A community conversation last Thursday about potential improvements for Oakwood Park quickly evolved into an argument between multi-generational families and relative newcomers about off-leash dogs running loose in the park and owners failing to clean up after them.
Longtime residents of the historically working-class and majority-minority enclave of Venice have complained before of wealthier and mostly Caucasian newcomers calling police about larger gatherings of locals in the park for no apparent reason other than racial prejudice. Now some worry they’re being pushed out of the space entirely in favor of transforming it into a dog park.
“If we sound angry it’s because we are. This is the last piece of property that black and brown people can come to and be together in this community,” asserted Diamond Mosley, a filmmaker who was raised in Oakwood.
A group of Oakwood dog owners — many but not all of them part of the last decade’s real estate boom — are participants in a Los Angeles Recreations and Parks pilot program that allows locals to exercise and train their dogs between 7:30 and 9:30 a.m. daily at Oakwood Park.
But critics of the program say off-leash dogs now also have the run of the park on most afternoons. Although it didn’t come up at the meeting, East Venice residents near Penmar Park have complained to The Argonaut about not feeling safe among an increasing presence of off-leash dogs.
Alex Redd, a 15-year Oakwood resident who recently joined the program, said its intent is not to exclude and that participants are getting blamed for other people’s bad behavior.
“The classes are about socializing your dog and behavior training. We love our dogs, and we all try to keep them on leashes when we walk them in the park in the afternoon,” she said. “It would be really sad to lose this because others who aren’t in our group don’t clean up after their dogs.”
At one point, members of both groups shouted over each other after someone suggested banning off-leash dogs altogether. Recreation and Parks Department Senior Project Coordinator Nate Hayward found himself playing referee among more than 80 meeting attendees.
Hayward said the city is pursuing grants to beautify Oakwood Park, build new restrooms and water fountains, and possibly reconfigure the space to include a soccer field and baseball diamond. Adding exercise equipment and more parking are other ideas. The next meeting happens at 6 p.m. Wednesday (July 3) at the Oakwood Recreation Center, 767 California Ave., Venice.