Thursday, January 31, 2008

More Groups Endorse D.C. Noise Bill

Several more groups have thrown their support behind "Noise Control Protection Amendment Act of 2007 (B17-0177)," which the D.C. City Council is expected to consider on Tuesday, Feb. 5.

The groups represent a broad coalition of residents, civic groups and labor unions from across the District of Columbia. Among them:

* Hillcrest Community Civic Association
* Downtown Neighborhood Association
* Penn Quarter Neighborhood Association
* Woodland Normanstone Neighborhood Association
* H Street Main Street
* Service Employees International Union 32BJ
* Service Employees International Union Local 500
* Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6A
* Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6C

The bill, crafted through compromise with several stakeholder groups, helps protect all D.C. residents' right to quiet enjoyment of their homes.

"Despite the compromise, the local chapter of the AFL-CIO refused to support the legislation," reports the Jan. 20 edition of Roll Call newspaper.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

D.C. Council to Address Noise Bill on Feb. 5

The District of Columbia Council Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs on Tuesday APPROVED our noise bill! Councilmember Tommy Wells and Mary Cheh voted in support. Councilmember Kwame Brown voted present. Councilmember Jim Graham voted against.

On Tuesday, Feb. 5, the Committee of the Whole, and then the entire D.C. City Council will debate and possibly vote on it.

It's showtime.

Please urge the city council to protect your right to quiet enjoyment of your home. Please email, fax and write to your city councilmember and the at-large members. It takes two steps:

a. Your individual D.C. ward councilmember (For names and contact information, access the city council website.

b. D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray

c. D.C. At-Large Councilmember Carol Schwartz

d. D.C. At-Large Councilmember David A. Catania

e. D.C. At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson

f. D.C. At-Large Councilmember Kwame Brown


Dear Councilmember:

Please protect my rights to quietly enjoy my home in the District of Columbia. Please SUPPORT the "Noise Control Protection Amendment Act of 2007 (B17-0177)," now pending before the D.C. City Council.

To further protect residential areas and free speech in public spaces, please also support the amendment which measures the noise "inside the nearest occupied residence in districts zoned R-1A, R-1B, R-2, R-3, or R-4."

Your support will help ensure all D.C. residents have the right to quiet enjoyment. Thank you and I look forward to your response.


D.C. Resident and Voter

Access the bill's complete text by clicking here.

D.C. Law Allows Noise to Cast Wide Net


To illustrate the geographic impact of noise on one northeast D.C. neighborhood, I surveyed several neighbors to see how far up the street one could hear--both in and outside the home--several group’s amplifiers. I also used average decibel meter readings from a September 2007 Washington Post story on the topic.

Much of the noise impact felt by each resident is dependent on the amplifier volume, wind and the quality of a person’s windows, but I think the following map provides a good perspective.

I used the average decibel reading (81.7) measured at 20 feet from the source based on the Washington Post findings. When the distance is doubled from a noise point source, the sound level decreases six decibels, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Using this formula, the maximum level emanating north on 8th St NE, by one noisy group is:

* Source = 110 decibels (dB) [rock concert]
* 20 feet = 98 dB
* 40 feet = 92 dB [lawn mower]
* 80 feet = 86 dB
* 160 feet = 80 dB [alarm clock]
* 320 feet = 74 dB
* 640 feet = 68 dB
* 1280 feet = 62 dB

To put this in perspective, office noise typically measures 50 dB; normal conversation is about 60 dB.

D.C.’s broken noise law currently allows no limits on amplified free speech between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. anywhere in the city. This means residents have no right to quiet enjoyment outside or inside their homes.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Lax Noise Controls Leads to 'Noise Harassment'

The absence of legal noise limits has left one West Virginia man tormented by an amplifier-wielding neighbor.

A story in the Jan. 5 Cumberland Times-News reports a man has connected a stereo to a public address system and directed it at his hapless neighbor's residence. Music blasts at all hours of the night, says the victim.

“Even the Hampshire County commissioners agree that he is being harassed--but there is nothing law enforcement can do about it,” according to the story, ”Lacking noise ordinance, Hampshire harassment continues”.

Washington D.C. does have a noise ordinance, but it contains a major loophole that is exploited by malicious folks with amplifiers. The result is that D.C. residents remain vulnerable to harassment from unlimited levels of amplified non-commercial speech between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Trash Trucks Are Dumb Schmucks Before 7 a.m.

I received this email during the December holiday:
"This morning at 4:40 a.m., a Waste Management Garbage truck picked up some garbage adjacent to our home. I'm pretty certain that the truck number, violating the law, is 205729, though I generally do not prefer to get up to provide identifying information. Our 11 month old and 3 year old are doing great--but I do feel it's a bit early for them as well."
The process of emptying commercial refuse dumpsters is noisy. It's illegal near District of Columbia residential areas from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. If you're disturbed at night by one of these garbage haulers, call 311 to report it.

For reference, here is the applicable D.C. noise regulation:

2806..1 Noise emanating from trash collection in any residential, special purpose, or waterfront zone shall be prohibited during the hours specified in this section irrespective of its compliance with §2701 of this subtitle. [Nighttime - the hours from 9:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.]

2806.2 No person shall operate or permit the operation of any refuse collection vehicle in or within three hundred feet (300 ft.) of any residential, special purpose, or waterfront zone at nighttime on any day of the week. This prohibition shall not apply to vehicles owned by the District government employed for emptying litter receptacles.
The complete D.C. Municipal Noise Regulations can be downloaded here.