On October 6, I saw Emma walking her corgi and lab-hound mix dogs in front of the downtown Albertsons. As I approached her, her corgi defecated on the sidewalk; Emma was quick to pick up.
“Nice,” I said, “do other dog owners in these parts take initiative as you do?”
“Not necessarily,” she laughed as we walked northbound.
“I’ve lived here (by 14th Street and Market Avenue) for about a year and I feel [the stench] wasn’t as bad a year ago; it’s gotten worse.”
Two dog walkers then passed us heading back towards Market Street.
“They shouldn’t have a pet if they can’t clean up after them,” she said. “I’m moving out in a few weeks because the smell has gotten so bad here.”
As we strolled, I noticed the Doozydog! Club across the street. It’s a pet sitting and groomer business on the corner of G and 14th. I called for an interview but the sales rep sent me to the manager’s voicemail.
“I loved Doozydog,” said graduate student Christina D. “I used them during my chemotherapy — heavily. It’s a bummer that anyone would even think that perhaps the [stench] issue was with them. They do walk dogs that are staying there (provided that the customer asked for that service), but they always pick up after the dogs. They use the same walking paths typically just around that block.”
Christina owns a 13-year-old dachshund named Frankie and a two-year-old lab/shepherd mix named Kylo. She lived in this part of town for almost two years then moved to Serra Mesa in March.
“The smell has definitely worsened,” she said. “I [still] spend the night downtown about once per week and it’s impossible to avoid the smell.”
As I walked on the 14th street sidewalks (between Market and G streets), I noticed trees were planted on both sides with a metal plate surrounding the trunks to hide the dirt underneath. The majority of the stench seemed to be coming from the metal plates as they are being used as toilets by the doggies — remnants of feces could be seen on some of them. One light pole showed heavy oxidation by the base. Some trees even had signs posted at the bottom which read “NO PET AREA PLEASE” but these areas stunk the worst.
“There are folks that come along and clean around the buildings, especially at 13th and Market, Christina said, “but I’m not sure if it’s the apartment complex or not. There are men and women in the grey uniforms, with full janitorial carts and yellow vests — that go around downtown to take out the trash and pick things up on the ground, but they don’t really do any deep cleaning.
“The building itself scrubs the areas where urine has actually been [but] again, I’m not sure if it’s something that the management company for 13th and Market does, or what, but they do scrub where there is obvious urine.”
I then spoke to one of the female employees at Albertsons about the stench outside of their store on 14th and Market. “We really don’t have anything to do with that, unfortunately,” she said, “it’s a city issue ….. [even] the trash cans outside are not Albertsons there’s a certain line and it’s all city.”
Pet owners in the immediate area or 13th/14th and Market streets have two options to bring their dogs to use the bathroom; Quartyard which is across the street from Albertsons, and Fault Line Park, which is between 14th and 15th one block south between J and Island streets.
On Quartyard’s Yelp page, some patrons complained about the dog pee smell, so visiting dog owners sometimes feel the stink eye. Another thing: some doggies don’t like the loud music here.
Fault Line Park has a 1.5 star Yelp review average. Some visitors mentioned that the park has unleashed pitbulls, acts of human aggression and alcohol consumption …. another said: “I can’t walk out my door and take my dog to the park without seeing someone doing drugs.”
“It’s 100 percent not purely animal excrement that we’re dealing with,” Christina said. “One woman asked me to bring her medication for her diarrhea as she was kicking heroin, and having major issues with vomiting and diarrhea. The men nonchalantly just pee wherever they please. If they’re dehydrated, which a majority are, the smell is just horrendous. I think people forget that there is a large population of folks living downtown without homes to go to. They don’t have a place to go to the bathroom aside from a few public restrooms.”
Emma agrees that it’s not just their pets making their blocks smell; “It’s also the homeless and [sometimes] their dogs.”
When Emma and I parted ways on the G and 14th street corner, I noticed a dog waste bags dispenser on a light pole.
“They really need to make sure the bag dispensers are full, and if at all possible, add more,” Christina said. “If you are close to a bag, you’ll pick up your dog’s poop. I’ve seen homeless folks actually using the bags to pick up their own feces as well. Those bags are seriously beneficial for the feces situation. For urine I think it’s a little harder. They really need to be cleaning the sidewalks regularly, with some sort of solution that neutralizes the ammonia.
"At one point there was a public restroom situated outdoor across from the original 13th and Market location. The homeless folks really used it, and I think it kept things from getting worse. At the end of the day, the only way to really fix the smell, is to focus on the homeless. Dogs have, and will, continue to urinate on things downtown. That is where using some sort of dog urine neutralizing cleaner would come in handy. A few extra public restroom options for the homeless, would help.
"Security also needs to be more on the lookout for people relieving themselves outside. It isn’t just homeless folks: it’s kind of something we all would joke about on Sundays, having to avoid the urine, feces, and vomit from the partiers that weekend.”