By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – At first glance, one might be tempted to dismiss this as a Davis complaint—the sky track at Arroyo Park however has produced a constant “headache” for near neighbors with noise levels often exceeding the city’s standard. Add in the fact that it is a former mayor who lives across the street from the park and you get the picture.
The city staff this week is asking the council, in their only major agenda item for the month of August, to approve the relocation of the Sky Track facility in Arroyo Park to a new location.
In a guest commentary in June, former Mayor Joe Krovoza and his wife Janet complained that data shows “that for the three years of the Sky Track’s use, the apparatus has been in constant violation of the city’s noise standard of 55/50 dBA (day/night).”
They add, “This same data shows that alternative locations in Arroyo Park will violate the noise ordinance—day and night.”
In 2019, the Parks and Community Services Department completed replacement of old structures at several locations including Arroyo Park. Included there was the Sky Track.
The city notes, “Since the Sky Track was installed in Arroyo Park, the City has experienced several practical challenges with the play equipment in this specific location—namely issues with noise and vandalism. Noise issues are directly attributed to the moving/mechanical nature of the equipment and the close proximity of the equipment in its particular location to nearby homes.”
There have also been vandalism issues that “have resulted from persistent and frequent tampering with lock mechanisms that were installed shortly after the Sky Track installation (used by City staff to lock the equipment each night and unlock the equipment each morning) to curtail unauthorized nighttime use of the equipment due to noise complaints.”
Overall, this is a small number of complaints but, then again as the city points out, “Since noise impacts only affect the households in closer proximity to the Sky Track, it is to be expected that the vast majority of respondents would not raise noise as a concern.”
Overall, in a neighborhood survey conducted in February 2020, 846 postcards were sent out and there were 504 responses on a Survey Monkey.
“94.39% of the respondents stated that they enjoyed the Sky Track, and 215 specific comments were made about the Sky Track. Of the 215 comments received, 197 were positive and expressed enjoyment of the Sky Track, 13 comments raised concerns, and 5 comments stated that the respondent had no opinion or was not familiar with the amenity,” the staff report states.
Part of the dispute here is over the interpretation of noise standards and “applying them to real life situations in the City.”
City staff relies on expert noise consultants for guidance here.
Staff notes, “The City’s code does not use this terminology and is silent as to which type of measurement is intended in its noise standard tables.”
The ordinance reads, “No person shall produce, suffer or allow to be produced in any location a noise level of more than twenty dBA above the limit, but not greater than eighty dBA, on Table No. 1 measured at the property plane.”
Staff rights, “Read together, these provisions indicate that the City’s ‘absolute maximum’ dBA, or ‘Lmax,’ in a residential zone is to be 20 dBA above the limits listed in Table No. 1. Therefore, it is reasonable to interpret the limits described in Table No. 1 as an average noise limit or “Leq.” To interpret the sound levels in Table No. 1 as an absolute or Lmax limit would render the language in Section 24.02.030 meaningless.”
The city limits exterior noise levels to 55 and 50 DBA during the daytime and nighttime respectively. The city retained Bollard Acoustical Consults who conducted a study and determined that “the noise generated by the Sky Track at Arroyo Park was under the threshold set by the City’s noise ordinance standards for daytime noise (55 decibels as measured at the nearest residence).”
As a result, they stated “no additional noise mitigation measures related to the equipment were necessary during the day. However, additional measures were recommended to address nighttime noise, which was found to exceed the City’s noise ordinance standards.”
The city undertook several steps including signage indicating that the Sky Track would be open for use from 8 am until sunset, they installed rubber bumpers to better absorb noise, and assigned staff to lock and unlock the track.
This solution presented some problems for the city. The city decided to explore where another location in the park would alleviate this problem.
AGI did an analysis that found that noise from the Sky Track ranges from slightly below the daytime level to slightly above, depending on the location.
“The AGI study concluded that Sky Track noise levels may exceed both day and night City noise ordinance standards under certain circumstances,” staff writes. They add, “The AGI study does highlight that based on real-world and reasonable use, as would be expected of such park equipment, the Sky Track may occasionally exceed the City’s noise standards for both day and night.”
As a result, staff closed the Sky Track until it could be relocated.
Staff has recommended four possibilities. They believe that Location B, near the center of the park and just east of the aquatics center, is best.
“The Sky Track noise levels would be within the Daytime and Nighttime Noise Standard to all residential properties to the north, south, east and west,” they write.
It would bring noise levels into compliance and provide easy access to all current users, staff writes.