Dog owners win a round in fight over Fiesta Island upgrades

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SAN DIEGO -- Dog owners chalked up a victory Thursday when the San Diego City Council’s Environment Committee unanimously voted to support a plan to keep an off-leash dog park at Fiesta Island.

The city is considering upgrades for Fiesta Island with two options in mind. Option A calls for extending a road, building parking facilities, picnic spots and new walking trails. But it would also shrink the off-leash dog park, which dog owners say is one of the biggest and best  in San Diego.

“Other dog parks are too dense. They don't take care of it as well as this. It’s just beautiful," said dog owner Trish Sanderson.

Option A would take about seven acres away from the 90-acre dog park and would make space for a dedicated storage and launching area for non-motorized boats. It would have included more parking and a designated swimming area. The city Planning Commission voted in favor of Option A last month.

Dog owners complain that the plan includes the road that would cut through the off-leash dog park, splitting it in two and  making it smaller. They are pushing for Option, which would leave the dog park almost completely unchanged. They also argue that it’s the best option to preserve open space.

Dozens of dog owners made their plea before the committee at Thursday's meeting. In the end, the committee voted unanimously to back Option B and send  it to the full City Council.

“Please do not change a place that is already perfect," said one dog owner who is also a cancer survivor.

City Councilman Scott Sherman said his office received roughly 30 calls and more than 300 emails in support of option B, due in part of members of FIDO posting his office's contact information. City Councilwoman Vivian Moreno also expressed appreciation for the public support for option B, particularly among dog owners.

"I am confident that city staff will be able to find a permanent location for non-motorized personal watercraft in other locations in Mission Bay Park," Moreno said. "But I don't think we need to destroy the experience of thousands and thousands and thousands of dog owners who use Fiesta Island right now in order to do so."

Option B also received support from former City Council members Donna Frye, Sherri Lightner and Lorie Zapf.

"It's important to preserve as much open space as possible," City Councilwoman Barbara Bry said of option B. "It doesn't require any expensive infrastructure and, most importantly, will preserve Fiesta Island as a gem and a magical place for San Diegans for generations to come."

The plans will go before the full City Council in June. Then they will go before the California Coastal Commission.

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