Del Mar changes teen curfew, bans pets from tot lot


By Joe Tash

Pets will be banned from the tot lot and south lawn at Powerhouse Park, the city’s teen curfew will be moved up an hour to 10 p.m. and beach and park visitors will no longer be allowed to use charcoal grills under three ordinances approved by the Del Mar City Council on Monday, May 20.

The council approved all three ordinances on its first reading. The new laws will come back for final adoption June 3, and they will take effect 30 days later if approved.

The council directed staff to draft the Powerhouse Park ordinance last month, after resident Rich Ehrenfeld brought the suggestion to the city’s Parks and Recreation Committee. Ehrenfeld said the tot lot and nearby lawn should be made “barefoot friendly” by restricting dogs from those areas.

Council members agreed that allowing small children to play in areas where dogs have relieved themselves poses a potential health hazard.

Two people questioned the need for the ordinance and some of the proposed language at Monday’s meeting.

Lynn Gaylord presented council members with an article published in the New York Times Magazine, which argues that children build up immunity to disease when they are allowed to play around animals and in natural conditions.

Gaylord also objected to the law’s reference to creating “family friendly” areas. “On a fundamental level, most people consider dogs part of the family,” she said.

Another speaker, former council member Crystal Crawford, said, “I’m not sure what the problem is we’re trying to solve.” She questioned whether the ordinance applies only to dogs, or whether other types of animals are also covered by the ban.

The council agreed to take out the reference to “family friendly” areas, and also to make the ordinance apply to pets, rather than dogs specifically.

But council members said they still believe it is a good idea to ban pets from the tot lot and south lawn of the park.

“This does add a layer of safety for a susceptible population that wasn’t there before and there are valid scientific reasons for supporting it,” said Councilman Don Mosier, a physician.

“I think the ordinance is a reasonable and balanced approach,” said Mayor Terry Sinnott.

The council also voted unanimously to move up the city’s teen curfew to 10 p.m. from its current 11 p.m. to be consistent with neighboring jurisdictions, such as the county of San Diego and cities of Solana Beach and San Diego.

The current 11 p.m. curfew has created an “oasis effect,” encouraging minors to come to Del Mar to stay out an extra hour, the report said.

“The proposed amendment to change the curfew hours from 11 p.m. to 10 p.m. in Del Mar should result in a reduction of crimes related to minors and allow the City’s Park Ranger and Sheriff Deputies to enforce the curfew laws in a consistent manner with the surrounding jurisdictions,” the staff report said.

The third ordinance, also passed unanimously, changes a number of rules related to tents, canopies and barbecues.

The main reason for banning charcoal grills, said Park Ranger Adam Chase, is that the city has no safe way to dispose of the hot coals. Children have suffered burns on their feet after walking over hot coals left in bushes in city parks, and people have also started fires by placing hot coals in trash cans. The city considered installing concrete disposal bins, but it was determined the bins were unattractive and smoke from the containers could prove a nuisance to nearby residents.

The new ordinance will allow barbecues with propane grills at all city parks and beaches.

“This is a pretty good compromise, still allowing families to have barbecues,” Chase said.

The new ordinance also bans camping tents from city parks (tents were already banned from beaches) and canopies larger in size than 10-by-10 feet in both parks and beaches, Chase said. This change is to allow greater visibility for lifeguards and law enforcement, and prevent illegal activity such as alcohol consumption inside tents.

Those planning an event such as a wedding can still request an exemption from the rules — including barbecues, larger canopies and temporary permission to serve alcoholic beverages — by obtaining a city permit, Chase said.