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    Council Makes Belmont Shore "Dog Zone" Near Permanent

    (Sept. 22, 2004) -- Extending a pilot project begun in August 2003, the LB City Council voted at its Sept. 21 meeting to grant near permanent status to LB's "dog zone" -- a designated portion of Belmont Shore beachfront.

    On motion by 3d district Councilman Frank Colonna, Councilmembers voted 8-0 (Reyes Uranga absent) to amend city law [not totally permanent because a future Council could change it] to permit the Dog Zone during certain hours (details on link below) from the half-way point between Argonne and St. Joseph Aves. to the half-way point between Roycroft and Quincy Aves.

    Use of the Dog Zone is subject to a number of rules (including a very important "one dog per adult"). To view the rules, hours, details and see a map click Dog Zone Info via LB Dept. of Parks, Rec & Marine.

    LB is L.A. County's first city to let dogs run legally leash-free along its beachfront during certain hours. OC's Huntington Beach has had a beachfront dog zone for several years.

    In presenting his motion, Councilman Colonna said, "We welcome this...Our city is going through a great renaissance, and what better way to sort of showcase what the city is all about than to also open up our arms and hearts to people who love their animals to bring them to the beach, they have a designated area."

    A city staff memo to Councilmembers recommended approving the Dog Zone and said that in its first 15 months as a pilot project, it's drawn roughly 700-900 dogs a week.

    City staff acknowledged that it had received about a dozen reports of incidents in the fifteen months of the pilot program, including "dogs chasing (or aggressively approaching) joggers and pedestrians, unleashed dogs crossing the beach bike path [a June 2004 indicated this caused a bike accident] and small dogs being attacked by large dogs"...but it said no people have been bitten.

    As for health concerns, City Hall hired an environmental firm to perform a public health risk assessment...and city staff said the assessment concluded:

    Water samples analyzed for bacteria suggest that the Dog Zone has not adversely affected water quality at the beach...

    The data suggests [sic] no direct correlation between fecal coliform concentrations and dog use with the Dog Zone when compared to other areas of the beach where dogs are prohibited.

    Although some dog owners have failed to pick up after their dogs, the resulting increase in fecal matter does not appear to cause a significant difference in the quality of the beach between the Dog Zone and other areas of the beach.

    It is unlikely that the presence of dog feces in the Dog Zone would be the cause of illness.

    City staff's conclusions did not impress Belmont Shore resident Hank Schwarz, who called the Dog Zone "a disaster for the city...for the city's reputation...for its tourism industry, a disaster for our community at Belmont Shore...[a] beachfront toilet for a couple of hundred pet owners." Mr. Schwarz called the City Hall hired public health risk assessment an "obviously transparent and flawed technical study...[that used] methodology good for high dispersion environments like air and water, not for sand. It's a joke."

    The LB Dog Zone project was spearheaded by Justin Rudd, an civic whirlwind and internet whiz who maintains an unofficial dog zone web site at addition to conducting (for the past seven years) 30 minute beach cleanups and separately organizing dog zone events (announced on another one of his web sites:

    Mr. Rudd told the Council, "You've got probably five million people in the Los Angeles area that have dogs that are going to hear about this. They're going to come down and see how progressive Long Beach is and I thank you for taking that step."

    LB's Marine Advisory Commission recommended that the Council extend the pilot program and develop an enforcement program "without increased cost to the City" while urging an "association of patrons [to] take on greater responsibility toward successful operation of the Dog Zone." The Advisory panel also suggested that city staff evaluate current dog zone signage and make improvements to improve patron compliance and minimize potential impacts to other beachgoers.

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