Idea for San Clemente dog beach wipes out

San Clemente beaches will remain off limits to dogs.

Councilman Steve Knoblock earlier this year pitched at least a trial to allow dogs in the North Beach area, but after the city’s Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission looked at the proposal and recommended not allowing dogs – on or off leash – on the sand, the City Council voted down the idea 3-2 on Tuesday, July 21..

Susan Ambrose, chair of the city’s Coastal Advisory Committee, said the advisory group agreed with the recommendations following several discussions about the possible impact to water quality.

“It’s important to keep in mind the water quality regulations for which the city must comply with to protect the health of beachgoers. The potential implications of introducing another bacterial source – like dog feces for example – causes some concern,” she said. “We are charged with the  protection of human health, complying with various environmental regulations and avoiding potential enforcement action.”

Mayor Kathy Ward echoed those thoughts as the reason she could not support dogs on the beach.

Unlike Huntington Beach’s dog beach, San Clemente does not have wide sandy spaces, she said, and dogs could be in conflict with families and surfers who use the beach.

“The conflicts are a problem for me, water quality is a problem,” she said. “There isn’t enough beach.”

Knoblock suggested looking at just allowing dogs at certain hours – before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m. – for the test period.

In a recent survey, 60% of those responding said they wanted an area to take their dogs to the beach, he said, and despite the Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission’s recommendation against the plan, it was for the council to make the final decision.

“The commission doesn’t set policy, we do,” he said.

Councilwoman Laura Ferguson, who was the only other supporter of allowing dogs on the sand, said a nonprofit organization or volunteers could step up to help with clean up and enforcement as they do in Huntington Beach.

“I really value the voice of the people,” she said, “they have wanted this for a long long time.”

As a dog owner, Councilman Gene James said he’d love to take his golden retriever onto the beach, but the shoreline is too narrow and what dog owners might leave behind would be an issue.

“I challenge anyone to walk from Calafia to North Beach on the beach trail and see how many piles of dog feces there are,” he said. “Even the most responsible dog owner can pick up feces, but what are you going do about the urine in the sand? That’s where children are going to lay down their beach towels.”

Not supporting a dog beach wasn’t an easy decision, he said.

“The emotional part of me would love to vote for this. But the rational and practical part of me has concerns about enforcement and water quality,” he said. “I wish I could support this, I just can’t.”

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