Oakland’s controversial Lake Merritt Dog Park proposal comes to a head … again … on the evening of Tuesday, December 4, and it's gonna be a throwdown. That's in the words of Maria Alderete, owner of Luka’s Taproom & Lounge and about as close to an independent voice as you’ll find in one of Oakland’s longest-running park sagas, now in its fourteenth year.
Just about everyone with an opinion on the matter made a decision and dug in their heels years ago — including councilwoman Nancy Nadel, in whose district the proposed park is located. Nadel has commented on multiple occasions that after so much time invested in the Lakeview Park site, she’s unwilling to consider an alternative location on the lake.
Even Alderete has a dog in the fight — or at least she did; as we reported last July, she was the lead proponent of an alternative site to the embattled Lakeview Park site on the north end of Lake Merritt. That proposal was defeated — temporarily, at least — after the Children’s Fairyland board came out in opposition to the notion of creating a dog park in the former Oakland Police horse stables, located adjacent to the children's amusement park.
In May, the Oakland Planning Commission rejected the original plan for a dog park at MacArthur Boulevard and Lakeshore Avenue, citing various problems with the location. Proponents with the Oakland Dog Owners Group appealed the decision — though it’s unclear on what grounds — which leads us to Tuesday night’s showdown in the Oakland City Council chambers (1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza). The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. but will likely run into the wee hours. Both sides are now doing all they can to rally support for the meeting.
Alderete, who has communicated with city council and city staff about both dog park proposals over the last year and a half, is among those planning to attend. She previously suggested to city council that the hearing be delayed until the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee can complete a new set of guidelines on dog park siting due in January. “It will really be a much-needed guide to objectively evaluate dog park locations and criteria,” she said. “I think it’s very important that we re-evaluate the site selection.”
Despite the planning commission’s rejection of the plan in May, it’s possible that Nadel’s sway on council — and the fact that she’s retiring and wants to wrap up the dog park saga before she does — could shift the advantage in favor of the proponents. We’ll find out on Tuesday.