Del Mar votes to expand Dog Beach

DEL MAR, Calif. – Dog Beach in Del Mar is expanding.

The city council voted Monday night to increase the area known as Dog Beach and also allow more time that dogs can be unleashed.

It was a debate that lasted two and half hours. Nearly two dozen dog owners showed up to speak in support of changing the rules regarding Del Mar’s dog-friendly beaches.

“They’re our partners, they’re family members, they mean so much to us,” said one man.

“You need to draw the lines set some clear rules,” said another woman.

The rules regarding Dog Beach have not changed in 30 years. Now, the new rules will include off-leash time from dawn until 8 a.m. year-round at beaches from 25th Street to the border of Solana Beach.

Rules for the main beach at 25thStreet and south remained the same. Dogs are only allowed if they’re on a leash.

Under current rules, dogs must be leashed during the summer months at all Del Mar beaches, but there has been an informal practice of letting dogs off-leash in the early morning hours. The practice has led to problems.

“How can a small dog just come directly at me and hit me so I fell so hard and couldn’t get up for a while,” said Eunjee Viscardi, a Del Mar resident.

Viscardi told the council members more enforcement was needed. She said she was knocked down by a dog and then attacked by its owner.

From concerns of citizens like Viscardi, the city council voted to move forward with expansion with the exception of more enforcement. Council members voted for an option of spending an additional $21,000 annually to begin patrols in the morning hours. With the new rules, it’s expected more dogs will be on the beach.

“We try to come every Friday,” said Pardis Memar, an Encinitas resident.

Memar was visiting Dog Beach with her poodle Sonny Monday evening. She applauded the expansion of the beach and the off-leash hours.

“I mean after all it’s Dog Beach,” said Memar. “This is a beach city, this is a casual city. Almost everyone has a dog and there should be more beach access for dogs and the owners to easily go.”

A recent online petition collected more than 1,300 signatures from people asking the city to allow off-leash dogs on the beach year-round from dawn to 8 a.m. from north of 20th Street to the city’s border at Solana Beach, including the popular Dog Beach area near the mouth of the San Dieguito River.

The expansion is a pilot program. If a final draft of the ordinance is drafted, it could take effect by summer.