Halleck-Beach Dog Park FAQ

Monday, March 13, 2017

Thank you for taking time to visit my blog page. The purpose of this post is to provide the community with information related to the proposed Halleck-Beach dog park.

I am grateful to everyone who reached out to Council to share their views with us. As a fellow dog owner who lives in the Park Avenue District, I appreciate your interest and engagement around this issue. The feedback and sincere concern many of you have shown for bringing a dog park to our neighborhood is welcome.

In the course of my conversations with many of you, it became clear that important facts about the status of this project were missing from the public discussion. I collected my notes on these points and, in the spirit of ensuring all members of the public receive comprehensive and accurate information, have created this blog post.

Some of the answers in this FAQ required vetting and verification by staff to ensure accuracy. While it had been my goal to release this over this past weekend, allowing city staff the time to confirm the accuracy of certain details in the FAQ was done with your interests in mind. As always, my goal is to provide the public with accurate information - I may not always be the fastest source of information, but I will always strive to ensure that what is provided to you is the best and most complete information we can provide.

If you find this kind of post helpful, please let me know. I am interested in gauging the community's interest in receiving regular posts like this on issues we commonly receive questions about. You can subscribe to this blog on the "Contact John" page to receive new information automatically when it becomes available. As someone who is admittedly not a regular user of social media like this, please accept my apologies if this site doesn't have all the bells and whistles you might prefer to see in a blog - this is my very sincere effort to share facts and information with you.

Below are the most frequently asked questions Council received about the Halleck-Beach dog park, along with answers that reflect the information Council was provided, and the sources for that information.

Q1. Is it true that City Council defunded the Halleck-Beach dog park?

A1: No. The Council reviews Emeryville's Capital Improvement Plan ("CIP") annually. This plan contains 85 infrastructure projects across the city. Items included in the plan range from the South Bayfront Bridge and the Emeryville Greenway extension to new traffic/bike safety improvements and affordable housing developments. This plan also includes park projects. The Halleck-Beach dog park still has all $300,000 that were previously earmarked for the construction of a dog park - it has not been defunded.

Q2: If the City Council didn't defund the park, what did it do?

A2: When the City Council reviews the CIP each year, it may make adjustments to the CIP. Adjustments can involve adding/removing items from the CIP, increasing/decreasing funding, restructuring CIP priorities as well as other things. On February 21st, among other adjustments the City Council made to the CIP were changes to the priorities within the parks section of the CIP. Specifically, Temescal Creek and Halleck-Beach were swapped as priorities on the CIP timeline. The consensus was that it was better to deliver some park improvement immediately as opposed to nothing. Temescal Creek does not have the legal, fiscal and operational challenges that Halleck-Beach would have and so making this change in priorities was a reflection of our desire to move projects on the CIP to completion.

Q3: What information did the City Council rely on for their decision?

A3: The City Council received information from a variety of sources that informed the decision leading to the adjustment in priorities. In this case, we received the following types of information from these sources:

  • Lighting and bathroom facility issues at Temescal Creek Park - from the Parks and Recreation Committee, residents, and the Emeryville Police Department;
  • Animal control/safety and day-to-day operational issues related to the operation of the Halleck-Beach dog park - from Piedmont Animal Control (our contracted professional service provider), residents and the Public Works Department; and
  • Legal issues related to the ownership, liability and legal obligations associated with management of the Halleck-Beach dog park - from the City Attorney.

Q4: Was this information ever made available to the public?

A4: Yes. All of the above information was discussed at city committee meetings. In the case of legal information, other staff relayed the information provided to them by the City Attorney. These meetings are open to the public and members of the public attended them and provided input/feedback to the committee(s).

  • On November 16, 2016 the Parks and Recreation Committee held its regular, publicly noticed meeting that included agenda item 5.2: "Update on Temescal Park."
    • Agenda posted on city website HERE
  • On December 15, 2016, the Public Works Committee held its regular, publicly noticed meeting that included agenda item 5.3: "Discussion of Halleck Beach Dog Park with Piedmont Animal Control Representative (Kaufman)."
    • Agenda posted on city website HERE
  • On January 18, 2017, the Parks and Recreation Committee was scheduled to hold its regular, publicly noticed meeting and hear about Halleck-Beach. Any discussion that occurred here was treated as informal because they failed to obtain the quorum necessary to conduct official committee business, although city staff was prepared to present the same information received at the December 2016 Public Works Committee meeting. The meeting was held instead on February 15, 2017 and included agenda item 4.3: "Halleck-Beach Dog Park - Comments and Insight on the Proposed dog park - Maurice Kaufman."
    • Agenda posted on city website HERE

The formal recommendations resulting from those committee meetings:

  • Parks and Recreation Committee recommended to Council at their meeting in November 2016 that lights at Temescal Creek be moved up on the CIP timeline.
    • Please see page two of this link, which has the minutes from the 11/16/16 meeting attached to the February 2017 Parks and Recreation Committee Packet, located HERE
  • Public Works Committee recommended at their meeting in December 2016 that the information gathered from the discussion between the committee, the public, and Piedmont Animal Control be forwarded to City Council.
    • Minutes from that meeting are located on the city website HERE

All members of the public may access information about upcoming committee agendas for any of the local City Council or Standing Committees on the City of Emeryville's website. If you wish to bookmark specific pages for future use, you can use these links:

  • Our Local Committees homepage is HERE
    • On this page you can access information about each committee that the city has. City Council committees are comprised of two members of council and assisted by pertinent staff. Standing committees are comprised of residents.
  • Our Regional Boards/Commissions homepage is HERE
    • On this page you can obtain information about the regional boards/commissions the City is represented on.

Q5: Does the City of Emeryville own the property beneath the 40th/Shellmound Bridge?

A5: No. The property is located entirely within the City of Oakland. Emeryville does not own the land, nor does it have any contractual right or obligation to maintain the land. Emeryville is responsible for maintenance of the footings (where the bridge leaves the ground) and the bridge structure itself. Oakland owns and is responsible for the land.

In the early-mid 1990's the City of Emeryville was working with the City of Oakland and developers on the planning and construction of the East Bay Bridge Shopping Center ("EBB"). At that time, Shellmound Street's southern end was located at the Judson Steel factory, where the IKEA is currently located. 40th Street did not extend west past Adeline. The developer of the EBB paid for the extension of 40th Street west. The City of Emeryville contacted Oakland about obtaining permission to construct a bridge that would connect Shellmound and 40th Streets to provide better traffic circulation, among other things.

The City of Oakland and the City of Emeryville entered into a Memorandum of Understanding that authorized the City of Emeryville to construct a bridge over Oakland's property, provided that the City of Emeryville would agree to the maintenance/upkeep of the bridge in perpetuity. In other words, Oakland was willing to give us the right to build a bridge but they did not want to have any liability for it in the future, a common provision in agreements like this. The information contained in this paragraph has been reviewed and approved by the City Attorney as an accurate reflection of the advice provided to Council and the current legal status of the land at the proposed project site of the Halleck-Beach Dog Park.

Q6: Why can't Emeryville just build the park there anyway? Oakland is willing to let us.

A6: There are a number of considerations that need to be made before a city constructs an improvement in another jurisdiction.

  • Legal: The City of Emeryville would need to negotiate many issues with the City of Oakland before Emeryville could put a park into service at this location. This includes very detailed negotiations around issues such as liability for construction, injury and negligence; ongoing maintenance obligations; animal control services; public works/services infrastructure; public safety provisions; and the structure/type of the agreement. Emeryville Municipal Code would not apply at this property.
  • Fiscal: Committing to this project means spending Emeryville's tax dollars to improve property in Oakland. Before the City builds this project, Emeryville residents need to understand that they may be committing to ongoing financial obligations of unknown amounts for property in Oakland. The CIP only covers design and construction, it does not provide for ongoing costs. Those types of costs come from the general operating funds of the city budget. There are a number of new costs associated with operating this kind of park, including maintenance, public works/utilities, animal control services and other items. These ongoing costs will be outside of the City's existing park maintenance budget because they would require new contracts and the expansion of service area beyond city limits.
  • Animal Control: These issues are described more completely in another FAQ, below.
  • Scope of City Work: There are other kinds of issues associated with making improvements outside the city. Residents at 36th and Peralta are currently residing next to a sanctioned encampment that Oakland created along the Emeryville border within the City of Oakland. Residents have asked Emeryville to go into Oakland to provide trash pick-up and sanitation services to the individuals residing there, among other things. While Emeryville is in regular contact with Oakland about that situation, we do not service that location due to legal, liability and ongoing cost issues. In cases like this, the city has to be careful both not to commit itself to ongoing obligations outside Emeryville, but also to equitable treatment of these kinds of situations when the exist.

Q7: Is it true that part of Temescal Creek Park is also in Oakland? Why isn't there an issue there?

A7: Yes. Temescal Creek Park is located on a single parcel of land that is almost evenly split between Emeryville and Oakland. However, neither city owns the land.

Temescal Creek Park is located on a single parcel of land that is owned by the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District ("the District") - not Emeryville or Oakland. The site was acquired by the District many years ago to serve as a flood control zone, back when Temescal Creek was functional and seasonal flooding was an issue for this area. The City of Emeryville entered into a lease with the District to operate a park on the District's land. We lease all of the land in the park (including the Oakland portion) from the District for $1/year. The operation of that park does not require a management agreement with Oakland because we are leaseholders of property belonging to a special district with its own ownership interest. Oakland has no legal role in the management, maintenance or operation of Temescal Creek Park under our lease with the District. Temescal Creek is part of the city's existing parks budget.

Q8: Doesn't Emeryville have the money to operate this new park?

A8: Not at this time. While many people believe the City of Emeryville is flush with cash, the truth is that the City will be facing some budget decisions this year. There is currently a $1.2m gap to close in the city's operating budget. People often mistake one-time funds that are saved in reserves for one-time expenditures as funds available for ongoing operations. Those are not the same thing and good budget practices require using ongoing revenues for ongoing expenditures. The details of this will be presented to the public at length when the City Council conducts its mid-cycle budget review in April. The Budget & Governance Committee and Budget Advisory Committee did receive a presentation that included this information at length on February 28, 2017. The agenda packet containing some of the information that was discussed is located HERE

Consequently, assuming new and unknown ongoing costs at a time when there is a need to make structural and operational changes to the city's ongoing budget expenditures is not in the city's best interests.

Q9: What are the issues with animal control?

A9: Besides the legal and fiscal items outlined above, staff also raised animal control/safety issues, the majority of which were identified by Piedmont Animal Control ("PAC"), Emeryville's contracted provider of animal control services:

  • PAC currently has no legal authority to service this park. Enforcement would belong to Oakland. PAC cautioned that Oakland is overwhelmed by calls for service and is generally not responsive when they receive calls for service. Because of the remoteness of this location within Oakland, PAC felt that this park would not get a response unless a serious or life-threatening emergency was involved.
  • Assuming that an agreement with Oakland could allow this site to be serviced by PAC, this would require a new contract with Emeryville and it would come at higher, new cost to our city. In the event of bites or incidents, PAC would likely need to patrol parts of West Oakland to identify dog owners who need to be cited. This would also mean expanded service area and potential new costs associated with enforcement. PAC noted that of the four dog areas they service in Piedmont, their lone fenced-in off-leash area accounts for over 50% of their service calls. They anticipate we would see a high service demand here.
  • This park would be built in very close proximity to transient individuals within Oakland; many of whom spend their day at the East Bay Bridge Shopping Center and own animals. PAC feels that we could see dogs belonging to these individuals being left tied to fences while their owners utilize restrooms in Target or while they seek monetary assistance from shoppers. This might lead to an increase in both service calls and calls for police services.
  • PAC noted that abandoned animals are more frequently found near the Berkeley/Emeryville border because Berkeley's shelter has more room for the animals and therefore dogs are less likely to be euthanized than in Oakland.
  • Beach Street is very narrow with two sharp curves and regularly suffers from illegal parking. Oakland does not adequately police this situation under the current circumstances. PAC noted that these factors combined with the park's proximity to the street increases the risk for dog-vs-car incidents if a dog gets off leash or escapes accidentally.
  • PAC noted how cold the location was when they did a site visit on what was described as an otherwise warm, sunny day. They stated that they found it unlikely that people would want to regularly use this location because of the lack of sun access and how much colder it will be both at common times of the day people go outside with dogs (before work, after dinner) as well as during colder seasons of the year.
  • There is the potential for higher disease transmission rates. While it is not uncommon to find dog spaces beneath bridges, these kinds of spaces usually have higher clearance and are open on both sides, allowing for sunlight access. Certain diseases that can be transmitted in dog urine or feces are killed quickly outside the body by exposure to sunlight and warm air. In the absence of sunlight and warmth, urine may puddle longer and feces will not decompose as quickly - extending the time period in which diseases such as leptospirosis can be transmitted between dogs. These issues can be mitigated by responsible practices by dog owners but may require more regular maintenance, increasing ongoing costs.

Q10: What happens next?

A10:The City Council reviews the CIP annually. Council has already given staff direction as to CIP priorities this year. This does not preclude the community from providing input to members of the Council at other times. At the City Council's meeting on March 7th, Council supported my offer to host a forum for the community to ask questions and share ideas about the items discussed in this FAQ. City staff will work to identify a time in the coming weeks for the forum and will publish the date, time and location once available. Thank you for taking the time to obtain information about this CIP project.

I hope this information is helpful to you and I strongly encourage you to come to the community forum with your questions and ideas. Our city is at its best when we have an informed and engaged citizenry. I remain committed to expanding park space for our community and I hope that you will work with me to help see that vision through.