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Sorry Santa Monica, No Dog Beach For You

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The proposed pilot program to put an off-leash dog beach in Santa Monica has been buried like Fido's favorite bone, after state officials made it clear this week they will not approve the plan.

Santa Monica city officials have been pursuing the pilot program for some time, and have been engaging with State Parks officials in discussion on the feasibility of such a program. A memo issued November 14 from Barbara Stinchfield, Community and Cultural Services Director, to the Santa Monica Mayor and City Council explains what happened between the City and the State Parks department:

The concerns remain the same as those stated during the previous attempt to establish a dog beach in 2005: the risk to threatened species, such as the snowy plover, and to sensitive ecosystems, the possible threat to the safety of visitors, wildlife, other dogs, interference or displacement of recreational users, and health issues related to dog feces and dog urine in the water and sand. State Parks staff offered to continue discussions with the City about this issue; however, in light of staff reductions and budget cuts at the State level, it was made clear that there was no chance for a pilot program to move forward at this time

.On the issue of the potential water pollution from the pooches, Heal the Bay's Mark Gold writes:

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Santa Monica taxpayers have spent millions of dollars cleaning up local beaches (over $2.5 million on the successful Santa Monica Pier cleanup alone), so adding a new source of fecal bacteria to our local beaches doesn’t make any sense in these financially challenging times. Also, it makes even less sense from a Clean Water Act compliance perspective. Especially if we’re trying to protect the public from health risks. Swimming in waters with high fecal bacteria densities is highly correlated with illness, especially stomach flu.

Advocates for an off-leash dog beach have organized themselves into a group called Unleash the Beach, and have been working tirelessly on the endeavor for some time now. Though the City Council gave the proponents of the dog beach some encouraging news by approving the pilot program, without State Parks signing off, the program is moot.

There are over 60 beaches in California that are dog-friendly, and a 2006 state report finds that "there has been no evidence of higher bacteria levels or other water quality problems relative to other city beaches." Of those 60 beaches, however, there is only one in L.A. County, Long Beach's Rosie's Dog Beach.