However, Bob Ottilie, chairman of the Mission Bay Park Committee, feels that the discussion of Fiesta Island's future has been skewed since KTU+A began trying so hard to accommodate dogs. The result, he feels, is that a variety of potential future users are not being heard. "The owners, who are well organized, did raise an important point that we overlooked in the beginning," says Ottilie. "Since then the City has gone out of its way to a fault to respond to them. At the last meeting [on February 6] Mike Singleton [of KTU+A] addressed every single item as a response to dog issues. Dogs must have been mentioned 100 times, but children, not once. I began to wonder whether the dogs who will be waterskiing are going to be off leash."
And Ottilie believes that dogs don't mix well with children. "Dogs on the loose will bound up to little children and scare them badly," he says. "They sometimes bite. I've been attacked by a dog and had to go to the hospital. Recently my kid almost had her head taken off too."
Dog owners counter by arguing that the larger the space in which dogs have to move freely, the less confrontational they are. The opportunity to run off leash, say veterinarians, even reduces canine aggressiveness in other contexts. And Fiesta Island Dog Owners maintains that the rate of reported dog "incidents" is lowest at Fiesta Island among the leash-free areas, such as those at Dusty Rhodes Park and Dog Beach. That's because of the island's much larger spaces, including its fenced area. "People actually walk and run their dogs at Fiesta Island," says Brian LaRoche, "rather than socializing among themselves in the center of the space while their dogs run around by themselves."
For dog owners, the single most troubling aspect of the latest Fiesta Island General Development Plan is a road that will wind through the current leash-free fenced area on the island's southwestern side. Now the main road, as it heads south on the west side of the island, turns at the entrance to the fenced area's parking lot and crosses the island, eventually taking drivers back to the mainland. In the new plan, however, the road, when it gets to the parking lot, will continue south along the island's western edge and then make a sharp turn in a northeasterly direction, taking drivers north of Hidden Anchorage before leading to the mainland. Dog owners see it as a double bisection of their leash-free fenced area. As it heads in a southerly direction, the road will cut off their access to the southwestern shore in order to exclude them from a planned beach for swimming. As it runs in the northeasterly direction, it will cut the new 66-acre leash-free area in two, leaving the halves separated by fences on each side of the road.
The purpose of the road is to service the swimming beach as well as new launch and storage facilities for canoes and dragon boats. Veterinarian Jean Spengel questions the need for the new amenities. "There are already eight beaches in Mission Bay Park," she says. "And people swim at them only a few months each year, whereas we're out there every day. And why can't they use the South Shores boat launch facilities right across the channel for the boats?"
Hoping to at least eliminate one leg of the road, Brian LaRoche e-mailed KTU+A's Mike Singleton on Sunday, February 11, suggesting that the westernmost portion of the road stop before it enters the leash-free area, still allowing the road to service the swimming beach and the waterskiing activities at the tip of Hidden Anchorage. "We would prefer a simple solution," LaRoche added, "but if it is not to be, [then we] are in it for the long haul."
Singleton replied the same day. "I am afraid that the continuous barrage of negativity from dog owners has made it very difficult for me to offer up any more compromises. I have made so many efforts at helping you all out, but not once have received any public recognition for any of these efforts. Your groups have continuously complained about losing...acreage, without recognizing that you are all starting from zero acres. You have no entitlements in the master plan.... Despite this you have all been unwilling to compromise....
"We [KTU+A] were hired to implement the approved master plan. If we vary from the plan too much, the city will have to spend a lot more money on preparing the general development plan and [environmental impact report] as well as implementing permits....
"So, I am afraid to say it, but we will be having to head back the other way. Since no compromise seems to be possible, and your groups will never be satisfied in giving up a single acre, we might as well trim the dog use area back more consistently with the master plan, or at least hold the line on the current use levels to avoid any real change in the master plan requirements. So [now] you are all on your own in making the arguments for your position. I just don't think you will get too far with it...."
Mission Bay Park Committee chairman Bob Ottilie feels confident that the Fiesta Island General Development Plan, as now written, will make it through the city council. But the committee's Mindy Pellissier wonders where the money to pay for it is ever going to come from. "And how," she asks, "will we pay to maintain and water all the new green turf the plan calls for?"