Oakwood Park Gentrification Shenanigans Update
October-November 2019

Hope all is well Venetians! To recap last month’s initial report about the public safety and gentrification concerns brought on by hyper-entitled gentry dog owners: a community meeting attended my multiple city agencies took place at Oakwood Park Recreation center at the end of September (2019). The meeting highlighting the injury and safety issues endured by community elders and youth, the arrogance of gentrifiers, and the lack of enforcement by relevant city authorities responsible for keeping the recreational integrity of the park and the general safety of the community in priority.  The initial update timeline ended at October 7th, 2019 with testimony about children being nearly bitten, cowardly men intimidating women, and ending with LAPD and Animal Control performing sting operations around that time.

This month’s update covers from October 7th to November 5th. To start, our efforts to ensure youth and elder safety and regulating gentrification dynamics at our community park is working. Everyone paying attention has noted the significant decrease in off-leash offenders. However, significant work is still needed and the efforts have not been without its push-back, politics, and sacrifices. 

While off-leash instances have decreased the aggressive interactions with off-leash dog owners has escalated. We attribute the bulk of the decrease to a few factors, the three times LAPD and Animal  Control issued citations, our community members who have informing and educating off-leash dog offenders, and the removal of gates at the park which we will touch on later . The bulk of the off-leash culprits are repeat offenders who know exactly what they’re doing but like to play innocent and stupid when they are addressed and corrected when not being outright jerks. That said, a new trick the off-leash dog owners do is keep the leash on the dogs but let them run free. When the police or Animal Control show up they act like the dog just yanked the leash from their hand. 

On Sunday October 6th, our beloved elder Jataun Valentine and other community members who were holding Church services by the park noticed several off leash dogs that were chasing a couple kids playing soccer. She asked the owners to leash their dogs per the rules of the park. The other party got aggressive even going so far as saying racist things towards the Black women in the group. Arguments ensued. LAPD was called but didn’t show up for about 30 minutes by which time the dog owners had left the park. It turns out that one of the persons involved in that incident was a Venice local. Regardless, racism, ignorance, and facilitating gentrification is racism, ignorance, and facilitating gentrification.. no matter who does it.

At the October VNC meeting LAPD announced they will be ticketing people at Oakwood Park if they witness dogs off leash. On Monday October 14, two kids were playing in the park and attacked by a couple of unleashed dogs. It was caught by a neighbor’s security camera. While only catching the audio of the attack it is very telling, you can listen to it here: bit.ly/opdog-kids 

October 22nd a neighbor was verbally attacked, gate slammed in her face, and threatened when she asked a coward of a man to leash their dog so she could cut through the park with their leashed dog who was recovering from surgery. The neighbor went to speak with the man while she called the police and was physically assaulted by him.

Around the same time, the VBFC (Venice Beach Football Club) was having practice and a man walked through their field with his dog off-leash. This is not the first time the man has done this. Some of the soccer kids are scared of dogs and ran across the street to avoid the dog. The coaches respectfully asked the man to leash his dog and he said he paid so much in taxes he didn’t have to. He then took his off-leash dog into the playground area and the situation escalated. Someone flagged down LAPD who was on their way to another call and they said they would try to come back. LAPD surprisingly came back and did speak with the pompous off-leash dog woner who was leaving the park with his dog leashed. The police gave him warning because they couldn’t give him a ticket as they didn’t witness his dog off leash. 

After the escalation of events in October, community members and activists gathered to discuss what we as a community could do to help protect the our kids and community without putting ourselves or anyone else in further harms way.  We had a light bulb moment when we realized that a large percentage of the people coming to the park with dogs off-leash were driving to the park.  We asked one of the women who lives two blocks from Penmar why she drives to Oakwood park to let her dog run around?  Why doesn’t she take her dog to Penmar? She explained that Oakwood is the only enclosed park in the area.  This became a common response from people who drove to the park— they come to Oakwood because it is the only fenced in i.e. safe park to let their dogs loose.

We researched and sure enough, just about every park in our area (SM, Venice, Mar Vista) is not gated/fenced in. Ozone isn’t gated, Penmar isn’t gated, Marine Park isn’t gated, Clover Park isn’t gated, Mar Vista Park isn’t gated. Which begs the question, why does Oakwood have to be enclosed in fencing?  A tactic of gentrification? We researched city ordinances and laws and found zero reasons why Oakwood has to be enclosed.

We approached Oakwood Park Director Keith Rice with this information and we discussed the idea of removing some of the gates to deter dog owners from unleashing their dogs in Oakwood.  After the two kids were attacked on October 14th, concerned parents and frightened kids had been coming to Keith about this issue that was hindering their ability to enjoy their park without fear. 

We agreed that removing only four of the doors, two doors on Oakwood and two doors on 7th was worth a trial run. In the one week the park gates/doors were off the community noticed a dramatic decrease in off-leash dog culprits at the park. Kids were freely playing in the park, learning to ride bikes, pickup football games, families picnicking, couples strolling,  people practicing yoga, and young adults exercising in the park. In that one week, it felt like we had our community park back and there was a collective sigh of relief that perhaps no one would get attacked by a dog or screamed at by an irate owner asked to leash their dog.   

On October 29th , with shock and disappointment we saw the gates being re-installed and even locked! We reached out to Keith Rice to see what was going on and he had no idea.  The Oakwood Park director recognized that removing the doors reduced off-leash dog instances and noticed kids were rightfully  getting to enjoy the park more. We asked one of the workers installing the gate about the order and Charles Singer’s name (Superintendant LA Parks & Recs) as well as Mark Israel and another Park and Recs staff were mentioned. Marc Israel said the order to put the doors on didn’t come from his office. He attended the meeting at the Rec Center in September and heard first hand how bad the situation was escalating.

The bulk of responsibility for increases in the penitentiary type fencing at Oakwood Park seems to fall on Superintendent of our Area’s Parks and Recreation Mr. Charles Singer. He has doubled down in the opposite direction of what the community has been advocating for and is standing contrary to prioritizing the safety of Oakwood’s families and children, going so far as to totally remove the large north-east gate and completely seal it with fencing! When respectfully asked about his reasoning for that move he cited safety concerns about the dogs. Wow.  Oakwood is not a dog park but Mr. Singer is centering dogs over the safety and concerns of children and elders in the community. His logic is mad deficient and his attitude indifferent and disgruntled.

We can only speculate his reasoning for being persistent in going against the community and enabling the off-leash behavior. As a Brown man well experienced in history and patterns of gentrification (read colonizing) politics my educated guess is that certain players are upset that their gentrification plans for turning Oakwood into a dog park (with a coffee shop re:Camaj of Gjusta) was foiled in the “bottom of the 9th” and now they’re trying to scramble for new footing. As we noted in the initial update last month dog parks in any form are mechanisms for displacement of Black & Brown communities.

The fight is still on and we need your participation and more people to step up. Our appeal includes remove unnecessary fencing at the park, installing new and visible signs referencing the dog leash ordinance, and issuing citations (not warnings) to the mostly repeat offenders during the peak morning and evening windows they congregate.

You can help us by RESPECTFULLY emailing and calling these people to advocating for our demands mentioned above:

[email protected] | [email protected] | [email protected] | [email protected]  | [email protected]  | [email protected] | [email protected] | [email protected]  | cc: [email protected]

CALL: Bonin’s Office : 310-568-8772 (re: everything) | Charles Singer (Superintendent Recs and Parks) : 818-756-8060 (re: fence and signing) | Animal Control: 1 (310) 207-3266 (re: enforcement)

Thanks for your help Venice!

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