City of Dogs

There is a lot of talk these days about the National Park Service’s draft proposal to limit off-leash areas for dogs on federal recreational property. Listening to the controversy and testimony, you would think that the feds want to throw all of the dogs into the Pacific to drown. I think the arguments for the dogs are, well, for the birds.

While people line up to complain about policies that they feel will undermine their dogs’ happiness and livability in the city, where is the outrage about policies, or a lack of policies, that make the city livable for women and families? With housing unaffordable for most, childcare unavailable and prohibitively expensive, schools unnavigable, and public transit unreliable and inefficient, it seems that arguments about the availability of dogs’ open space is perhaps a bit out of place. I do realize and respect that some people choose to have pets over children; however, it seems misguided to create and maintain a city that is more livable for dogs than it is for families.

San Francisco has turned into a city of landowners and serfs—those who can somehow afford to buy property here or have inherited it and those who come here as young people looking for the San Francisco of their parents’ memories or era. The latter group moves here, lives, shops, eats, and generally has a great time until deciding to buy a house or have a family or both. Then they are usually forced to move due to the lack of infrastructure that San Francisco has for families. Some are committed and try to stick it out and navigate the child unfriendly city, but many are forced to find livability elsewhere. Permanent and temporary San Franciscans may have and love their dogs, but will the dogs grow up to become tomorrow’s teachers, police officers, entrepreneurs, advocates, and activists who make this city great?

When a city is composed of people who don’t want to get too comfortable because eventually they’re going to have to leave when they want a family, that city turns into one where the livability of dogs is more important than the livability of families. Rather than spending so much time debating how to create livable space for dogs, perhaps we should spend time thinking about creating user-friendly space and policies for families. After all, how many times have you heard of a couple feeling forced to move out of San Francisco because they’re having a dog?

Dr. Amy Bacharach is a policy researcher and professor and a proud Richmond district resident. She is an Emerge California graduate and serves on the San Francisco Women’s Political Committee’s Policy Committee (SFWPC) and the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) as a policy advocate for issues dealing with girls and women. She is also part of the San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking (SFCAHT). Amy holds a Ph.D. in Forensic Psychology and a certificate in Organizational Development. She hopes that she will not be forced out of the city by policies that favor dogs over children.

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