According to the staff report, “Based on Police Department concerns, staff recommends the City Council accept the City-UCD Student Liaison Commission motion on amending the Davis Noise Ordinance as informational at this time.”
The item comes to council tonight through the minutes of the UCD Student Liaison Commission from February. The item is a consent item and the council could pull it or accept the staff recommendation.
Staff is suggesting bringing back a proposal to review the noise ordinance in its entirety. That process, they say, would include a broad-based community subcommittee approach to review all issues associated with the ordinance.
It has been 14 years since the noise ordinance was last comprehensively reviewed and amended.
The student position is that the current noise ordinance is vague, not comprehensive, the decibel ratings have not been enforced, and Section 24.05.010 General Prohibition is enforced, but is subjective. ASUCD would like more accountability and information on when the police can give citations.
According to the staff report, the commission has discussed a number of issues, as well as neighborhood concerns, over the past year, including meetings with the police department and neighborhood groups.
The students believe that their changes will help to regulate the parties and prevent large parties in neighborhoods.
However, the public has expressed concerns about the decrease in the amount of time to appeal a party permit, a decrease in the area to be notified, the noise contributed by parties is already high, and the number of guests allowed at a permitted party (100) is too many.
By a 6-3 vote, the commission in February voted to recommend amending the noise ordinance to include:
1. Reduce the time in advance that a permit has to be requested from 16 to 7 business days before the event.
2. Change the radius of where written notices have to be provided to residents from 200 yards to 150 yards.
3. Reduce the time in advance that neighboring residents have to be notified from 12 to 7 days before the event.
4. Change the amount of time that the Permit Resident Notification List can be returned to the Davis Police Department from 12 to 7 days prior to the event.
However, the Davis Police Department expressed concerns regarding the reduction of time in advance of a permit to be requested. The students believe that this will encourage more permits. However, the police fear that “shortening the initial application deadline to 7 days prior to event would make it nearly impossible to meet the neighborhood notification deadline of at least 7 days prior to the event.”
There is a further problem, in that once the neighborhood is notified there needs to be a reasonable protest period in place. Currently, that process allows for five days.
The police department believes that at minimum, there needs to be a three-day protest period. Moreover, “If the 5-day protest period is maintained, the neighbors would have sufficient notification time and if the permit is denied, the organizers would be notified with adequate notice.”
The police are also concerned that the notification radius changes would result in a substantial change to the public impact of party noise. According to the police, the reduction of the notification area from a 200 yard radius to a 150 yard radius would have significant impact.
The impact of this would be a reduction by approximately 44% of the number of residences who would get notice of a party and are given an opportunity to protest the issuance of the noise permit. Currently, approximately 50 households would receive notices; if the rule is changed the number goes down to approximately 28 households.
Moreover, it is not clear exactly how this would benefit the students. Reducing the notice area could actually work to their detriment by increasing the number of complaints after the fact.
Staff writes, “In summary, the current time periods for application, notice and protests are the reasonable minimums to serve the needs and requirements of both the potential party organizers and the neighbors. Further, citizens and neighborhoods that currently consider themselves plagued by nuisance noise and parties will be less protected than they currently are by the adoption of any of the ASUCD recommendations.”
In the police view, “The Noise Ordinance would effectively be negated if the proposed changes are adopted.”
The students are arguing that, by reducing the requirements in terms of permit request, notice radius and other requirements, it will encourage students to go through the permit process which requires notification of neighbors and police about parties.
In a November Davis Enterprise article, Davis Police Sgt. John Wilson said that the police do not go around looking at decibel readings, nor do they go around looking for loud parties.
He told the paper, “We don’t take any action; we don’t go looking around for violations of the noise ordinance. We react to people calling us and saying, ‘Look this is disturbing me.’ “
Instead, “If no one complains about your party or if you talk to your neighbors and they’re willing to live with it for the night, then there’s no harm, no foul.”
As we report in January, neighbors have also expressed concern about this proposal.
Both the Civic Center Park Neighborhood Association and the Oeste Manor Neighborhood Association wrote a letter to the City-Student Liaison Commission, regarding ASUCD’s proposed changes to the City of Davis noise ordinance.
They said that, while they have “extensively reviewed the ASUCD proposal to change the City of Davis noise ordinance and noise permit requirements presented by ASUCD President Adam Thongsavat and City and County Affairs Director Jeanna Gindi at our Dec. 5 joint meeting,” and “appreciated the chance to have this discussion with ASUCD,” both “neighborhood associations object to all changes proposed, including extending party ending times, increasing noise level limits and reducing advance notice time for party permits.”
They write: “We believe these changes will degrade the quality of life in our neighborhoods and our city, and worsen the noise problems we are already enduring.”
They add: “We hope to find common ground in the future with ASUCD and look forward to working collaboratively on issues that are mutually beneficial and improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods, for all residents.”
What is clear is that many in the community think that noise requirements are actually too lax.
One December letter to the Davis Enterprise said, “I am dismayed by the proposal, reported recently in The Enterprise, to loosen Davis’ noise ordinance . The present noise limit of 80 decibels is already the volume of a typical alarm clock. It’s clear that the authors of this proposal have never tried to get a 9-year-old to sleep with music blaring into his window, or tried to get him to school the next morning.”
They continue, “I am even more dismayed by the numbers games being played by the proponents of this idea. An increase in the maximum noise level from 80 to 85 decibels sounds small. But decibels are measured on a logarithmic scale – 85 decibels is more than three times as loud as 80. According to the National Institutes of Health, sustained exposure to 85-decibel noise can cause hearing loss; children are especially at risk.”
The students believe that by reducing these requirements they can get more students to work with their neighbors and the police on parties. However, it is also clear from some of the responses that the neighbors are not going to be keen on reducing the restrictions.
—David M. Greenwald reporting