Staff Recommends Against ASUCD Proposed Changes to Noise Ordinance At This Time


City staff is recommending against changes to the city’s noise ordinance at this time, despite a vote by the City-UC Davis Student Liaison Commission forwarding a recommendation for changes to the noise ordinance.  That recommendation was approved by the student members of the commission but opposed by the three members of the commission representing business and property owners.

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

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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  1. medwoman

    This would seem to me to be an excellent place to start developing a more collaborative relationship between students and other community members. I can see that a compromise solution might be, for example, to stand fast with regard to the decibel rule, but allow more flexibility in the timing of notification, the former being based on at least some objective evidence of potential harm and the latter being largely a matter of convenience. This would at least demonstrate the willingness of business and property owners to take the students concerns seriously and be willing to work together. This in turn might help to encourage students to demonstrate more reasonable behaviors in the future.

  2. K.Smith

    I think flexibility is the key.

    I’ve lived in two different neighborhoods in Davis, and have been pretty impressed with how my current student neighbors have handled their “noise.”

    On Sunday night, I received a notice that they are planning an event for the night before Picnic Day, which outlined the times and the number of attendees (150!). I was already told about this annual gathering at the Neighbors’ Night Out Event, when several other residents in my neighborhood let me know that the UCD Cal Aggie Marching Band-Uh plays for a couple of hours on the night before Picnic Day, and that most of the neighborhood sits out on their lawns and enjoys it. We’re actually looking forward to it and will see how it goes.

    Prior to that (several months ago), the same neighbors left notes on everyone’s doors letting us know they were going to have a party, providing contact information, and asking that if they became too loud to please let them know first (before going to the police). On the night of the party, I actually heard nothing until we went outside around midnight and could hear a small amount of noise from our front yard (but for whatever reason, nothing from inside the house).

    I haven’t heard anything approaching the sound level of an alarm clock coming from these students. In our previous neighborhood (which fronted on a bank of apartment buildings), there were very loud parties that frequently spilled over into the street, and there was no attempt made to forewarn neighbors, etc. I don’t know that this type of party/noise can be curtailed, since (unlike our current neighbors) they did not seem to conform to even the current ordinance.

  3. JustSaying

    Too bad the Student Liaison Commission didn’t take a page from the NRC playbook and start spending $14,000 for an environmental study to lock in their proposed ordinance.

  4. E Roberts Musser

    I don’t quite understand the students’ desire to nitpick the noise ordinance. The noise ordinance is not unreasonable as it stands. Just obey the noise ordinance, and there won’t be a problem. We have a group of students near us who give parties on occasion (perhaps 2 or 3 x a year). On occasion they are a bit loud (you cannot hear your television set sometimes bc the partiers’ amplifiers are turned up so high), but that is about it. I’ve never complained, but other neighbors have. In general these students are not a problem – I just go into the back bedroom and do something else for the evening. To loosen restrictions, when students are already stretching the limits, would be a mistake IMO…

  5. Ryan Kelly

    The ordinance and the revisions do nothing to stop impromptu parties at the homes of students. I have a rental next door to me. When students move in to my neighborhood I usually tell them that it would be best not to have parties on Thursday nights, because most of the neighborhood has to get up and go to work or school the next day. Tolerance is very low for noise on Sunday through Thursday. I let them know that 1:00 AM is the latest time I can bring myself to tolerate party noise outside, so I would appreciate if they would bring their guests inside and close doors and windows around midnight. After one knock on the door at 1:00 AM, they usually get it and things go smoothly until the next year.

    I suspect that most people handle things in a similar manner. But I think every neighborhood has a few people who call the police for every party, every noise, regardless of the day of the week, regardless of dates on the calendar. Every time the High School has a game, there will be people who call to complain about the noise, even though sporting events are exempt and the games are usually over around 9:30 pm.

    I don’t know why the ordinance wasn’t adjusted and then scheduled for a review in a year to see how it is going. We couldn’t have possibly gotten it right from the start and the community is just being stubborn.

  6. David M. Greenwald

    Elaine: The students are arguing the changes would make it easier for them to follow the noise ordinance. I’m not saying I agree. But it doesn’t seem to be working, so I think it needs to be analyzed and re-worked, I actually agree with staff on that approach.

  7. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Elaine: The students are arguing the changes would make it easier for them to follow the noise ordinance.[/quote]

    Yes, raising the decibel level would certainly make it easier for the students to follow… LOL… but would it make it bearable for the surrounding neighborhood? I think not…

  8. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]If it’s lower than the current noise level it might.[/quote]

    ??? Your comment makes no sense to me – I’m not following…

    Raising the decibel level of the noise ordinance is great for those who party, bc it allows them to [b][i]legally[/i][/b] party hardy at much louder levels than ever before. However, that is certainly of no benefit to the neighbors. Bottom line is that the students want to constantly push the envelope farther and farther away from reasonable limits. What they don’t seem to understand is that obnoxiousness is not a constitutionally protected right; that in fact there are competing interests in their neighborhoods that need to be respected – that is the price students pay for living in a democracy – you don’t get to do anything you feel like…

  9. David M. Greenwald

    Follow me here. Right now the NO is unenforceable in terms of decibel level anyway. So it’s largely based on complaints. If you can fix the communication aspect of the relationship between students and their neighbors, you might be able to lower the amount of noise even though the noise level is legally raised.

  10. David M. Greenwald

    “that is the price students pay for living in a democracy”

    I think you go too far here, because in a lot ways this is not democratic at all, it is quite the opposite. The neighbors are dictating the terms and conditions. What happens if the student organize and vote on these matters? Where’s Mr. Toad when I need him.

  11. natevazquez

    davis pig department:

    I am sick of being woke up mid nightmare by some drunk kid who has been served by some bartender/bar owner twice his age who should be the one telling him to slow the fuck down. Regardless, it is unlawful to serve intoxicated persons. I don’t care how much bars in this town pay in taxes or contribute towards police unions and associations. If I have to, I have no problem putting on my citizen cop hat and going downtown with some tie-ties and making citizen arrests for crimes against public safety and in violation of state codes and regulations. And I assure you, I can be just as brutal ya’ll are when I make my arrests, I used to do it in a combat zone to armed insurgents (which, ironically, is what I consider people that endanger public safety and violate state law to serve youths to a point of alcohol poisoning on a nightly basis).

    However, I am quite lazy and am struggling in school. I’d also prefer not to do your goddamn jobs when you’re getting paid so fucking well (with benefits) to do it. Start enforcing the fucking law, not just the ones that victimize your favorite populations (i.e. students, minorities, impoverished, not cops that beat their wives/girlfriends, etc). The alcohol poisoning that occurs on a nightly basis in this town is on your hands. pinning the responsibility on young kids engaging in the most reasonable and common activity for their age, the same activity we all did when we were their age, is shameful at best and corrupt-as-fuck at worst. as usual, ya’ll pigs fucking disgust me.

    Nathan T. Vazquez

    P.S. i bet if a predominantly black or hispanic bar opened up downtown, ya’ll find a way to shut it down. ainte that right, there blacky?

  12. natevazquez

    If someone could forward all that to the police, I’d appreciate it. sorry to bother the community with my rants to the police. i’m tired of businesses getting away with literal murder while I watch kids getting arrested on a regular basis for being kids.

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