Dogged by constant barking, Haven Avenue residents seek relief

High-end apartments on Haven Avenue sit right next to a longstanding dog kennel, and nearly two years in, residents say they are going crazy from the constant barking. (Photo by Kate Bradshaw.)

The barking is constant, and has been since Jackie Comstock moved in to the Anton Menlo apartment complex on Haven Avenue in April 2017, she says.

Gruff growls, forlorn howls and sharp yips can be heard around the clock from Tyson Kennels, which is located next door at 3735 Haven Ave. in eastern Menlo Park, nearby residents say.

Comstock and her neighbors have called code enforcement; they've filed complaints through the city's "SeeClickFix" app, and called the kennel owner, Tiffany Tyson.

Comstock has even made public records requests trying to get to the bottom of how and why the dog kennel is allowed to generate so much noise so close to her home, day after day.

And still, she said, she finds herself and her family kept up at night, subject to incessant barking that, according to sound measurements she and her neighbors have collected, reaches typical volumes of 45 to 60 decibels, with regular spikes of around 80 decibels, and one reading of 103 decibels. For reference, a vacuum cleaner typically registers 70 decibels, while 100 decibels is equal to the volume of an approaching subway train.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, noise above 85 decibels over a prolonged period of time may start to damage one's hearing. The agency reports that people typically start to feel annoyed by the noise level beginning at 70 decibels.

The city's municipal code sets noise limits at 50 decibels at night and 60 during the day.

Comstock and her neighbors, Karin Sargis, Judith Howson and Annika Mortensen, recently asked the City Council for relief. The noise is worst, they said, in the apartment building nearest to the dog kennel.

"I've never opened my windows at that apartment, and I've lived there a year and seven months. It's an insult that we can't do something about it," Howson said at the June 18 council meeting.

"It's extremely uncomfortable to function," Sargis told the council, adding that the barking takes place 24/7, and that she works for a school district and needs good sleep for work.

"It is not a live, work, play (environment)," Comstock insisted. "It it is a windows closed, don't go outside, can't-sleep environment, and it's not healthy."

On the other side of the tension is Tyson, who has been taking care of the dogs at the kennel since she was a kid and her grandparents, Randy Tyson-Witmer and David Witmer, owned it.

During this reporter's recent visit to the kennel, Tyson greeted the dogs by name as she walked down the narrow walkway separating a series of dog runs from the fence that serves as the barrier between the apartments and the kennel – which did, in fact, get them barking excitedly.

Tyson said the kennel typically has about 60 dogs on the premises on weekdays, and roughly 20 to 30 dogs there on weekends, though the number varies.

The family has a long legacy of training dogs in the community, and also runs Witmer-Tyson Imports, which imports, breeds and trains German shepherds, some of which work with local police departments.

The kennel has been at the same location since the city granted its owners a conditional use permit in June 1972, Tyson said. At the time the permit was approved, the nearest occupied building was more than 400 feet away from the proposed kennel.

In recent years, two developments Anton Menlo, completed in spring 2018, and Elan Menlo Park, completed in fall 2017 have added a combined 540 apartments to the block. Hardest hit by the barking are the residents of Anton Menlo's Building C, which is nearest to the kennel, according to the apartment dwellers who brought their concerns to the City Council.

So what happens when the industrial area where the kennel sits becomes a residential neighborhood and there are suddenly high-end apartments next door, where people are tearing their hair out from all the noise their canine neighbors make?


Records of submissions on the SeeClickFix app, which allows people to send in code complaints, show residents have been frustrated by the way the barking interferes with their daily lives.

One complaint stated: "The dogs at the kennel constantly bark with no reprieve. Can't have dinner without having to talk over it, can't put my toddler to bed without it waking her up, can't work from home because the noise is non stop."

The city's laws say that a conditional use permit, if approved by the Planning Commission, should ensure that a property's use isn't "detrimental to the health, safety, morals, comfort and general welfare of the persons residing or working in the neighborhood of such proposed use."

The residents have also called Tyson, who says that before the residents moved into the new apartments, the kennel never had problems with other nearby businesses in the industrial area, and many people who work nearby bring their dogs to the kennel.

"We totally get that the barking would be an annoyance (to the new residents). We're sympathetic to that," she said.

As the apartments were going up, she said, kennel operators met with the Anton Menlo owners, and they came up with a plan to try to be good neighbors. Tyson said she brought in a sound engineer to figure out what could be done. Sound-dampening material was installed above some of the dog kennels closest to the apartments, she said.

"We are still willing to do more if that's what they would like," she said, declining to comment on who would be expected to pay for additional soundproofing measures.

Important for her, she said, is to publicly challenge the assertion from nearby residents that the dogs are unhappy or in distress.

"The dogs are in no way in any harm or discomfort," she said. "We've been giving quality care for 50 years."

As an old-fashioned boarding facility, Tyson said, it's not an enclosed space, and noises from the apartment residents, especially at times when there are more residents out and about, can trigger further barking.

"We can't make everybody happy, but for a majority, we run a very happy, healthy dog kennel," she said.

She also commented that it's not feasible to train the dogs to be quiet, since the kennel has a different set of dogs pretty much every day. The number of dogs at the facility also fluctuates, which makes the noise levels unpredictable and understandably even more frustrating to the neighbors, Tyson said.

At night, Tyson said, she makes an effort to move as many dogs as possible to an area of the kennel nearer to the Bay, but sometimes that area fills up and some dogs must remain near the apartments.

Zoning problems

So whose idea was it to put housing so close to a dog kennel? While he wasn't working with the city when properties on Haven Avenue were rezoned to permit housing, Community Development Director Mark Muenzer commented: "The city obviously continues to try to develop housing to address the situation we're in. ... The land along Haven (Avenue) was identified as a good location to try and address that situation."

Permitting the two uses side by side has created a unique situation in the city, he added.

Muenzer contrasted the problem of the dog kennel and the next-door apartments to another noise-related neighborhood tension playing out elsewhere in the city. In the Willows neighborhood, BootUp World a tech company incubator at 68 Willow Road that also hosts parties and events for tech founders to mingle with venture capitalists has attracted fierce opposition from neighbors, who say the business violates the city's noise ordinance with its late-night raucous parties.

Unlike BootUp World, which has not received permission to host such events and is in the process of applying for a new use permit, on Haven Avenue, both the apartment complex and the dog kennel are entitled to be there under city zoning laws, Muenzer said.

In an early staff report for the kennel's 1972 use permit, staff appeared to indicate some expectation that the dogs would stay indoors at night, but that was never a condition of the kennel's approval, Muenzer said. Tyson said it's not possible to keep the dogs indoors at night due to the sanitary problems that could be created by animal waste.

Enforcement problems

Figuring out how to enforce the noise ordinance when both parties are entitled to operate as they are under city zoning creates a challenge, Menlo Park Police Chief Dave Bertini told The Almanac.

He said the police department is handling the problem as it does with other neighborhood disputes: by supporting mediation with, rather than penalizing, the noise-making party. The police department does not typically get involved with issuing citations for noise complaints, he said.

"We don't cite people for having a barking dog," he said. "From our perspective, it doesn't do good."

It's also difficult for the police department to record a dog-barking-related noise violation, he added. A dog has to either be barking for 30 minutes straight, or has to be barking at a high volume for five minutes straight.

"It's a pretty high bar for that to happen," he said.

He also responded to a concern from one of the apartment residents that the kennel has received special treatment from the police department because some officers board their police dogs at the kennel, and because Wittmer-Tyson Imports breeds and trains German shepherds for the city of Menlo Park.

"I think that's ridiculous," he said. "Many law enforcement (departments) in the region buy dogs from them."

He said the department helped set up several meetings with both parties and mediation support from the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center to collaborate and come up with solutions for sound mitigation.

"I see both sides," he added, noting that he doesn't think the police officers are the "right people to be making these decisions."

"We basically have told both parties this is a civil matter ... and that (they) need to work it out," he continued. "(They) may have to go to civil court to come to a solution."

In the meantime, Anton Menlo resident Comstock is still waiting for an explanation for why the dog kennel is allowed to make so much noise, despite the city's noise ordinance. She and her neighbors have asked for the matter to be brought to the City Council for review.

According to Mayor Ray Mueller, city staff is investigating the problem and will be preparing a report for the council. Staff is aiming to have the matter on the council's August agenda, he said.


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74 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 12, 2019 at 1:53 pm

I read this article in the paper and just shook my head. That kennel has been there for 50 years. It was irresponsible of the developers to build an apartment so close without addressing the issue by adding additional soundproofing to the apartments close to the kennel. It was also a little short sighted of the tennands that rented those apartments. It the dogs bark 24 hours a day then they certainly must have heard them when the looked at the apartments and known that it would be an issue.

The only people I feel sorry for is the owner of the kennel. You operate a business for close to 50 years without a problem and then a developer looking to make a fortune puts apartments where they really don't belong and the tennants who should have know better get up in arms and cause a lot of problems. Maybe the tennants should turn their anger at the apartment owners and try to get them to mitigate the issue with a sound wall, additional sound proofing in the apartments and/or reduced rent for the apartments closest to the kennel.

14 people like this
Posted by zSquad1
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jul 12, 2019 at 2:18 pm

zSquad1 is a registered user.

Ditto What Brian said.

Instead if reaching out to the Police and Kennel to rectify this problem the tenants should be directing their issues to their LandLord and Developer maybe the Cities Planning and Permit Dept!!

-More sound proofing in Walls and windows would be a start.
-Sound Wall
-Compensation for moving expenses etc.
-Notice to prospective tenants

2 people like this
Posted by OzSquad1
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jul 12, 2019 at 2:19 pm

OzSquad1 is a registered user.

57 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jul 12, 2019 at 2:19 pm

Brian stated it perfectly. The residents chose to move into an apartment complex next to a dog kennel. It's just like if you move into an apartment/house next to a train track - you can't complain about train noise when they come by. The train/dogs were there before you moved in.

14 people like this
Posted by Someone else needs to change
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 12, 2019 at 2:55 pm

I moved next to 85 in Cupertino and now all I hear is the sound of cars! Someone needs to change the freeway!

15 people like this
Posted by sandy ferrando
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jul 12, 2019 at 4:23 pm

I'm With Robert.
There should have been a disclaimer!
Airports get AirPlanes ~ Kennels get Dogs.
No sympathy here for any tenant.
They should move on.

16 people like this
Posted by Jerry
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jul 12, 2019 at 5:18 pm

I would be more than happy donate to a law suit that Tyson’s might bring against the city and developer. The city planners should not have approved the apartments without the DEVELOPER taking action to put up a sound barrier to protect their tenants.
Tyson’s moved to a remote location many years ago and have run a very fine business that offers a great service to our citizens. This situation is ridiculous and can totally be blamed on the city and the Developers. If Trysons become embroiled with the city over this I hope there would be a lawsuit and I’m sure many will support the Tyson’s in every way possible.

1 person likes this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Jul 12, 2019 at 5:43 pm

Tyson's is icky and has a matching reputation for a reason. But how could potential apartment dwellers not know it would be a problem? It's pretty obvious.

12 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 12, 2019 at 5:48 pm

Some local barking history.
When Clement Chen's family built the Westin Hotel at the corner of Wells and ECR there was a pet hospital with boarding across Wells. Hotel customers complained about the barking. But the pet faculty had been there forever. Chen finally bought out the owners for a very pretty penny (we knew one of the vet owners) and built the Clement Hotel charges $600 plus for it's rooms. We only had to pay about $25 a night for our dog at the pet facility.
BTW your pets get to stay for free at the Clement, check their web site.

Like the other comments I have no sympathy for the tenants or developers. Those apts were built because of Facebook employees needing housing. Facebook brings//brought a whole range of problems with it that MP gov has been blind to.

15 people like this
Posted by Barbara
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jul 12, 2019 at 7:10 pm

I agree w/ everyone above. The developer, planning commission, and tenants are to blame. If I don’t want traffic noise, I don’t move to a house on a 4-lane street. If I don’t want to listen to dogs, I don’t move next to a kennel...! If I don’t want to hear airplane noise, I don’t move next to an airport! The tenants should be looking to the Developer for remediation - certainly not to Tyson’s! They’ve been there 5O years and have all the necessary permits.

7 people like this
Posted by a Tyson’s customer
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Jul 13, 2019 at 8:34 am

No need to repeat the apt arguments set forth above, but I do want to emphasize the comment that Tyson’s provides a good community service. We take our dog there regularly and it’s such a relief to know we can, for example, when we know we’ll be gone for a long day or have workers (e.g., plumbers) working in the house. Plus, my dog really enjoys the Saturday obedience lessons there.

If the city council member read this, please know how valuable Tyson’s is in our community and that my opinion is that it is totally unfair to Tyson’s and the dogs that housing has encroached upon them, previously way out of anyone’s habitat, in an industrial area. Please do the right thing.

4 people like this
Posted by Air BNB guest
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jul 13, 2019 at 8:52 am

I stayed in the Anton Apartments in May for 4 nights, and the"barking" is not an accurate description. It sounds a lot more like dog fights. it was heartbreaking to hear the agitation and stress of so many dogs around the clock.

4 people like this
Posted by Lynne Bramlett
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 13, 2019 at 6:32 pm

Lynne Bramlett is a registered user.

I went to Haven Avenue today to see how close the dog kennel was to the apartments. I would say that in person, they are even closer than what I thought just by looking at the picture.

As to what should be done, please also see the detailed letter that Jacqueline Comstock sent to City Council regarding the matter. Web Link As to just moving, it's not that easy as the letter details. Plus, there is the suggestion that perhaps the "affordable units" were placed next to the dog kennel.

The renters may not find it so easy to move for multiple reasons. It also sounds as though the "barking" is far worse than what most of us can imagine.

Some additional ideas would be to consult some veterinarians about the barking, or the Humane Society, as both might have some helpful ideas. Web Link

15 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 13, 2019 at 7:06 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Dogs bark. It's what they do. And when you put a bunch of them together, they bark incessantly. Only way to stop it is to drug them. Wish I could drug my neighbors when they're being noisy.

Sorry. This is just another example of people moving in close to a "nuisance" and then complaining about it. The kennel being there with barking dogs was no secret.

8 people like this
Posted by Tyson’s customer
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Jul 14, 2019 at 7:12 am

I repeat myself, I take my dog there regularly. I’m there on Saturdays. The dog barking, in my opinion, is no different than at a dog park, where I’ve spent countless hours in various cities my adult life.

I’ve also boarded my dog at Tyson’s.

If I believed my dog would be unsafe or otherwise at Tyson’s, I wouldn’t bring my dog there.

I agree with the above: dogs bark; it’s what they do. It’s a dog kennel.

4 people like this
Posted by Tyson’s customer
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Jul 14, 2019 at 8:32 am

Further, I agree that there is a problem, including the larger problem of housing. We’re in Silicon Valley, for goodness’s sake. There has got to be an abundance of creative engineers who can help devise a solution.

But, in my opinion, it’s unjust to denigrate an established community service and business, let alone a good family name, for a new problem.

4 people like this
Posted by Lynne Bramlett
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 14, 2019 at 12:06 pm

Lynne Bramlett is a registered user.

As the Humane Society article details, dogs get "some kind of reward" when they bark. Web Link article suggests ways to remove the stimulation and/or desentizing dogs from barking. More exercise is also listed as an idea as tired dogs bark less. A Vet might have additional ideas. This isn't intended as a criticism of the dog kennel's current operation. PetMD also has helpful ideas that the Kennel Staff might be willing to try. Web Link

Even if the current residents move out, other residents will move in and they will then experience the problem. I think it would be better to try to find a solution that works for all parties, including the dogs!

2 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 14, 2019 at 5:03 pm

Air BNB Guest,

It was mentioned in the article that the dogs are only barking and are not in distress.

"Important for her, she said, is to publicly challenge the assertion from nearby residents that the dogs are unhappy or in distress.

"The dogs are in no way in any harm or discomfort," she said. "We've been giving quality care for 50 years.""

I did not see any mention of fighting in the Yelp reviews so I am going ot have to assume that is not the case. I had a neighbor who had a dog that used to bark and whine like it was hurt. I was worried at first and went over to check on it, the dog was fine that was just how it behaved when it was alone.

The bottom line to me is that the Kennel has been there 50 years and provides a great community service. They built the apartments two years ago to make as much money as possible and didn't really care about the noise problem. Whose fault is that? The tennants would know immediately that there were dogs barking and must have choosen to rent knowing that problem existed. As one person pointed out, this is like people who rent/buy near an airport and then demand the airport be closed because it is noisy.

10 people like this
Posted by Travis Bickell
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 14, 2019 at 9:51 pm

The article says,"The land along Haven Ave was identified as a good location to try and address that situation (lack of housing)". The Menlo Park official who identified the location should be fired.

2 people like this
Posted by Alan
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 15, 2019 at 10:52 am

I've walked through the apartments several times, and a few times the dogs were particularly loud ... but it's pretty obvious this would be a problem, so - not a lot of sympathy. I'm sure the dogs were barking during construction. The apartments with the good view of the bay would have the most problem; the inward pointing ones, not so much.

6 people like this
Posted by Steve_J
a resident of another community
on Jul 15, 2019 at 2:24 pm

Steve_J is a registered user.

Noise bothers you, MOVE!!!!

6 people like this
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 15, 2019 at 11:14 pm

@ Hmm - shame on you for attempting to anonymously smear a respected local business!
Tysons's has a good reputation. I fully support Tyson's and have been a a customer for 40+ years, both for boarding my pets & for dog training classes.
The developers and the MP Planning Commission are to blame. Maybe the barking is worse now because of car traffic to/from apartments at all hours? This is classic "I just got here & the neighbors bother me so the neighbors are to blame" idiocy.

The MP planning commission is to blame for plenty of ill-though decisions (Red Cottage snafu, etc) and often fails to consider the impact of or on pre-existing residents & businesses, then blames those for newbie problems. They love & enable the collection of fees associated with any new developments. The developers here were simply greedy. They bought the cheapest land they could find & didn't provide adequate soundproofing. Sue the developer to replace all windows with triple-pane glass.

Tenants: Look & listen before you lease. Do not blame others for your own failure to perform due diligence. Did it occur to any of you to park @ Anton after office hours & maybe picnic in your car for 30 minutes to assess the noise levels which might be expected near a kennel? Thought not.

Tyson's isn't the problem here. It was there first. Any newcomers who can pay $3190 monthly for a 563 sq. ft. apartment can afford to move.
Web Link

Neighboring Elan Apartments have plenty of complaints on yelp but NONE are about Tyson Kennels.
Web Link

6 people like this
Posted by Jackie Comstock
a resident of Menlo Park: other
19 hours ago

While I have not wanted to post on this thread, I feel compelled to speak up, as many of the comments inaccurately represent the situation. I am so glad that many posts acknowledge that this was short sighted of the City. Unfortunately, other posts place blame on the tenants. Please don't be short-sighted.

Ms. Bramlett posted a link to the letter I wrote the City on July 10th, 2019. Before attacking the residents, please educate yourself on the situation.
Web Link

The dogs do not bark 24/7. They bark anywhere from 40-70% of the day and night at constant levels typically ranging from 45dB to 75dB. Many of us, especially those of us who rented very early on, were unaware that a kennel existed behind the property (again the dogs do not bark 24/7) - and even for those who were aware (myself not included), who would think that a City would allow for noise levels to reach 80+dB at 2:30 in the morning within City limits?! A picnic in our cars to monitor noise at a residential community? Really?

The original permit was issued in 1972, and it clearly states that the dogs are to be indoors at night. That being said, I agree with all who think it is unfair to the kennel. In fact, I reached out to Tiffany Tyson to see if the kennel wanted to join me in urging the City to help find a resolution. During the call, I gathered information about additional soundproofing that could help the situation. Just to be clear - I have never attacked their business, have never posted on Yelp or Facebook, and have never said that dogs at a kennel should not bark.

I can only speak for myself when I say that fault is with the City. Not the kennel and not the tenants. The developer did what a developer is supposed to do - develop. Anton Dev Co. built apartments in conjunction with the City rezoning the land so they could build – the City needed these apartments so they would be in compliance with a settlement agreement. The City is supposed to zone land so adjacent uses are compatible. The City failed to conduct an accurate Environmental Assessment when rezoning the land. In fact, they omitted Tyson Kennels from the noise studies all together! They should have required the developer to mitigate the noise during development. Developers are not going implement such measures without it being required by the City.

All I have asked is that the City own up to its mistake and help implement a solution (i.e. additional soundproofing at the kennel and at the apartments). The City failed in its duty to protect residents from noise and to protect a local business from increased development.

2 people like this
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
17 hours ago

People contemplating renting or buying near businesses, especially shopping centers, gas stations, large grocery stores, motels, and churches are often advised by their real estate agents to check out in advance what might disturb them as neighbors.

Safeway & other large supermarkets usually get deliveries from semi-trucks very late at night & in the wee hours. People worried about whether a motel becomes party central on weekend nights are advised to get go check it out around midnight. Churches often produce severe traffic & parking problems for local residents during service hours. There are many immediately local examples.

It's unfortunate that some tenants were unaware of the neighboring kennel. They might have opted to live elsewhere.

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