Wednesday, April 30, 2008

City Council on Tuesday to Consider D.C. Noise Bill

In an effort to protect currently defenseless District of Columbia citizens against amplified noise, the city council is prepared on Tuesday to address the pending noise bill, which was untabled last month.

Today's Washington Times reports some councilmembers plan to offer amendments, which could potentially weaken protection for residents. People from all parts of the city will stay tuned into the action, lest special interests again sneak away the peoples' rights.

Despite rhetoric to the contrary, Councilmembers Tommy Wells has worked to ensure all parties have been involved in the process--including the D.C. Labor Council, which occupied the very first seat at the table in February 2007.

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.

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

Symphony Musicians Turn Down to Protect Hearing

With apologies to Pete Townshend, this story about loud symphonic music appears in the New York Times. An exerpt:

"Rock musicians have talked openly about loud music and ear protection for years. The issue is more delicate for classical musicians, who have been reluctant to accept that their profession can lead to hearing loss, even though studies have shown that to be the case."
Apparently new noise laws in Europe which limit workers’ exposure to potentially damaging noise and which took effect for the entertainment industry this month.
"Tests showed that the average noise level in the orchestra during the piece, “State of Siege,” by the composer Dror Feiler, was 97.4 decibels, just below the level of a pneumatic drill and a violation of new European noise-at-work limits. Playing more softly or wearing noise-muffling headphones were rejected as unworkable."
The laws also place a kilt over the bagpipes in Scotland:
"Typically, a pipe band played at full volume peaks at 122 decibels outdoors, noisier than the sound of either a nightclub or a chainsaw, which rises to 116 decibels."
Check that story here.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Noise #1 Neighborhood Complaint, Reports Wash Times

The cover story in the April 25th HomeGuide edition of the Washington Times reports that Americans rank noise as one of the major problems in neighborhoods today.

From trash trucks to karaoke machines, paper-thin condo walls to amplifiers, this story covers the waterfront. It also notes the variety of regulations throughout the Washington, D.C., area. An excerpt:

"Noise ordinances can differ significantly by jurisdiction. In the District, for example, the city council is considering an amendment to the existing noise law that would limit the level of amplified noncommercial speechmaking, which has been protected up to now. Fairfax County considers televisions, radios, musical instruments and animal sounds noise disturbances when they are plainly audible across property lines or through partitions. (All complaints usually require monitoring to establish that a violation exists.)"

It also touches on a D.C. bill now pending before the City Council. It would protect residents from unreasonable amplified people.

Read Lisa Rauschar's complete story, "Enjoying peace, quiet in neighborhood," on the Web.

Friday, April 25, 2008

D.C. Bar Explores Noise Regs and Enforcement

The District of Columba Bar will examine in detail the city's noise laws, regulations and enforcement in a program entitled, "Noise Act Protections in the District of Columbia: Preserving the Peace."

The purpose is to "inform practitioners and citizens of the requirements and application of the District’s Noise Act, and compliance therewith by businesses, citizens and the United States."

Additionally, the panelists will "address reporting Noise Act violations, D.C. Departement of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) enforcement, and private rights of action against violators."

Everyone is invited.

Nicholas Majett, Deputy Director for Compliance & Inspections, DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

Don Masoero, Chief Building Inspector, DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs

Bernard Schafer, Senior Assistant General Counsel, US General Services Administration

Robert McKeon, Deputy General Counsel, DC Office of Tax and Revenue

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

12:00 pm - 2:00 pm (Luncheon and Program)

D.C. Bar Conference Center, B-1 Level, 1250 H Street NW (Metro Center)

$30.00 Section Members and Subscribers
$40.00 Non-Section Members
$18.00 Students and Government and Non-Profit Employees

Reservations are held for 20 minutes after the slated event start time.

-------------------REGISTRATION FORM-----------------------------------------
No phone reservations will be accepted. Payment must accompany registration to be processed. *

Send to:
May 7 Noise Act Luncheon
D.C. Bar Sections Office
1250 H Street NW, 6th Floor
Washington, DC 20005-5937

Or Fax to:
Credit card payments only.

Must be received at least 24 hours prior to event.

Please reserve _____ space(s). Enclosed is my payment of $________.

Method of payment (no purchase orders please):

[ ] Check made payable to the D.C. Bar.
Check No. _________________________

[ ] MC [ ] VISA

Credit Card Acct. No. _________________

Exp. ____________

Name _________________________________

D.C. Bar No. ______________________

Address ___________________________

City/State/Zip ____________________

Phone No. _________________________

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If you require a dietary or physical accommodation, please contact the Sections Office at 202-626-3463 or e-mail
* For complete registration policies, click here.

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.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Noise Disturbances Seep Into More D.C. Lives

The Washington Post Magazine's cover story this week by food critic Tom Sietsema revealed that the No. 1 complaint of restaurant diners in the Washington area is noise.

While many out-to-eaters detest having to shout and strain to enjoy their dining companion's company, the story says exposure to loud decibels may be hardest on restaurant workers, who "spend more time in a dining room than do the people they wait on."

Writes Sietseme in the Post:
"Theoretically," says Robert W. Sweetow, director of audiology and professor of otolaryngology at the University of California in San Francisco, "the sound levels over time are loud enough to get impaired hearing." (Otolaryngology is the branch of medicine dealing with ear, nose and throat disorders.)

Noisy restaurants affect more than just the ears. Loud sounds can elevate blood pressure, increase breathing rates, intensify the effects of alcohol and make sleep difficult -- even after the noise ceases. At certain elevated levels, some people can experience dizziness and even nausea.

Read the entire story, "No Appetite for Noise," here.