Last Friday's Daily Breeze brings us up to date on an overlooked but compelling story of animals, public use of city property and -- of course -- eviction. For a good background read, see a March Coast Gopher report. Nearly a quarter-century ago Peter Burmeister and a band of volunteers received permission from the Department of Water and Power, and from CalTrans, to transform a desolate stretch of rubbish-strewn land beneath the interchange of the San Diego and Harbor freeways. The DWP owns two-thirds of property, with CalTrans claiming the other third; both agencies granted Burmeister, a German native and veteran dog trainer, to use the property without payment or rent. Burmeister and his volunteers then cleared the blighted land, planted lawns and landscaping, and created the K-9 West Coast dog park .
For more than 22 years Burmeister and his associates have used their non-profit outfit to train canines for use by the handicapped, law enforcement, rescue agencies and people wishing to enter their dogs in competitions. It was all done without a dime of public funds but last December DWP said a neighbor somewhere in the surrounding wasteland had complained and told Burmeister to vamoose from the North Carson tract. (The complaining "neighbor" is allegedly a disgruntled former associate of West Coast K-9.) After some back and forth, DWP told Burmeister he and his friends, both human and four-legged, could remain on the property -- if his group obtained a $1 million-liability insurance policy and paid DWP $1,000 monthly rent.
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West Coast K-9 says it will buy the insurance but cannot afford the rent, claiming it can prove its monthly landscaping maintainence alone costs the group $1,620. Burmeister has offered to pay a more token rent of between $100 and $150. This has created a stalemate, with City Council District 15's Janice Hahn and police fraternal organizations lobbying DWP to compromise with Burmeister. He was first ordered to vacate in January, then April 15 and then June 8, but received yet another reprieve last Monday.