Staff Report on Noise Ordinance Exemption Is Baffling



Our initial report on Saturday did not have access to the staff report because the city’s computer system was down at the time it was written.  The staff report is now available and raises far more questions than answers primarily because it gives no rationale for the exemption other than the fact that the Council voted to direct staff to examine the noise ordinance and suggest approaches to dealing with child care centers and schools.

The issue of the time limitations for the noise ordinance exemption are interesting:

“The draft ordinance includes the exemption between the hours of 7:00 am and 7:00 pm. This parallels the time limits on construction hours.”

That is interesting because the construction hours time limitation is always something that the neighbors request a change on.

But the staff report fails to adequately describe the nature of the problems and the complaints.

They acknowledge the complaints which actually date back 15 years not the past several.

“Over the past several years, the City has fielded complaints over noise from day care centers, particularly from residents living adjacent to the Montessori Country Day Center on Renoir Avenue.”

But more importantly they write:

“Although the day care operator and adjacent homeowners cooperated in the construction of an insulated noise fence, the City continues to receive complaints.”

What the city fails to note is their own involvement in a May 2007 meeting where the City Manager, members of the city council, the owners, and the neighbors all met to deal with the problem.  At that meeting, Mark Woods, a city staffer wrote a letter to formalize the agreement.  The owner at this meeting agreed to construct a noise fence to mitigate noise, the cost of the fence would be split between the owners and neighbors.

However and here is the key point, it was agreed by all parties including the city:

“After the fence was in place we would re-evaluate the noise levels to determine if other measures need to be taken.”

In fact, the sound experts laid out a long series of recommendations for noise mitigation.  These recommendations include building a sound wall, moving the exit doors further from residents, utilizing a covered play area with sound deadening panels, create a new concrete surface that will reduce noise from wheeled toys, change the tires on these toys to soft rubber, cordon off the rear area near the fence, relocate the current patio, and change the rear exit doors to emergency use only. 

The neighbors were willing to share the costs of these changes.

So for the city staff report to say that they cooperated in the construction of the noise fence, well that’s true, but the sound experts at that time told the city and the city AGREED to make additional changes and they did not.

The sound report in fact clearly states that the sound wall itself would not work unless the other required mitigation measures were met.  The city agreed to re-evaluate noise levels, and we have measurements from the sound expert after the construction of the sound wall showing 90 decibel reads INSIDE people’s homes through double-pane sound insulated windows.

In short the city has violated and failed to follow through on their own agreement with the neighbors to mitigate the noise.  As one can see from the staff report, there is no justification for the changing of the noise ordinance other than the fact that the council asked them to evaluate it.

Even the proposed resolution does not offer any justification for the noise ordinance other than:

“the General Plan includes a Goal (Y&E 7) to work with the Davis Joint Unified School District and private school operators to provide for public schools and educational facilities that serve as neighborhood focal points and maintain a quality learning and recreational environment.”

To some this may seem like a minor issue, however, to others this goes to the heart of the problem.  The city has known about this problem going back at least to 1994.  They have taken some steps to mitigate the problem but failed to follow the advise of the sound experts who told them specifically that the sound wall alone would not solve the problems and then they meticulously laid out the next steps to be taken.  The city agreed to these as the letter from Mark Woods demonstrates but never followed through.

In August the neighbors again sent a letter to the city and the city responded this time by putting an exemption to the noise ordinance on the agenda this week.  Individual city council members were sent emails requesting meetings and they failed to respond to the neighbors concerns.

From the picture, one can see exactly what the problem is.  You have a covered patio area and a play area that directly abuts the homes.  How difficult would it be for them to have the kids primarily play somewhere else?  And while some of the other measures would have added expense, if that is the cause of the problem, why not share the expense and move the location of the play area to the front rather than the side of the property right next to the neighbors?

There is little doubt that if the neighbors are being negatively impacted by the consistently high levels of noise that the children and workers are as well.  The city wants to exempt the facility from noise issues but at the same time it is not doing its due diligence to protect the health and safety of the children under this facility’s care.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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26 thoughts on “Staff Report on Noise Ordinance Exemption Is Baffling”

  1. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]There is little doubt that if the neighbors are being negatively impacted by the consistently high levels of noise that the children and workers are as well. The city wants to exempt the facility from noise issues but at the same time it is not doing its due diligence to protect the health and safety of the children under this facility’s care.[/i]

    Yes, thank you! Note that simply moving the children to a different spot would not necessarily solve this part of the problem.

    If anyone from the city is reading this post, here is a link to Federal OSHA noise standards ([url][/url]). (And I hope that David looks at these numbers too.) If the noise is 90 decibels through a sound wall and a double-paned window, how loud is it in the play area itself? If it were 100 decibels, then the OSHA standard is that workers should be exposed to this much noise for at most 2 hours per day.

    Morever, the OSHA standards are written for people like construction crew workers. They are not written for small children.

  2. Greg Kuperberg

    To sharpen the point: Any noise environment that violates OSHA standards is [b]not[/b] a “quality learning and recreational environment”, and it is [b]not[/b] the “sweet sounds of children playing”. It could be the sour sounds of children shouting or even crying because there is too much noise. The city should check for itself with noise monitoring before making these characterizations.

  3. rusty49

    90 decibels is equivalent to the sound level that a gas lawn mower puts out. I’ve been at that daycare center during recess and no way did the sound get as loud as a gas lawn mower.

  4. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]I’ve been at that daycare center during recess and no way did the sound get as loud as a gas lawn mower.[/i]

    There is no need to have a he-heard, she-heard over this. Everyone understands that some daycares are too loud and some aren’t. That is why third-party noise monitoring would help settle the matter.

  5. David M. Greenwald


    I’ve seen the reports from the sound expert, unless you are in the area around the patio, you probably didn’t feel it was that noise. The problem is the layout and shape concentrates the noise in the area that will most bother the neighbors. Again, look at the picture above and you will see the problem is you have a lot of children right around that patio.

  6. David M. Greenwald

    Here you go Rusty…



  7. David M. Greenwald

    Rusty: I posted the sounds charts back in an April article.

    Link ([url][/url])

  8. Jim Watson

    Building a new development? Per Katherine Hess, City of Davis standard policy on working hours permitted is 7-7 M-F and 8-8 S/S. City policy seems to be very pro business and ignore the citizens. This story is another example of that.

  9. b collins

    It is a bit humorous to observe City of Davis Staffers propose a change in an ordinance by saying the policy of in enacting the original statute was to prohibit unnecessary, excessive and annoying sound levels from all sources; pat themselves on the back by proclaiming the existing Municipal Code provides an effective and available remedy for violations of that statute only to recommend in the next breath exempting people the provisions of that very statute. They do so purportedly to achieve educational goals without mentioning any evidence that suggests such an amendment has any relationship to those goals i.e.: providing for a high quality of life; increasing diverse forms and styles of learning; or maintaining a quality learning environment.

    Exactly how does allowing a private school to maintain an environment which produces and exposes children to dangerous levels of noise contribute to any of those goals?

    Does Davis pay these staffers for such advice? If it does I have a cost saving ordinance to propose!

  10. SODA

    so staff report recommends ordinance that Don Saylor wanted in the beginning? What is justification and how do they gloss over the long standing complaints. This ordinance would make further complaints moot, which is how they have dealt with them so far. I hope all affected neighbors are out in force, do you know?

  11. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]Exactly how does allowing a private school to maintain an environment which produces and exposes children to dangerous levels of noise contribute to any of those goals?[/i]

    Bingo, Bruce. The excuse is callous and doesn’t make any sense. If a noise ordinance is meant for jackhammers and out-of-control college parties, how can a “quality learning environment” possibly need an exemption?

  12. David M. Greenwald

    Saylor’s facebook status is calling this: “The Children’s Right to Play” Act

    The problem is no one is trying to deny children the opportunity to play. They are simply trying to shift the structure of the playing area to shift the focus of sound out of the covered patio and into an area that will neither bother the neighbors nor cause a safety hazard to children. How does he justify the children being exposed to 90 decibel noise as measured from off-the-property and in some cases behind a sound wall.

  13. wdf1

    I’m wondering at what age the noise quits being “natural and delightful.”

    I guess some have established that kids 5 and under playing in a playground would be natural and delightful. Ages 6-11? JH kids?

    Would HS students hurling insulting epithets at each other be natural and delightful?

    Is the sound of college students partying in a residential neighborhood on Picnic Day Weekend natural and delightful?

    I could also see situations in which some Davisites would argue that adults jackhammering the pavement at the old Hunt factory site would also be natural and delightful.

    How about senior residents cranking up Bill Haley and Elvis Presley on their stereos on “11”? Would that be natural and delightful?

    So much to ponder, so little time…

  14. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]I’m wondering at what age the noise quits being “natural and delightful.”[/i]

    If the kids are shouting over each other, much less crying from noise stress, then it isn’t delightful at any age.

  15. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]Sheesh, “crying from noise stress”?[/i]

    Even at birthdays parties, there are sometimes kids who get upset and cry because there is too much commotion. I’ve seen it. This idea that somehow kids like noise and adults don’t is nonsense. Kids get upset for the same reason that adults do.

  16. rusty49

    Desparado, you think because I don’t go along with the crowd that I’m not a neutral party? I could just as easily say that those who are railing against the school aren’t exactly neutral.

  17. Siegel

    your previous comments…

    “I’ve been at that daycare center during recess”

    “I’ve been at that school during recess and to me it wasn’t all that noisy, hardly anything that I’d need to wear ear plugs for.”

    “I’m also sure John Hillis would never put up with any of his employees condoning that.”

    yes, i believe you know hillis. what’s your relationship with him?

  18. indigorocks

    I couldn’t agree with desperado more. it’s astoundingly obvious rusty is not a neutral obvserver. in fact i wouldn’t be surprised if he’s john hillis himself.
    if he isn’t or is, is suggest rusty 49 goes and lives there for a few weeks and experience the noise pollution himself, then we’ll see just how endearing the children’s “right to play” act is.

    to be honest, i really don’t understand why the neighbors don’t get a lawyer, and each person individually take john hillis to court. take saylor too cause obviously he must be getting paid off by john hillis. god the corruption in this dirty little county and town is disgusting.
    i can’t wait to get out of this god forsaken schitty.
    one can only take the onslaught of right winged hypocrits and champagne liberals driving around in their big fat suv’s and living in their big fat homes that suck up fossil fuels.

  19. indigorocks

    Like i said, i’m wondering why rusty 49 is so desperately standing up for john hillis? this isn’t a personal attack just trying to get to the truth of the matter.
    if people are so against the rights of the neighbors, then perhaps they should all live there and see what it’s like for themselves. rusty 49 included.
    i’m not attacking anyone so please stop editing me

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