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Noe Valley Voice July/August 2008
Dogs Have a Shaggy History at Noe Courts
My short answer to Michael Fasman's complaint in a letter in the June issue about the Park Department's enforcement of the dogs-on-leash regulation at Noe Courts is that it's about time the law was enforced. Furthermore, those "pet guardians" who refuse to leash their dogs when asked to do so are being obnoxious and self-righteous.
One time in the park several years ago, I actually complained to a dog owner because his dog was off leash. He informed me that he was a Vietnam veteran and that he should be allowed to run his dog in the park. I called the SFPD. They told me to call the Animal Care and Control people. This was on a Saturday night. I called the Animal Control number and got a recording that said "Leave a message" and that they would call me back on Monday. After that discouraging experience, I never bothered to try again.
The long answer is more complicated.
My wife and I have lived on Elizabeth Street across from the park and uphill for 34 years. For the first 15 years or so, there was a sign posted saying no dogs allowed. For the most part, people complied with it. Somehow, in the 1990s, the regulation was changed. Why I am not sure. At one point the Park Department staff recommended that the prohibition on dogs be reinstated, but by that time the "dog community" had organized itself into an interest group, and the new status quo prevailed.
For the past few years, the "Dogs must be on leash" and "Owners should pick up after their pets" signs have been posted at the park. The former regulation has been ignored. I think the other requirement has been observed.
Over the years, I have heard a few complaints from my neighbors: One said that she could not use the park for sunbathing, even though she lives across from it, because it smells too bad. A couple of other neighbors have complained that the dogs make it unsafe for their children to use the park, or that they have had disagreements with dog owners when they brought their kids to the park.
Some of my neighbors have moved in more recently--some with small children, some with no children--and have acquired dogs since they moved into the neighborhood. They probably have assumed all along that bringing their dogs and letting them run off leash in the park (often with their children) was acceptable. I sympathize with them, and I'm glad they are using the neighborhood playground.
On the other hand, I resent people who drive to the neighborhood just to let their dog off leash in the park when it is posted that dogs are supposed to be leashed. There are several designated off-leash areas in nearby playgrounds--Eureka Valley, Douglass Park, and (soon) Upper Noe Recreation Center.
And I really resent the I Have a Dog and I Vote bumper stickers! We don't have a dog now and we vote. We used to have a dog many years ago and we voted then. SO WHAT?
Got Conflict? Call Community Boards
City living is filled with frustrating circumstances that too frequently blossom into conflict: loud neighbors, decrepit fences, messy roommates, unpruned trees, parking on the sidewalk, barking dogs, building additions and construction. After 32 years of helping San Franciscans resolve disputes like these, there are very few conflicts Community Boards hasn't seen.
We've gained this knowledge through our Neighborhood Mediation Program, now the longest-running, no-cost mediation service in the United States. It is with this program that every San Francisco resident has access to free conflict resolution. For all those conflicts listed above plus many more, we have helped thousands of San Franciscans (and many Noe Valley residents) find peaceful, workable solutions.
People generally respond to conflict the same way they do to danger: flight or fight. Avoidance of the problem--ignoring it, laughing it off, cutting off communication--is flight. Such avoidance, however, frequently increases the frustration, because most problems don't solve themselves. Fighting can take different forms: gossiping with others, calling the police, contacting a city agency, or suing the other party. At its ugliest, there are literal fights, with yelling, profanities, insults, threats, slammed doors, and swung fists.
Community Boards remains dedicated to giving San Franciscans a viable third option through mediation: those with the conflict discuss the problem directly with each other and craft their own resolution. Meanwhile, our panels of trained volunteer mediators create safe and respectful opportunities for the parties' often heated discussions.
Our mediators don't judge or advocate. They help guide the disputants toward practical, shared solutions. Our mediations aim equally to repair or improve the relationships of those involved. Over 90 percent of our mediations reach agreement. Studies have shown again and again that mediated agreements are more effective than legal rulings.
Community Boards also provides low-cost mediation services with mediators who have special expertise in contract and business law, real estate, or divorce and family law. These mediations are ideal for disputes involving ongoing customer, professional, and residential relationships, such as business partnerships, long-term clients, and work/live and condominium associations.
In addition, we encourage people to become active members of their community by training as a volunteer mediator. We're always eager to increase our pool of diverse mediators. The 40-hour training is a mix of lectures, discussions, and role-plays, which have the added benefit of strengthening your personal and business communication, negotiating, and problem-solving skills.
We invite you to bring your conflicts to Community Boards. Call us at 415-920-3820. Our staff gives each party personalized attention and case development. We're also knowledgeable about services available for addressing problems not appropriate for mediation and can make referrals to other resources. You can also contact us for our "Ten Tips" on how to resolve your own disputes.
We look forward to hearing from you! In the meantime, check us out at www.communityboards.org.
Executive Director, Community Boards
3130 24th Street, San Francisco, CA 94110