SAN LEANDRO — The City Council is backing off from its consideration of San Leandro's first dog park, a decision that has canine lovers yapping mad and determined to gather more support.

General park dedication fees paid by developers, which might have been a potential funding source for the dog park, could instead be used for projects at other parks, or even for upgrading police headquarters on East 14th Street, council members suggested Tuesday.

"This economy is in desperate straits, if you don't know it," Mayor Tony Santos told six dog-park backers Tuesday during the council's Facilities and Transportation Committee meeting. He suggested the city use the fees — the park dedication fund currently has $700,000 — for "desperately needed" equipment and structural improvements in the police building.

Dog lovers pledged to fight for a dog park at the San Leandro Marina. And Peggy Combs, vice chairwoman of the Recreation and Park Commission, said the concept of a dog park has been "unanimously embraced by the community."

"This is just the tip of the iceberg," park advocate Sabrina Almazan said after Santos complained he is fielding 10 to 25 e-mails a day — and four phone calls on Monday alone — from dog owners.

"We represent a huge population of dog owners," added Almazan, a member of the Four Paws Society, which has gathered 1,100 signatures on a petition for a dog park at the San Leandro Marina.


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"We will gather more support, and (demonstrate the) need for a dog park," Almazan told Santos and the two other committee members, councilwomen Diana Souza and Joyce Starosciak. "You are our elected officials; they are your constituents."

Four Paws and the Recreation and Park Commission, the latter a council-appointed advisory group, have spent 18 months studying the dog park issue. In September, commissioners asked the council to spend $491,000 for a 1.3-acre linear park on the shoreline.

It had been assumed that the money would come from park dedication fees, paid by builders in lieu of land dedication, and traditionally used for new park or recreation developments.

On Tuesday, council members and city administrators said the city attorney is reviewing the park dedication fee ordinance to see if the money can be used for existing facilities.

The attorney's opinion will be available at the committee's next meeting in January. Starosciak also asked that a list of citywide capital projects be available by that meeting so that the committee — and, eventually, the entire council — can prioritize projects for all sources of funding.

Reach Karen Holzmeister at 510-293-2478 or kholzmeister@bayareanewsgroup.com.