OCEANSIDE — A group of organizers is hoping to gather enough signatures to ask registered Oceanside voters if they want a dog beach along the city’s coastline.
Oceanside Dog Beach, a local nonprofit organization, has announced its intentions to begin collecting signatures over the next five months to earn a spot on the November ballot.
The group must collect 10,595 signatures from voters registered in Oceanside by July 1, according to City Clerk Zeb Navarro.
The group is aiming for 15,000 signatures as a buffer in the case of unqualified signatures.
According to the petition’s summary, the initiative would change city ordinances to allow dogs on beaches between Surfrider and Breakwater Way while leashed before 9 a.m. and after 4 p.m. during non-summer months and before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m. during the summer.
The initiative also seeks to allow dogs off-leash on “wet” sand beaches that are only accessible during low tide south of Tyson Street Park and to allow service dogs on any city beach.
Organizers of the nonprofit have been trying to convince the Oceanside City Council to install a dog beach for the past two years with little luck, which is why the group has now decided to aim for the ballot.
“The nonprofit gathered over 9,000 signatures on a change.org petition of business owners and locals to prove there was community support to review city policies, but we couldn’t get any traction with the city officials,” said Moss Rosen, an Oceanside resident and president of Oceanside Dog Beach. “Our only recourse is to start an initiative petition for the November ballot and we need the community to help us make this happen.”
The nonprofit pointed to other nearby cities like Del Mar that have dog beaches as a reason for Oceanside to have one as well, noting that many dog owners want to stay local and take their dogs to the beach in their own city instead. Organizers also noted that cities that don’t allow some type of access for dogs on beaches usually have “extensive trail systems and designated dog parks,” which Oceanside lacks.
Currently, there are no city-owned, off-leash dog parks in Oceanside after the first and only one closed in 2018. Design work on a new municipal dog park at Ron Ortega Park began last March.
Nancy Cech, an Oceanside Dog Beach volunteer who recently relocated from San Francisco, expressed her shock at the region’s lack of off-leash dog beaches and parks.
“I had easier access to more natural areas and off-leash beaches and parks living in San Francisco than in North County,” Cech said. “There’s nothing more joyful than a dog enjoying the beach.”
Though there are certainly many supporters of having an off-leash dog beach, many other residents who are opposed cite concerns about dog urine and feces contaminating the beach, creating risks for other children, and taking away space from what little sandy beaches Oceanside has left.
“People will say there will be poop on the beach, but responsible dog owners will help take care of the beach,” Cech said.
According to organizers, Oceanside Dog Beach also helped to get dog “elements” built into some of the Re:Beach Coastal Resilience Design Competition project proposals.
If the petition gathers enough qualified signatures, Oceanside City Council could either vote to adopt the proposed ordinance outlined in the initiative or vote to put it on the ballot.
If the council were to decline to adopt the ordinance or place it on the ballot, the San Diego County Registrar of Voters would take over and place the initiative on the ballot, though the city clerk noted this would be an incredibly rare move.