By Théophile Larcher
Special to S.F. Examiner
Hours were cut at a Noe Valley dog park Thursday after neighbors complained about noise from barking dogs and conflicts with dog owners and walkers.
The Recreation And Park Commission voted 4-2 at a meeting Thursday to reduce the Upper Douglass Dog Play Area’s hours to 7 a.m to 9 p.m., despite vocal protests from dog lovers. The park was formerly open from 6 a.m to 10 p.m.
Commissioners Kat Anderson, Allan Low, Mark Buell and Tom Harrison voted for the change and Eric McDonnell and Larry Mazzola, Jr. opposed.
The change in hours drew a strong reaction from dog owners and groups representing them, including the Friends of Upper Douglass Dog Park. More than 20 people spoke in opposition at the hearing, with no speakers in support.
Initially the Advocates of Upper Douglass Park, a group of eight neighbors, had asked for the operating hours to be changed from 9 a.m to 6 p.m., while staff had recommended a 7:30 p.m. closing time.
“…The nonstop noise of barking dogs is what I come home to every day,” one resident wrote in a letter to Recreation and Parks Department staff, in which she said that her daughter had been bitten by a dog at the park. “And because of FUDDP’s hate towards neighbors, I am also harassed in and around my own home.”
However the proposal was modified by the commission to allow more time in the evening after dog park users argued that closing the park at 7:30 p.m made it impossible for them to take out their dogs after work.
“When you move next to an airport, you don’t complain about the planes,” said Linda Blondis, sparking against the resolution.
Dog advocates complained that the Recreation and Park Department did not hold a community meeting on the change, instead conducting an online survey.
The department has received 38 comments supporting the resolution and 918 opposing it, according to Sarah Madland, a department spokesperson.
Sally Stephens, chair of The San Francisco Dog Owner Group and a San Francisco Examiner columnist, called the decision “an egregious violation of public process.”
But both Anderson and Madland argued the process was carefully done.
Commissioners said they took into consideration both complaints collected by neighbors in an online survey and the comments from regular park goers.
“This is not something where everybody is going to be happy. We sometimes have to make tough decisions and compromise,” said Anderson
This is not the first time the Recreation and Parks Department has conflicted with dog owners groups over the Upper Douglass Dog Area Park. In January 2015, the dog park was closed due to flooding and turf overuse six months after a 15-month closure for renovation, drainage and irrigation systems.