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Legal Action Taken In Rancho Laguna Park Off-Leash Fight

Bitterly contested plans to confine Moraga's dogs to a "spatially separated" dog run at the north end of Rancho Laguna Park has resulted in legal action filed on behalf of a park user.

A legal brief calling for the Town of Moraga to set aside its decision to create a separate, fenced-in area for dogs at Rancho Laguna Park was filed Thursday in Contra Costa County Superior Court.

The action, taken by Orinda attorney Bill Cosden on behalf of Moragan Steven Lewis and several other unnamed petitioners, challenges a Dec. 14 Town Council decision to ensure a "spatial separation" between dog-less park users and dog owners who have enjoyed free-running off-leash hours at little Rancho Laguna for the past 20 years.

Rancho Laguna, a leafy eight-acre park at the end of Camino Pablo on Moraga's southside, has become the focal point of an at-times bitterly contested struggle between dog owners who come to the park during limited times in the morning and early evening to let their dogs run free -- and those who say the liberated canines intrude on their use of park facilities.

The Town Council and Park and Recreation Director Jay Ingram have attempted to find common ground, but both sides have charged the other with attempting to override their interests and with politicizing the issue.

The backbone of Cosden's writ challenges the town's "improper adoption" of a resolution calling for spatial separation of dog owners and their charges under CEQA -- the California Environmental Quality Act.

Proposed changes to the park, specifically the creation of the enclosed dog "run," will cause "material damage" to the north and east quadrants of the park and damage habitat along the adjacent San Leandro Reservoir tributary, the writ alleges.

Much of the enmity between dog owners, non-dog owners and town officials was caused, Cosden writes in a supporting letter to the town, by confusion caused by vague signage at the park which resulted in citations for dog owners in 2008.

His writ calls for a ruling that will "set aside and void" approvals of the park project and "refrain from further consideration" of the park project until full compliance with CEQA can be ensured.

Fritz 'Congodog' Stoop February 07, 2012 at 01:41 AM
Thanks for your "principled" response(s), Jon. But it seems you've cherry-picked one small item in Vancouver's voluminous treatise on the Human/Canine dynamic. Their underlying philosophy is heavily weighted toward human responsibility (why am I not shocked by this?) and basically assumes: if your dog is a breed with agressive tendencies or has proved to be untrainable in the basic commands that accomplish solid verbal control, do not bring them to the off-lead parks. They insist that dogs be vaccinated, licensed, and most importantly trained in obedience before they should ever be let off a lead. Also emphasized in their Human/Canine dynamic philosophy is owner supervision of their animals. If these principles were applied here (and dog owner's checked their egos at the gate and acted responsibly) we would never have reached this public safety crisis. This phenomenon of (let's be clear here: SOME not ALL) dog owners being essentially clueless about the nuances and serious responsibilities associated with taking a dog off-lead in public is epidemic in this country. Frankly, the folks of these 'affluent, educated communities' should know better. I find it embarrassing that they feel the off-lead park is primarily a social vehicle for them and not a place to get some fresh air and exercise for their dogs and themselves. The social aspect has to be secondary to the primary reason for being there, their pets!
Pat March 22, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Sorry to go off point a bit, but even for a dog owner, with kids who have enjoyed using RLP park, (in all capacities with no complaints for over 15 years), the endless hours spent on the dog park issue with still no solution, is shameful. Especially for such an educated community, with more pressing town issues in need of immediate attention. If only the Town Council, and community, could rally even half of the combined effort on fixing the town's higher priorities...like replacing the terrible ROADS. We have multiple area parks, that have served the Lamorinda community for over 30 yrs. Yet EVERY resident uses our roads DAILY, and there seems to be no plan to address this issue. Was it more worthy to spend so much effort and $ for a dog park, REALLY? Some roads are starting to look like ghetto areas, full of cracks, pot holes, temporary ugly lines, and many roads are dangerous for drivers and bikers. In addition to the dangerous conditions, one wonders how the unsightly roads effect home values, which is also a community level issue. TOWN COUNCIL, it is time to GET TO WORK and PRIORITIZE - let's work in developing solutions and community efforts towards the highest pressing needs of the entire town. For starters, please - LETS FIX the ROADS! And if there IS a new road plan in place, please POST IT, so we can re-focus this town energy on something more productive and positive - not to mention an important issue that serves ALL.
TMoraga March 22, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Pat - no one has a bigger reason to complain about the roads here than new home owners who have paid big money to purchase homes and also pay big tax bill associated to said home purchase. I have Family in the Development and Planning business the lack of Town Infrastructure planning ie funding when the Town Incorporated is what they view as a ROOKIE mistake during the Incorporation process. Now the town is full of older home owners who enjoy extremely low taxes and will fight to the end against any type of funding effort to properly fund a scheduled street care and sealing plan. We have already see these voters suggest that the new home owners be saddled with this cost based on one's property tax status. Again older home owners who have used the roads for 30+yrs who pay virtually zero in taxes want people who pay the most in taxes and have probably used the roads far less to nearly zero in comparison to shoulder the burden of fixing them. The only fair solution is a standard parcel tax to all properties and for that parcel tax to be high enough to address all the needs so we don't see an issue like Lafayette where those who got their roads fixed now vote against any additional funding to fix the rest of the town. LOL
Pat March 23, 2012 at 06:57 PM
TMoraga, thank you for your post - great information for all!
Fritz 'Congodog' Stoop March 25, 2012 at 05:51 AM
I believe, with a reasonable amount of certainty, that no human has ever been 'mauled' by a canine at Rancho Laguna Park. To imply that is imminent is inflammatory, specious, irresponsible and downright unneighborly.

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