Tuesday, April 15, 2008

D.C. Council Revives Noise Bill to Protect Residents

This gorgeous spring day finds residents’ windows open to fresh air and news that the District of Columbia City Council acted to protect them from unlimited levels of amplified noise.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Here’s the news from Councilmember Tommy Wells, who--with Councilmembers Tommy Wells, Mary Cheh and Kwame Brown--co-introduced the bill:

The “Noise Control Protection Amendment Act of 2008” passed in the council’s Committee of the Whole Tuesday. The bill had previously been tabled on Feb. 19th, but a unanimous vote of the members today revived the proposal and put it before the council for consideration.

The legislation closes a loophole in a 2004 law and creates reasonable protections for residents within their homes from amplified noise. Unlike other major cities, DC law does not regulate the volume and intensity of non-commercial amplified noise in the day-time.

“I’m very pleased that my colleagues supported this measure today,” commented Mr. Wells. “We have worked hard to find a fix that is fair and provides some neighborhood protections.”

The bill maintains Washington, D.C. as one of the most liberal and permissive jurisdictions in the country. A review of noise ordinances for the cities of New York, Boston, San Diego, Miami and Los Angeles showed that each has more restrictive laws that what had been proposed in this legislation.

The Noise Control Protection Amendment Act of 2008 seeks to balance First Amendment rights and protections, with the rights of residents to enjoy quiet in their homes and protect their hearing from lasting damage.

Going above and beyond First Amendment protections found in other jurisdictions, with this bill, non-commercial public speech measured above 70 decibels, or 10 decibels greater than ambient noise, would only constitute a noise disturbance if it were also found to be excessive under the “reasonable person” standard as defined by D.C. law.

D.C.’s Attorney General has reviewed this proposal and believes it represents a Constitutionally sound approach that balances the protection of free speech and protection for residents.

The bill has the support of ANC 6A and 6C, the Hillcrest Civic Association in Ward 7, the Penn Quarter Civic Association and Downtown Neighborhood Association in Wards 2 and 6, the Woodland Normanstone Neighborhood Association in Ward 3, and labor unions SEIU 32BJ and SEIU 500, representing thousands of working men and women in D.C.

The legislation will come before the Council on May 6th for First Reading.

D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty has pledged to sign and enforce such quality of life protections.


Anonymous Cary Silverman said...

Today, Evans pledged to propose amendments to the noise bill on May 6, as he is looking for a "compromise" to appease two of the unions. He's given no indication as to how the amendments might weaken the bill, particularly when, as both Council Members Wells and Cheh point out, the District's law, even with this proposal, will be more lenient than other cities. Council Members should be fighting for the residents and quality of life. Yet, our Council Member in Ward 2 is confused as to who he represents. More info here:


4:35 PM  
Anonymous Cary Silverman said...

Sorry, wrong link:

4:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dude! i know you have been super busy lately but look at my school blog--we are using yours as an example of how this unique medium can be used to influence law. -biggy

Sent you some questions about it but i sent it to the wrong email most likely. anyway--congratulations on the home front and on the quest for quiet!

8:29 PM  
Blogger Klav said...

Thanks for nod, CTS.

The folks at the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse framed the debate in terms of "second-hand smoke:"

"Some individuals and businesses feel that they have a right or the freedom to use a common resource in any way they see fit. Perhaps they do not realize what most of us learned on the school yard years ago: "that my right to swing my fist ends at your nose." Or, perhaps they do not recognize the soundness of our parallel claim "that my right to create noise ends at your ear."

In any case, these people are acting as bullies, claiming rights and freedoms that are not theirs while degrading resources that are ours."

8:56 PM  

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