DEL MAR — In the name of public health and safety, dogs will soon be prohibited on the tot lot and a small grassy portion of Powerhouse Park just to the north of it. Following a recommendation from the Parks and Recreation Committee, councilmembers directed staff at the April 15 meeting to craft a new law that would make the area on Coast Boulevard, excluding the pathway, dog-free and barefoot-friendly.
The idea was prompted by a request from resident Rick Ehrenfeld, who was inspired after seeing a similar ordinance in Los Angeles.
“My hope is to create a barefoot-friendly area,” said Ehrenfeld, the only speaker to address council on the item. “We were all kind of amazed that dogs are allowed in the tot lot. The city is way behind by allowing dogs into playgrounds.
“It’s not an intimidating thing. It’s a suggestion,” he added. “Grass that kids play on should not be the same grass that dogs poop on. There’s a problem here that we’ve got in terms of both health and safety when you mix dogs and kids.”
Ehrenfeld said he has as a cell phone “full of pictures of the messes on that lawn.”
“Nobody’s dog ever does it but it’s there,” he said. “I don’t want to take my granddaughter down there and have her play around on the grass and have to watch the whole time to see (if she is) stepping in something (or) touching something and sticking her hand in her mouth.
“It’s time for Del Mar to get kid friendly,” he said.
“The image of barefoot in the park is nice but I think the core issue is public safety and coexistence of dogs, pets and small children,” Councilman Don Mosier said.
Mosier, who holds medical and doctorate degrees, cited an online report from the Centers for Disease Control that notes every country collects data on diseases that are transmitted between dogs, cats and humans except the United States because of funding cuts.
“So we know what it’s like out there,” he said.
Mosier said many of the transmitted diseases are bacterial infections, some of which are serious, while others are not.
“A lot of them cause diarrhea,” Mosier said, adding that because that is common among young children, many doctors simply treat the symptom.
“Very few pediatricians diagnose these diseases because you need an infectious disease expert with the appropriate test to make a diagnosis,” Mosier said.
“The data from around the world says this is a problem,” he added. “I’d do this as a public safety issue. I don’t care whether people go barefoot in the park or not. … I think this is a wise recommendation and something that’s really long overdue for Del Mar.”
His colleagues agreed unanimously.
“I think this is a positive thing for the community,” Mayor Terry Sinnott said. “We do a lot for dog owners. We should continue doing that, but I also think we have young families in the community that need this kind of asset. … I think the concept of having this area for young families without the dog interaction is a positive thing.”
Staff will return with a draft ordinance at a future meeting. Signs, which are estimated to cost no more than $300, should be “lighthearted,” Sinnott said.
Leashed dogs are allowed at city parks. Off-leash canines are permitted during certain hours and times of the year at the Shores property and on the north end of the city at what is known as Dog Beach.