June 22, 2008(staff photo by sean hiller).
by Donna Littlejohn
San Pedro: coastal, always a cool breeze, right?
That's what the architects of the town's new animal shelter decided when they left out the mister cooling system that's standard fare at the city's other facilities.
But sitting through the brow-mopping, sweltering temperatures at Saturday's grand-opening ceremony for the Harbor Animal Care Center at 957 N. Gaffey St. in north San Pedro, city officials soon found out what most residents already knew:
South San Pedro - cool.
North San Pedro - hot.
A scramble is now under way to find money to install the automated system that sends sprays of cooling water into dog kennels on hot days. So how hot was it Saturday at the shelter?
By 4 p.m., it was 105 - not altogether uncommon during a heat wave in north San Pedro, where there is rarely a genuine sea breeze to be found.
"I was dying," said Theresa Sardisco, a shelter volunteer who worked from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. staffing the celebration.
And with the stainless steel used in the construction on the new kennel "cubby" areas, Sardisco said the shelter's furry guests were heating up fast.
"It gives new meaning to the term `hot dogs,"' she said.
"It was terrible," said San Pedro resident Mary Jo Walker, who attended the opening festivities. "The shelter is beautiful, but they need misters. It was so hot out by the kennels, I felt sorry for those dogs. Their tongues were just hanging out."
San Pedro's southern neighborhoods near the ocean cliffs can be downright chilly during an L.A. heat wave. But temperatures often hover around peak highs just a few miles to the north, where the shelter sits.
"It gets hot down there," Walker said. "And come October, it's going to get even hotter."
Those who designed and planned the $18.7 million facility several years ago clearly were unfamiliar with San Pedro's many climate nuances.
"The engineers said this was a beach (area) property. They didn't think they needed the misters," said Harbor shelter Capt. Daniel Pantoja. "So the misters were not part of the original plan, but now the community is coming forward to get donations and work with the department."
Indoor areas at the 2-acre shelter are all air-conditioned. Aditional canopies are being installed this week over more of the outdoor portions of kennels to offer more shade. There are also heating pads to keep animals warm during cold mornings and nights.
But after Saturday, most everyone agrees: there must be misters.
Among the special guests dabbing perspiration from his brow and wearing a long-sleeve shirt and tie was Los Angeles Animal Services General Manager Ed Boks.
Boks was en route to Sacramento on Tuesday and could not be reached for comment. But he has told shelter personnel he's looking into the issue and was meeting with city engineers to see what can be done.
The punishing heat on opening day was probably the best argument anyone could have made for installing misters, Pantoja said.
The high temperatures, he said, "put the exclamation point at the end" of the argument. "Everyone was saying, `Where are the misters?"'
But how fast they can be installed - and exactly how they will be paid for - is another matter.
While a city estimate put the cost of misters for the 74 dog kennels at $40,000, Sardisco thinks it can be done for far less, perhaps in the range of $7,000. She's expecting estimates from two companies she called to be returned by Friday.
It remains unclear if city funds are available. A mister system has shown up on the shelter's online "wish list" for private donations.
Community groups, including neighborhood councils, already have either donated or pledged some $4,000 to help support the shelter where city funding falls short.
But Sardisco would rather see that money go toward the center's many other needs, such as permanent dog beds for the kennels, rather than misters.
"All the new shelters have them except us," she said. "But regardless of whether the city pays for them or not, I'm going to make sure they go up."
What: Donations are needed to assist San Pedro's new shelter. Funds will pay for some or all of the costs to install a mister cooling system for the 74 dog kennels.
Where: The shelter has posted a wish list for items that can be brought to the shelter at 957 N. Gaffey St. Visit www.lacity.org/ANI/ har_carecenter_wishlist.htm.
Information: Call Theresa Sardisco, 310-386-7932.