where "we speak and we glance and we smile and I get to feel like I don't live in L.A."

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