Watch Your Step in City Heights

Lazy dog owners, dogs running loose

Professional dog walker Roxanne Stuber says City Heights 
“isn’t a very pleasant place to be walking” because of poop-covered sidewalks.
  • Professional dog walker Roxanne Stuber says City Heights “isn’t a very pleasant place to be walking” because of poop-covered sidewalks.
  • Image by Alan Decker

Last Sunday, while jogging up Wightman Street through City Heights, I had to avoid five piles of dog crap, seven fecal smears, and one brown lumpy puddle — all on city sidewalks. These numbers do not include the piles and Chihuahua-sized nuggets that littered the grassy areas beside the sidewalks, areas where I forbid my child to walk because there the fecal matter is less visible.

A year or so ago, I wrote a story about City Heights in which I mentioned, in passing, the dog poo on the sidewalks. One reader wrote in with a complaint that I was mistaken, that he lived in the neighborhood and had never seen such a thing. My husband and I had a good laugh over that one.

Early one Wednesday evening, I find teens Mercedes, Gustavo, and Robert hanging around outside a City Heights apartment building. When I ask whether they’ve noticed an inordinate amount of dog feces on neighborhood sidewalks, Gustavo points behind me and says, “Yeah, there’s actually some right there.”

And, sure enough, there is. I take two steps to my right.

“It smells,” Mercedes says, “and it makes the neighborhood look dirty.”

Neither of the two boys has a dog, but Mercedes does. She makes sure it defecates in her yard before she takes it out for a walk. But she also carries plastic bags — just in case.

“I’ve seen some neighborhoods that have little bag things wrapped around palm trees or something,” Gustavo says.

Mercedes agrees. “Yeah, that would help a lot because some people don’t think their dogs are gonna go, so they don’t bring a bag. But if people could just grab one and then…” She pauses and adds, “We should also have trash cans.”

If you’ve ever walked through Little Italy, you may have noticed an abundance of little green metal boxes attached to light posts and stop signs. These are Dogipot pet stations. Inside the green metal boxes are bright blue bags. Some of the boxes have diagrams and written instructions on how to use the bags to pick up poop. And near the boxes stand trash cans. This setup makes it convenient for dog owners to pick up after their pets.

According to Chris Gomez, district manager of the Little Italy Association, the 60-plus pet stations in 48 square blocks cost $8000 per year to maintain. This is paid for by the neighborhood’s property owners by way of maintenance assessment district fees.

Roxanne Stuber, co-owner of Walk N Roll Doggie, a San Diego dog-walking, boarding, day-care service, tells me Little Italy is among the top neighborhoods in the city for cleanliness but also for convenience of dog-poop pickup.

“There are trash cans all over,” she says of Little Italy, “so you’re not walking around for a half hour with a bag full of poop in your hand.”

Stuber, who provides her services to clients in many of the city’s urban neighborhoods, notes that even those without Dogipots or trash cans tend to have significantly less fecal matter on their sidewalks than City Heights.

“Hillcrest has a shortage of trash cans and no Dogipots to speak of,” she says. “But dog owners are very responsible there. Everybody picks up pretty well.”

And City Heights?

“I have stepped in poop there,” she says. “There’s poop all over the streets. If you were to compare City Heights with, say, South Park — and they’re pretty close in distance — City Heights isn’t a very pleasant place to be walking.”

When I make a call to the County’s Department of Animal Services to ask what I can do about the dog feces on sidewalks in my neighborhood, I’m told by the man on the phone that the only way his department can do anything is if one of his officers witnesses the defecation. Or, if I witnessed it, and I can give him the name and address of the person who did not pick up after his dog, then someone can come out and write a ticket on my behalf. Not cleaning up after one’s dog is a violation of municipal code 44.0304.1, he tells me.

But what about the poop that’s already there?

“Unfortunately, that just sounds like a sanitation issue for the City of San Diego,” he tells me.

When I call the City’s Environmental Services Department, I’m told that no one in the office is allowed to speak to me because I write for the Reader.

Later in the afternoon, I speak to Lieutenant Dan DeSousa at the County’s Department of Animal Services, and he tells me that there is one patrol officer per 85,000 people. So it’s unlikely that his officers will catch many offenders by witnessing the offense themselves.

“The community has to be the eyes and the ears,” he says.

However, he notes that the amount of feces on sidewalks in City Heights may not be solely the result of lazy dog owners.

“Dogs running loose is probably our biggest request for service throughout our jurisdiction,” DeSousa says.

For fiscal year 2011 — July 1, 2010, through June 30, 2011 — DeSousa estimates that his department received “about 400” calls about loose dogs in the 92105 zip code.

Ricardo Rojas, employee of Acacia Landscape, the company contracted to maintain the Landis and Highland Park, says that at least once a day he has to pick up dog feces on the walkway that cuts between the football/soccer fields and the City Heights performance annex. He sees a lot of dogs off leash, he tells me, and he sometimes witnesses those dogs defecate in the park, but he usually doesn’t say anything to the dog owner.

“I’m not a security guard. My job is to maintain this park,” he says. “This is one of those places where I don’t like to say anything because people get offended easily. That’s why I usually just ignore it and pick it up myself.”

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the type of person who doesn't pick up after their dog is the same type of person who doesn't spay or neuter, or keep their dog on a leash (leashes are the LAW on public property, unless otherwise designated).

it's a culture of selfish irresponsibility.

City Heights is full of dirtbags, lowlifes, and denizens on the lowest rungs of the socio-economic-demographic spectrum. Most residents in City Heights will never, ever voluntarily do something as simple as pick up their dog's feces or any pet waste, or litter. It's a trend that all low class people demonstrate: they won't do ANYTHING beyond what it takes to feed their own faces and look out for thier own needs. People who live in that area do not have the incliniation to behave like normal human beings; they do not take pride in their neighborhoods, they do not care for one another's health, and they have no concept of civic responsibility or common decency for that matter. I lived there for over a decade, I know it & I've seen it, I grew tired of it and I left.

Bernie, I lived in City Heights, and I am none of the things uyou described. Not the ritz's area, but not what you make it out to be either.......

Isn't "diversity" grand?

If the United States would reform its immigration policy rather than being the toilet bowl of the world, we wouldn’t have crappy people forming crappy neighborhoods.

Dog shit is a smelly subject! As a person that has raised Labs, I know about dogs!

Wanting to get rid of bags of dog shit is great if you are the one holding the bag but not so great if you are the one that gets stuck smelling that dog shit sitting upwind from you especially on a hot day or if the dog had diarrhea!

If you live in a condo and or have AC then it is not a big deal for you but if you live in places like North Park or City Heights and enjoy not having AC because you can leave your windows open then it would be really crappy (pun intended) to have a bin with other folks dog shit in it upwind from your home or place of business.

At the risk of sounding repetitive having dog shit deposited by others in a bin upwind from where you are is a crappy thing and not some thing I would encourage folks to support much less pay for in these tough times...

What I'd really like to see is a City ordinance that would fine folks for not picking up after their dogs and or not having them on a 6 foot (or less) leach. That way we could take a photo of them breaking the law and get the money in small claims court! This would really clean up San Diego quickly, as folks with dogs would then be forced to treat the rest of us with the respect we all deserve by being responsible pet owners!

"...while jogging up Wightman Street through City Heights..."

This caught my attention. I own my home in this 'hood. I also decry the conditions you rant about. I have actually DONE something... at least near my property. I have placed FREE once used shopping and newspaper bags with a sign: "Be a good neighbor - pick it up!" at the sidewalk. I also have put out a garbage can near the corner. It takes little effort to add its contents to my brown bin on trash day. Mine gets emptied more often than the city empties the ones on University Ave. These things are readily available, and I have met some nice people who thank me for doing it. This doesn't cost $8000 either. If more residents would CONTRIBUTE to the Neighborhood instead of criticizing from the sidelines there wouldn't be such a problem.

A blind person with a service dog would allow her animal to urinate and defecate in the same spot behind her apartment complex in the shared alleyway which also was faced by my bedroom windows in my City Heights apartment. She can't see, so her poop recovery is not the best...okay I understand that. But the volume of pee running down the alley would offend anyone who had to deal it. Just picture those lovely hot summer months when the pee smell would waft into my nostrils through my open windows, I would lay awake thinking of how great it would be to move somewhere else! You can bet if it was in some more affluent area, the people would be in an uproar, moaning & crying and invoking "The Precious Children" routine in response to the seeing eye canine's urine tsunami and all the dog poop strewn everywhere else. Not a peep from folks in City Heights....and SurfPuppy, you must live under a rock or a pile of dog poop because if you can't see it, then you're challenged.

I suggest you people being offended by this constant stream of dog refuse put the phone number of the County of San Diego Animal Control on your speed dial and take your cell phone camera with you at all times. If you happen to witness anyone allowing their dog off a leash or going to the bathroom without picking it up, call Animal Control. They will ask you where these people with offending dogs live, so it helps to have an address. Photo proof, if it can be gotten in a low-key manner, is also helpful. The phone number I call is 619-236-4250. I just hit "0" and wait for some live person to answer.

Since I live adjacent to a walking path in an apartment complex full of crackheads and low lives, I have had my own battles to bear in regard to morons with dogs. In addition, on our "private property," we have idiots from neighboring condo complexes whose condo rules forbid dogs access to their "common areas" so these "neighbors" bring their pets over to poop on ours! Dogs make wonderful pets and companions but I wish they could breed them not to defecate and urinate so much!

The type of person that does not pick up after their dog is the type of person that…

Throws litter out of their moving car

Drives an SUV but thinks everyone else should take the bus or ride a bike to save energy

Talks on their cell phone while driving

In other words they are selfish, entitlement mentality people who are also lazy and irresponsible

my great niece lives in City Heights and has a little Frenchie just like the one picture here...i often walk in that area with her and Oliver and never see unusual amount of dog poo on the sidewalks...ditto the pupster :(

Well, like misbehaving children, it's not the dogs... it's the owners.

If more people did what Scaleman is doing, there might be more people taking advantage of the doggie bags.

As I read this piece and the many comments, the part that is so hard to understand is how/why all these poorer folks can afford dogs, why they want dogs in such numbers, and what the gratification can be for keeping a dog in such straitened circumstances. On a farm or a suburban lot, a dog can run free without leaving the property. It isn't necessary to constantly walk the dog on sidewalks, nor is there a burning necessity to pick up every fragment of feces. In an area such as City Heights, the housing stock is older, small, confined and has too many people crammed into many units. Dogs just don't go with that set of constraints!

fooforever suggests calling city animal control. If he lives in San Diego, well, good luck! That city government just doesn't respond, hasn't done much for decades, and generally doesn't answer the phone. If you do get through, the "clerk" who answers will usually act confused/bored and respond generally negatively to any suggestion that his/her department is in any involved in your complaint. Usually it is some other city department's problem. Call that one, and it passes the buck to yet another department. And so it goes.

Let's get real with the suggestions and the probable solutions.

2 old 2 poor 2 crammed together 4 a pet...yikes...dogs r so beneficial 2 people...so good 4 their mental and physical health

even the begging homeless share their lives,shelter and food with dogs Visduh

fooforever suggests calling city animal control. If he lives in San Diego, well, good luck! That city government just doesn't respond, hasn't done much for decades, and generally doesn't answer the phone

My exact experiences, except worse in some cases, where they claim they WILL do something then don't, when you call them 6 months laters to find out they say they had a lack of funds, but forgot to tell you!

Some responsibilities for sidewalks fall back to adjacent property owners, not the city. Others perhaps not. So, who IS responsible for maintaining a sidewalk in a safe and usable condition? What does the law say?

Property owners and the city are responsible for repairing damaged sidewalks. Normal wear and tear or age damage is the responsibility of the homeowner and the city claims responsibility for damage caused by “vehicle accidents, water main breaks and natural subsidence” and damage done by city owned trees. The State of California Improvement Act of 1911 that provides cities the”authority to require property owners to effect repairs to sidewalks abutting their property. Should the property owner fail to effect such repairs, City forces are authorized to make the repairs and the property owner is assessed for the cost.” http://www.sandiego.gov/street-div/sidewalk.shtml

So, nobody has the responsibility to keep sidewalks reasonable for pedestrians? Is that why so many sidewalk cafes have spring up all over the place? They must have the same governing laws as dog poop. Neither the city nor the property owner is responsibile once the deed is done?

Alison W. says: If, in the course of your research, you uncover those we need to write to (faxing is great too, because it's hard to ignore a PILE.. Ha, go figure), let us know and we'll step up our efforts. I have a big dog. I clean up after her. A small dog's "little or cute" poop is still poop-stop being lazy, people!

I'm so disgusted, I just moved to this area ..... And you know how I found this posting? I was googling "neighbors that don't pick up their dog shit" ...... It stinks.... It's disgusting and I'm so annoyed !! I'm on 50th st ....... And I have a dog of my own, but you don't see me leaving dog shit behind.

This post is from 2011 and it's now 2013 and nothing has changed.

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