Page One

Solano Avenue Going to The Dogs, Say Neighbors

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday September 19, 2006

Supporters of the Milo Foundation urged the Zoning Adjustments Board last week to authorize the animal adoption agency’s continued use and plans for 1575 Solano Ave. and 1572 Capistrano Ave., as other neighbors called the business a nuisance. 

According to the proposal, the buildings would not expand and the exterior changes would be limited to a new door, window and landscaping on the Capistrano facade, a new driveway gate, an open space area, and new windows on the Solano facade. 

Some area residents asked ZAB to deny the request and not allow the Milo Foundation to continue its operation, arguing that it fouled the area with dog feces, drainage problems and barking at all hours. 

ZAB postponed the matter until Oct. 12 when the foundation can return with concrete plans for the changes. ZAB members also said they wanted the delay to assess how the foundation responds to the neighbors’ concerns. 

The Planning Department had granted a zoning certificate to the Milo Foundation in February 2005 for a “dog/cat adoption service” at 1575 Solano with “no boarding.” However, neighbors informed city staff in June that the previous pet store never sold dogs or cats.  

As a result, the city told the Milo Foundation that a use permit would be required to allow dogs and cats on the premises and instructed it to file for the additional use permit within 60 days.  

City staff also decided that “boarding” refers to the temporary lodging of others’ animals, and “the keeping of dogs and cats for the purpose of sale or adoption is not considered ‘boarding’ and is not specifically prohibited in the neighborhood commercial district.” 

The building on Capistrano Avenue includes a dwelling unit on the second floor occupied by Lynn Tingle, the foundation’s director and founder. Tingle said that the project would bring about positive changes to the foundation as well as the neighborhood. 

“We will be working on drainage, soundproofing, indoor loading and unloading and odor control. We have applied for three off-street parking spaces,” she said. “Hot water distribution will also be increased which will help clean the sidewalks.” 

Zachary Pine, who lives three blocks away from the Milo Foundation, said that the neighborhood had become cleaner since Milo started its operations there.  

“I have volunteered for over a year now and have spoken to a lot of neighbors who feel the same way as I do,” he said. “The volunteers pick up not just their dogs’ mess but also that of other dogs. We have definitely seen an improvement.” 

However, there were also neighbors who spoke against the foundation’s operations and about 15 complained to the board about the noise from barking dogs, odors, use of the rear driveway, drainage and parking. 

“Twenty-eight dogs is just way too many. These dogs are walked thrice a day and the dog walkers leave fecal matter and urine all over my front yard. This is just too much,” said Christine Schnepp, adding that the low-density commercial nature of the neighborhood made it a very challenging situation for the neighbors. 

“We are not an area for a dog pound. My yard was quiet an year ago but after the Milo Foundation moved in I have been unable to work from home,” said Melissa Penn, a neighbor. “They have a non-existent drainage system, improper waste management and lack sustainable solutions. Milo speaks of how much of a good neighbor it wants to be but in reality it hardly makes any effort to listen to the neighbor’s problems.” 

Jeremy Franklin, a resident of Peralta Avenue, said that if the business continued to grow it would impact the neighborhood negatively and proposed that the business be moved to a different location. 

“Why are we even discussing mitigation when we have an out of control operation here?” asked board member Bob Allen. “Milo continues to ignore the neighbors, ignore the health risks and ignore the hours of operation in their use permit. ... I am appalled that we have dogs and cats crapping on driveways. This operation should be closed.” 

Board member Jesse Aragon objected to Allen’s characterization. 

“Milo is making a good effort,” he said. “If they reduce the number of dogs, work on drainage, install soundproofing and provide emergency contact numbers to neighbors then the majority of the problems would be significantly reduced.” 

Board member Sara Shumer described Milo as a community asset. 

“Nothing seems to be out of control,” she said. “There are also neighbors who don’t find feces on their sidewalk, who are not disturbed by the noise. I think educating volunteers and mitigating at the location would certainly help the situation.” 

Raudel Wilson asked the Milo Foundation to come back to the ZAB with some concrete details about how long it would take to complete the project and how they were going to finance it. 

“Solano is a funny neighborhood to have a thing like the Milo Foundation in it, but where else in Berkeley can we put it?” asked board member Rick Judd. 

Judd suggested ordering a professional noise analysis and considering possibilities such as having the dogs walked at a different location and overnighting them somewhere else. 


Other matters 

The request to allow the expansion of the South Berkeley Police Substation on 3192 Adeline St. for employee lockers and vehicle storage was continued to ZAB’s Sept. 26 meeting. 

The request by the City of Berkeley Public Works Department, Engineering Division, to change a required condition of approval and mitigation measure to allow emergency-activated flashing yellow warning beacons in front of the Hills Fire Station instead of a required traffic signal was also carried over.