Thursday, June 28, 2007

They Covered Their Ears

A couple more stories chronicle the harmfully rude--but completely legal--noisey behavior of H Street NE community residents during Sunday's Amplified Free Speech Day in Adams Morgan.

An excerpt from Wednesday's The Hill newspaper covering Congress:

Passers-by in Adams Morgan covered their ears, shouted at the noisemakers and flipped the bird. One man put an amplifier in his apartment window above the Pharmacy Bar across the street for a little counter-counter-protest: “Okay, you’ve made your point — goddamn!”

Then he plugged in his guitar and squealed out “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
And this snippet from today's Voice of the Hill covering the Capitol Hill community:

When he took the microphone from Klavitter, Northeast Capitol Hill advisory neighborhood commission (ANC 6A) Chair Joseph Fengler reminded listeners that with the current loophole, he can create as much noise as he wants. “I could go to 200 decibels and probably bend your ear hair,” Fengler said.

Several Metropolitan Police officers stopped, but did not take any action. “There’s no law in D.C. that prevents this,” said officer Gregg Pemberton.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Attorney General: D.C. Noise Fix Would Ensure Free Speech

In drafting the proposed “Noise Control Protection Amendment Act of 2007 (Bill 17-177),” the District of Columbia Office of Attorney General (OAG) reviewed noise ordinances from Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, San Diego, Atlanta, Maryland and New York.

The D.C. OAG outlined its findings in a February 16, 2007 letter to Councilmembers Tommy Wells and Mary Cheh. It found the ideal legislative fix would ensure free speech rights and protect residents from excessive noise. The OAG suggests simply to strike the sentence added in 2004. Excerpts from the OAG letter:

“As you know, the 2004 amendment modified the definition of a noise disturbance found in Section 2799.1 of Title 20 of the DCMR to exempt non-commercial public speaking during the daytime from enforcement under the Noise Control Act. As a result, non-commercial speech during the daytime it subject to absolutely no noise limitations under District law. My office has been unable to identify any other major urban jurisdiction that has adopted a similar provision. Moreover, no such provision is necessary to ensure that a noise regulation passes constitutional muster.

Thus, if the Council were to simply remove this exemption from the definition of a noise disturbance, District residents would be entitled to protection from noise emanating from speech that is unreasonable and excessive according to the judgment of a reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities in the vicinity of the noise. The standard that would apply is the same standard that applies to other types of noise disturbances...

...This approach would adequately protect the public’s dual interests in tranquility and free expression and would be constitutionally defensible. Notably, this appears to be the favored approach by most large urban jurisdictions and by the courts.”

See for yourself. Read the OAG’s complete letter posted on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6A website.

Monday, June 25, 2007

'I Can't Sleep!'

Adams Morgan residents react to amplified noise blasted from 18th and Belmont Rd NW during the Second Annual Amplified Free Speech Day in Adams Morgan on Sunday. The woman screamed at amplified H Street NE neighbors that the raucus awakened her. She huffed away, along with two followers who also made their feelings known. Notice the empty chairs at the restaurant behind her. (Copyright © 2007. Patrick Keefe)

Quest for Quiet is NOT about limiting free speech. Unlimited decibels and long durations of loud noise--no matter what the source--inflicts harmful health and safety consequences upon those affected.

Any doubt? Just ask the girl with the extended middle finger in the above photograph. Or the Belmont Road resident whose two sleeping babies were awakened.

That clearly was illustrated in Adams Morgan during the second annual Amplified Free Speech Day. Furious Adams Morgan residents and businesses were urged to contact Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham and support the now pending “Noise Control Protection Amendment Act of 2007.” A public hearing is scheduled for July 9.

Meanwhile, several media outlets covered the carnage. Initial reports found this writeup in the Washington Examiner. Its lead paragraphs:
The cacophony at the corner of a busy intersection in Adams Morgan on Sunday afternoon seemed to have accomplished what Quest for Quiet intended.

The headline, however is misleading--free speech does not mean forced to listen. In fact, the proposed bill actually would strengthen free speech rights to those without the aid of an amplifier. Read the complete story here.

A Washington Times story ("Protesters raise voices against lax noise laws") appears here.

Blogsite DCist covers the story--with a number of reader comments--here. It includes a readership poll on the issue.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Happy Second Annual Amplified Free Speech Day!

A tiny band of H Street NE neighbors--including ANC6A Commissioner Joe Fengler--have selected their spot for this second event:

WHEN: Sunday, June 24
TIME: 3-5 p.m. ET
PLACE: 18th Street NW, near Belmont and Kalorama Roads NW in the Adams Morgan neighborhood

Protect yourself from persistent amplified attacks. SUPPORT D.C. NOISE BILL: "Noise Control Protection Amendment Act of 2007." We support freedom of speech AND the right to peace and quiet.

H Street NE residents will demonstrate the absurdity of the city's broken noise law. It allows unlimited, amplified, non-commercial speech from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in any D.C. residential community—including Adams Morgan. There are no limits on loudness.

Protect yourself and your neighborhood from more amplified attacks. Please urge the D.C. city council to balance free speech with the right to peace and quiet and to take action to fix the D.C. noise law. This is a health and safety issue.

YOU CAN HELP - During the event, we will urge Adams Morgan residents to contact Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham (ph: 202-724-8181; jgraham@...). Send a written statement by July 23 to Ms. Cynthia Brock-Smith, Secretary to the Council, Room 5 of the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20004.


See highlights from last year's first-ever event in Georgetown.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Noise Disturbance Location Set

H Street NE neighbors have selected 18th Street NW, near Belmont and Kalorma Roads NW in Adams Morgan as the site for the Second Annual Amplified Free Speech Day. The disturbance happens Sunday, June 24 from 3-5 p.m. ET. The details in a clean, neat format:

WHEN: Sunday, June 24
TIME: 3-5 p.m. ET
PLACE: 18th Street NW, near Belmont and Kalorama Roads NW in the Adams Morgan neighborhood

See highlights from last year's first-ever event in Georgetown.

Zoom in and pan around with this map, courtesy of Google.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Neighbors Analyze Intel for Adams Morgan Noise Disturbance

Quest for Quiet activists are reviewing new intelligence they hope will help determine the best Adams Morgan location to launch a non-commerical amplified speech assault from 3-5 p.m. this Sunday.

The effort is part of the group's Second Annual Amplified Free Speech Day, which is meant to demonstrate how unlimited amplified noise can harm residents and business alike. Such unreasonable behavior is allowed in the District of Columba, which provides no decibel limits on such speech anywhere in the city between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Unidentified operatives in Adams Morgan supplied the report, according to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity. See the complete unclassified intelligence report below.

Meanwhile, D.C. labor unions formally mobilized against a bill that would protect all D.C. residents against excessive noise. The union groups also are rallying labor representatives to testify July 9 against Councilmember Tommy Wells' common sense health and safety measure.

Councilmembers Mary Cheh, Kwame Brown and David Catania also support the legislation.

I have seen this sort of demonstration done once before at the intersection of 18th and Columbia, on the turn to Adams Mill Road, in front of Adams Mill Bar. It is truly the heart of Adams Morgan, on the large island in the middle of the intersection, next to a kiosk. It was the most annoying racket imaginable--a rapper and a drum player shouting about [REDACTED INFORMATION], blah blah shout shout. People were so mad. If demonstrating among the sidewalk café people is your goal, you will be at a great spot. There's a very active Starbucks right across from it, bars adjacent, and on the path from all main roads into Adams Morgan.

Directly across from that area is a plaza where you might find more room and have the same terrible effect (ahem, I meant to say, make your point). It's a brick courtyard (address is the same) diagonal to the where there's a Suntrust bank. I think you have a lot of people so this might be better for you... there may even be a power source there for your little torturous noisemaking device.

There are 2 other locations that come to mind. A park on 18th street just up from the intersection with Columbia--across from the Safeway and next to CityBikes. And then there's a school that has a courtyard right on the street where you could get your amplified noise on--it's on Columbia, where "Western Market" takes place every Saturday. I'd say this last suggestion is my least suggested venue, but you will be sure to have an impact on our neighbors there too.

Finally, there's a very nice park on 18th & Kalorama--and there's also the park on Connecticut in front of the Chinese Embassy. A demonstration at these 2 final locations will affect the more affluent members of Adams Morgan.

Hope this helps!

Your eyes in the sky,

The [Adams Morgan] Peoples

Unions Show Bullying Attitude Toward Noise Compromise

Unlimited levels of noncommerical amplified noise is a health and safety issue--not one of free speech, as labor union representatives mischarachterized it in a June 19 Washington D.C. Examiner story.

Contrary to the union's "public be-damned" attitude, Councilmember Tommy Wells' bill does nothing to hinder anyone's right to speak. It does provide protection to all D.C. residents--high decibels of noise is physically harmful to human health and wellness, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Just as cititens cannot be forced to read a printed flyer, free speech should not mean a resident or business must be forced to hear someone's speech--especially in his or her own home. Many other municipal noise ordinances have passed constitutional muster.

Union representatives participated earlier this year in talks about the noise bill with Councilmembers Wells and Mary Cheh, as well as D.C. residents. Now it appears the unions have done an about face.

Worse, they propose no other reasonable solution beyond their bullying attitude--similar to how the 2004 noise loophole was snuck through committee and passed by the council. Labor unions were at the table--D.C. residents were not.

Quest for Quiet defends the health and safety rights for 581,000 District of Columbia residents.

Monday, June 18, 2007

What Does That Word Mean, Daddy?

(CLICK TO ENLARGE) A young boy playing near his H and 8th St NE home clearly hears assembled groups' amplified words every weekend. After more than several hours of watching television inside with loud volume to mask the diatribes blaring from the corner, the kid wanted to go outside and play. The scene happened on Sept. 9, 2006. Free speech should not mean forced to listen--especially in one's home.

Worse, the young boy cannot play outside for long--the Environmental Protection Agency says permanent hearing loss can occur after 45 minutes exposure to 85 decibels. That's the recorded level of noise generated by one group's amplifier, measured at 20 feet. (Copyright © 2006. David Klavitter)

Washington Post Covers D.C. Noise

More than 85 reader comments reacted to an online column in Friday's Washington Post titled, "How Much Noise is Too Much Noise?" Columnist Marc Fisher admits that a noise disturbance is a relative thing--the level of annoyance and disturbance varies from one person to another.

While Fisher detests wind chimes, he thinks people shouldn't move to a place where noisy conditions are expected--such as a restaurant or music club or amplified people.

But what about when the noise moves next to you? The D.C. noise loophole was created in 2004, well after many of the residents began calling the H Street NE community home.

Read Marc's Washington Post column, "Raw Fisher."

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Second Annual Amplified Free Speech Day Slated for June 24

(CLICK TO ENLARGE) During last year's Amplified Free Speech Day, H and 8th Street NE neighbors Marc and Jane use an amplifier to explain to residents, passersby and remaining restaurant patrons that they must contact the city council to quiet the extremely loud amplified speech in their community. The two-hour disruption occured on a Sunday afternoon at the vibrant Wisconsin and N Streets NE in Georgetown. (Copyright © 2006. David Klavitter)

It's not necessarily fun, but necessary for relative peace, quiet and tranquility in the H Street NE neighborhood and throughout the city. I can almost hear the birds singing and kids playing.

Like last year in Georgetown, a group of residents who live near H and 8th Streets NE will gather in public D.C. space and use an amplifier to blast non-commercial speech. The friends and neighbors will demonstrate the absurdity of D.C. noise law, which provides no decibel limits on amplified non-commerical speech anywhere in the city between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

WHEN: Sunday, June 24
TIME: 3-5 p.m. ET
PLACE: Adams Morgan neighborhood (exact site to be determined)

We absolutely support free speech. But at 110 decibels--about the same loudness as a rock concert--the amplifier’s use for more than four hours every Saturday has a detrimental affect on H Street NE community residents and businesses alike.

A public hearing on the pending noise bill is scheduled for July 9.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

D.C. 'Wins' National 'Honor' for Busted Noise Law

Congratulations, Washington! We've won a national award for our broken noise law!

Noise Free America, a national citizens group dedicated to reducing noise pollution, bestowed the dubious distinction for its June "Noisy Dozen Award."

Since 2001, the award has been presented each month to a group, organization or government entity.

In a press release, Noise Free America Executive Director Ted Rueter called D.C.'s noise loophole "outrageous." The statute provides no decibel limits for amplified non-commerical speech anywhere in the city between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

"There is no constitutional right to make noise," said Rueter. "Every noise ordinance that has ever been challenged has been upheld by the courts."

He also compared D.C.'s noise ordinance to the efforts of New York City, which he said is "light years" ahead of Washington in terms of restricting noise.

Rueter said New York City has instituted "Operation Silent Night," which targets loud car stereos, noisy nightclubs, and blaring car alarms. New York has also instituted a Quality of Life hotline inside the mayor's office, to facilitate resolution of noise complaints. New York issues around 7,000 noise citations each year-which results in around 1,000 arrests for outstanding warrants.

"Washington should follow the Big Apple's lead," he added.

Past "winners" of the Noisy Dozen award include Congressman Darrell Issa, Governor Jesse Ventura, and Circuit City.

Wash Post: 'Noise Impacts Health, Happiness'

Reinforcing the 8th and H Street NE community's position on long hours of amplified speech, the Washington Post's health section today examines the health impact of chronic noise.

The story, "Noise Pollution Takes Toll on Health and Happiness," reports that "both intensity and duration of noise exposure determine the potential for damage. The prolonged affects of noise can trigger the body's stress response, infusing the body with high levels of stress hormones and creating chronic stress that extends far beyond your delicate ears."

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Commission Urges Enhancements to Noise Bill

During its May meeting, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6A voted unanimously to offer the District of Columbia City Council several amendments to the pending Noise Control Protection Amendment Act of 2007 (Bill 17-177).

A public hearing on the bill is scheduled for July 9. The letter’s text is below:
May 22, 2007

Councilmember Mary Cheh
Chairperson, Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 108
Washington, DC 20004

Councilmember Mary Cheh:

We applaud the introduction of the Noise Control Protection Amendment Act of 2007 (Bill 17-177) and welcome the opportunity to testify in support of the bill on Monday, July 9, 2007 at 10:00am in the Council Chamber located in John A. Wilson Building located at 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

After a review of the Noise Control Protection Amendment Act of 2007, we noticed several issues that should be amended to ensure our residents are protected from harmful noise levels. We believe that these changes will protect the right to free speech. Accordingly, the following amendments we offer for consideration were approved unanimously at our Commission meeting on May 10, 2007:

Measured Distance. Limit loudness to a level that does not inhibit residents' quiet enjoyment of their homes. The 50 foot provision for measuring sound at 70 dB(A) is simply not enough protection. To accommodate mixed-use zoning corridors, such as H Street NE, the Act should be amended to state: "50 feet or the closest occupied building".

Maximum Sound Level. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established a maximum level for outdoor activity interference and annoyance is 55 dB(A) outdoors and 45 dB(A) indoors. These are the maximum levels that still permit spoken conversation and comfort in the activities of daily living. A permitted level greater than 55 dB(A) would be actively harmful to the hearing of our residents. Why should we be required to confine our children and our family activities to the inside of our homes? We strongly urge the Act be amended stating the maximum sound level be no higher than 55 dB(A).

Tools, Training and Enforcement. The relatively few sound level meters are owned by Department of Consumer and Regulator Affairs (DCRA). Additional meters should be funded and training should be provided to DCRA inspectors and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) personnel. The Act should be amended to provide enforcement powers to both DCRA and MPD.

If you have any questions regarding these proposed amendments, please contract me by phone at (202) 423-8868 or by electronic mail at

On behalf of the Commission,

Joseph Fengler, Chair
Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6A

Cc: Councilmember Tommy Wells
Councilmember Kwame Brown