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Parks Panel Opts to Keep Dogs Off 9th Street Beach

City still allows off leash dogs on the beach at First Street and continues to support the dog park as an off leash area too.

After hearing from residents, some who wanted the beach open to dogs others who opposed the idea and some who were looking for a compromise that would work for everyone, the Benicia Parks, Recreation and Cemetery Commission voted unanimously to oppose allowing dogs on the Ninth Street beach adjacent to Alvarez Park.

The commission had been asked to consider a one-year pilot program that would allow dogs at Ninth Street beach.

Most of the citizens who came to the commission meeting at the Benicia Community Center were dog owners who opposed the idea of mixing dogs and families with young children.  City Council member Tom Campbell sat quietly in the back of the room and listened while the public spoke.

“We live and breath dogs – we can’t imagine our lives without them,” said Michelle Gonsalves.  “After reading about the proposal, I am baffled why a third beach is absolutely necessary for dogs.  I just don’t understand.”

Not everyone opposed the idea.  Bill Ostrander talked about taking his dog to the beach at 12th Street park before it was named for shipbuilder Matthew Turner and then seeing that park closed to dogs.

“I favor it (the pilot program)”, said Ostrander.  “I think we do need more public areas for dogs.”

Others, like Jim Gossman and Lori Tanner supported a more nuanced approach, allowing dogs on the beach during times of the day or year when human use is low.  Gossman’s approach would be to limit the hours when dogs could be on the beach and Tanner supported a seasonal approach that would prohibit dogs in the summer months.

In the end, commissioners voted to maintain the status quo and oppose any use of the beach by dogs.

“I have a neighbor who has three lovely kids and he goes down to the Marina Green to fly kites,” said Commissioner Ernie Gutierrez. “He says his kids are intimidated by the number of dogs that are running around off leash.”

Prior to the 6-0 vote to oppose the pilot program Commissioner Rufus Bunch said, “I’m absolutely for keeping it for people because we can be dog friendly but not dog run.”

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Bruno September 13, 2012 at 02:57 PM
I appreciate the fact that the humans are able to continue to enjoy Benicia's unique, coastal spaces without being attacked by dogs! FYI: To the dog owners - clean the poop mounds at Benicia State Park on Saturday, 9/15/12. I have participated (garbage collector) in the event for the last three years as I enjoy living in Benicia. The open spaces and parks are great places to have fun and relax, but unfortunately, the irresponsible dog owners are ruining the paths - even in the "No Dog" areas. So, here is a great opportunity to help keep the parks beautiful...
Joe Feltcher September 13, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Good. I am a dog owner and love them, but there are plenty of places for dogs to roam in Benicia.
Tom September 13, 2012 at 07:08 PM
After attending the meeting I feel it would have been appropriate for the commissioners to speak first then the public could have adressed their concerns which were never brought forth. I think that if dog owners had a legal place to walk their dogs off leash besides the fithly littered prominod beach and the end of 1st street tiny patch of sand feet away from lots of traffic they would use it. Once given a real legal beach ie. 12th street beach? then dog owners could regulate themselves lawfully. Right now this dog friendly town is anything but that (aside from the generous poop bags which I am grateful.) People buy homes and visit towns that are dog friendly, the statistics show that the bay area is a dog oriented area and the financial incentives of being available for those tourists is huge. So lets figure out which real beach can be dog friendly and get our names in all those books and web sites which are so popular as a dog friendly place to live. Don't fool yourself in thinking it's good enough, complience never helps boost an economy let alone community spirit. I love Benicia but there is room for improvement and this is a great area to focus on--lets get a dog park downtown and a beach (real one) for all of our community and visitors.
Lori September 15, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Sadly, it takes more than one day a year to keep our community beautiful.
Lori September 15, 2012 at 05:28 PM
It is unfortunate that this proposal was so easily dismissed. I understand not wanting dogs on the beach in the presence of beachgoers. In fact, had the proposal for the trial period passed, I still would not have taken my dogs to the beach with beachgoers present. Did the people responsible for bringing the idea to the commission offer the compromises of limited dog friendly hours or off season use? The idea may have been better received if they had. These compromises were suggested at the meeting and some opponents to the proposal agreed that they might be worth considering. The enforcement of limited hours seemed to be their biggest concern. Our city is missing an opportunity to have a better 'policed' and cleaner 9th Street beach. A point was well made at the meeting Wednesday night, that responsible dog owners would do a great job of regulating usage at the beach in addition to helping keep it free of trash. As one of the many responsible dog owners in Benicia, I agree. I hope the discussion about a trial period of limited hours on the 9th Street beach will continue to be explored. On another note, the suggestion was made to the commission to seek other beaches that might be more acceptable for off leash dog use. The 12th Street 'beach' was offered as a possibilty. This area is used mainly for fishing and wind/water sports. The hazards of discarded fishing line and hooks are enormous and make this location unacceptable for use by either children or dogs.
Pia Mancini September 15, 2012 at 06:33 PM
It is unfortunate that people, after a UNANIMOUS 6-0 vote by the committee, are STILL insisting on pursuing this idea which is obviously a very bad one. Even after hearing the email letters and all the people speak about the PUBLIC SAFETY issues surrounding this topic, people still want to take their dogs to a beach that is clearly not the right venue to have dogs off leash. WOW. I am astounded. Of all the dog lovers who were at the meeting, I have no doubt that most, if not all, are very responsible. But how about all the others who aren't? What makes you think that even if "dog friendly" hours are posted, that people will abide by it? By their own admission, some of the proponents ignore the NO DOGS sign down there now and STILL bring their dogs. AND THESE ARE THE "RESPONSIBLE" ONES!!! What more will the irresponsible ones do? Come on Lori! As a community, we need to see the bigger picture here. Because once you open the beach to dogs, it's not just going to be you and your responsible friends bringing their dogs down there. You're opening it up to dog owners everywhere who may not be as responsible as you. Seriously, what is it going to take? Numerous dog fights? Humans getting bit? A tragedy where a child gets severely injured and mauled just because YOU want your dog to swim and it absolutely just HAS to be at 9th St.? Come on! Does being published in a magazine trump public safety? 9th St. was ALREADY considered years ago and shot down for a reason!!
Pia Mancini September 15, 2012 at 06:44 PM
OK, so after 9th St. has been shot down not once, but TWICE for public safety issues, you STILL want it to be on the table in the future? Will it take multiple lawsuits to convince you that it's not an appropriate place? You bring up your concerns at the 12st St. Beach which many people agree (even the opponents of your proposal) would be a GREAT alternative. But no ... that's not good enough for you. It has to be what YOU and a small group of people want. Unbelievable! Up until now, I've been really trying to give everyone the benefit of the doubt that common sense and logic will prevail. Because we are all dog lovers here. But part of being a dog lover is doing the RESPONSIBLE thing for the dogs. Putting them in a situation where a tragedy can occur, isn't doing them any favors. Are you aware of how many dogs get euthanized because they are placed in situations where a tragedy could have been prevented, an innocent child gets seriously hurt, and the owner has to surrender the dog and it has to be killed? There are already 2 dog beaches in town. Don't like 12th St. for whatever reason? Come up with another alternative that we can discuss. But 9th St. has ALREADY been discussed ... TWICE. You brought up the issue of fishing lines at 12th St. You do understand that there are also fishing lines at 9th St. right and how tides work? Someone brought up that they don't like bringing their dogs to First St. because of all the glass.
Pia Mancini September 15, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Then that same person talked about how much glass there is at 9th St. too. It was mentioned that the opponents would rather have all the debris at 9th St. instead of all the responsible dog owners. Such a ridiculous statement!!! We're not saying you can't swim your dogs ... we're just saying that the 9th St. Beach is NOT the appropriate place for it not only because of PUBLIC SAFETY, but because families should be able to enjoy the LAST BEACH in town without having to worry about dogs. Because as we all know not all people like dogs. There is a lot of fear and we as a community should be sensitive to those who may not know as much as we do, as well as those who have had substantially traumatic experiences with dogs. To ignore everything that was said at the meeting, as well as the UNANIMOUS decision by the committee, in my humble opinion, is not only irresponsible, but it not very sensitive at all. And this is all coming from someone who absolutely LOVES dogs. If this issue comes up again ... and it seems that you can't and won't let it go, I will be down there again, making my case for the safety of the ENTIRE community. As one member of the council so very beautifully said, "We can be dog friendly, but don't have to be dog run."
Pia Mancini September 15, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Just one more thing to consider ... the so-called responsible dog owners like you wouldn't necessarily be the problem ... it's the out of towner with the pair of bully breed dogs who may or may not want to see those dog friendly hours. If one of our responsible dog owners tries to "police" that person and tell them what's up ... well, guess what ... that person may not want to be told by a Benicia housewife what to do. They see someone getting up in their face telling them what to do, an argument ensues and they're going to settle that matter with a weapon instead. Let's avoid needless tragedies, shall we? We see what has been happening in our neighboring cities. Again ... SEE THE BIGGER PICTURE PEOPLE! Find a more appropriate place for dogs to swim.
Lori September 15, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Pia, I recognize how passionate you are about this issue and I understand your concerns. For the record, the proposal wasn't mine. I just happened to read about it here on the Benicia Patch and decided that I support a rather modified version of it. So I attended the meeting. I would love to sit down with a few of the more rational, open minded people on both sides of this issue to find a solution, be it a compromise or an alternative. I would like to explore all possibilities before discarding any. Regarding the12th Street waterfront, I just want to clarify my previous statement. Anglers are fishing directly from the 'beach' at that location on almost a daily basis, which is very seldom the case on the 9th Street beach. Anglers at 9th St. are along the bluffs or on the pier. It is easy to understand that the number of fish hooks on the ground has much less to do with the tides (and as an avid paddler in the dynamic waters of the Carquinez Straits, it is imperative that I understand tides, but thanks for your concern!) and is more the result of some careless anglers leaving tackle on the ground. It is nearly impossible to let dogs swim in the presence of anglers at 12th St. because of the active lines in the water. I wouldn't take my dogs there to play any sooner than I would take my granddaughter. I'm sure you'll agree that that that particular site isn't such a 'great' alternative. Are there other alternatives? I hope so! Let's find them!
Pia Mancini September 15, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Yes, I totally understand about the anglers. My husband is an avid fisherman and is always frustrated with those who aren't responsible and leave their tackle and hooks everywhere. It's very much like the dog situation! LOL But seriously, I'm not trying to pick fights here and I apologize if my tone comes off as harsh. But you're right ... I am EXTREMELY passionate about this because of the perspective I've gained over the years, not only as a dog lover (because obviously I can completely empathize with your side) but also as someone who has heard about all the horror stories of children's faces being mangled because of loose dogs. So many over the years .... it's absolutely horrific! There have been a couple of stories by people who oppose the proposal at the 9th St. Beach and I'm absolutely astounded by the lack of sympathy/empathy to these people. Dog attacks on children happen ALL the time and it is a very real and traumatic event that stays with the child and family - for the rest of their lives. The lack of concern and empathy towards these members of our community is very surprising. There seems to be more sympathy to the plight of the dogs! I mean come on ... I LOVE dogs, but a child's safety trumps a dog's love of swimming any day of the week - at least in my book. Not only that but truly, the safety of people who may be confronted by dog owners from out of town who may not want to be told what to do is a real one as well. Just one more thing to consider.
Lori September 15, 2012 at 09:12 PM
In that case, I would suggest that the Benicia housewife (or house-husband as the case may be) walk away, whip out their new iPhone 5, and dial 911 rather than confront the armed angry out of towner with the pair of bully breed dogs. Please realize that I typed that somewhat tongue lin cheek, but I honestly hope that's what most intelligent people would do if they were concerned about their personal safety in ANY situation.
Pia Mancini September 15, 2012 at 09:21 PM
I'm not sure if your comment about wanting to speak with more "rational, open minded people" as referring to me or not. LOL But I welcome the opportunity to sit down face to face with you and discuss this topic more. As I'm sure a lot of the other people who emailed and spoke about the opposition would as well. I urge the folks especially whose families were affected by the trauma of dog attacks to join in. It's a sensitive subject but to someone who has never had to experience it, it may just give them the perspective the need to fully appreciate why people are so passionate about this. I am VERY open to a compromise as long as everyone is open to seeing the bigger picture. Someone had brought up sectioning off the beach, different hours, etc.The issue of ENFORCEMENT is what I would want addressed when it comes to these compromises. Does the city have the funding to hire additional ACO's to enforce the hours? Maybe issuing large $$$ fines in citations to individuals who will choose not to abide by the rules. Lord knows the city could use the money and there are lots of people who already could care less about leash laws and picking up their dog's poop everywhere. Enforcement was a huge factor in the committee's decision. If we aren't able to enforce what's in place now ... how will we in the future, especially when public safety is at stake? Dodging dog poop is nothing, compared to making sure people aren't attacked. I agree with you, let's find the alternatives!
Stan Golovich September 15, 2012 at 09:35 PM
The solution is we don't want dogs at Ninth Street beach at any time. I believe the decision can be appealed to council. My guess is it would go 4-1 in support of the commissioners.
John Headley September 15, 2012 at 09:38 PM
This is easily the worst topic of discussion on The Patch. It's so bad even Bobby and Robert have opted not to comment.
Pia Mancini September 15, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Lori, I only mentioned this because you said in an earlier comment that responsible dog owners would do a good job at regulating usage at the beach. I believe this was because someone had mentioned at the meeting that dog owners would call someone out if they see something wrong being done. Just because you and I *hope* that most people would call 911 and not say anything to that person, it doesn't mean that confrontations don't happen. We live in a whole new world now. A lot of people won't have rational conversations like we are now. Beefs are settled in many different ways and obviously pets are a very hot topic and touchy subject. Like I said before ... I'm bringing a different perspective to the table - ones that you may not think about. That's all. As far as "intelligent people" ... well, I think you're giving a lot of humans WAY too much credit ... LOL
Pia Mancini September 15, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Thank you Stan. We need to find an alternative to 12th St. and 9th St.
Pia Mancini September 15, 2012 at 09:56 PM
^^^ LOL! Although it would be interesting to see what they have to say!
Robert Livesay September 16, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Stan I do believe you are right. The mayor would be the one vote.. Pia and John you have now heard from Robert.
Teresa P October 17, 2012 at 07:25 PM
It is disappointing to read these comments. The current dog beach access is unacceptable! A beach where we can safely allow our dogs to swim without the traffic of 1st Street is needed. Face it, people drive to the end of 1st to see the view and don't look at where they are driving. It is a bad situation for dogs! In addition to the glass already mentioned at the end of first, my dog fell into a deep hole which required me to pull him out. Having beach access for specific hours at another beach works in other communities. People knowing when the dogs are allowed is easily resolved by posting signs that include the number for animal control. About a year ago the city updated the signs at the dog park and it really helped! I think that some dog owners are missing the point as would I with my prior dogs when I worked and had limited time to get them out. Now that I have more time, I realize how much better Benicia could be! Much of the arguments about permitting dogs due to bad dog behavior are bogus. Yes a few owners do not pick up after their dogs (whom should be shot at sunset) but there are a lot of responsible owners in this town. Yes,pit bulls can be a problem but, there are nice ones too..... Would you restrict cars because Benicians behave badly on our roads? How about banning all SUVs - starting with the one I saw almost run down a kid on his bike? (btw The kid was doing everything right)

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