Noise Ordinance

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Party.jpgLoud parties are a perennial source of controversy

Location
Davis
Hours
Can be cited All Day
Phone
Davis PD: (530) 747-5400
Location
"Oh don't worry, we'll find YOU"

The close quarters between students and people who work for a living/pay municipal taxes, have forced the city to respond by creating noise codes to help solve friction between students, or for that matter anyone looking to create a loud disturbance on weekends, and other Davis residents.

The text of the Davis city noise regulations can be found in chapter 24 of the Davis Municipal Code. There are plenty of provisions in there about allowed noise levels at the property plane, measured in [wikipedia]dBA. Ignore them. Cops don't carry sound level meters; they'd just be another piece of equipment to maintain, keep calibrated, and keep certified. Even if they did, the limits given in the law are insanely low and the ambient noise level regularly exceeds them. No, the provision you should care about is the Davis General Noise Prohibition found in DMC 24.05.010. When someone gets a noise violation, this is the ordinance that the police use. The gist of it is that if there is a complaint and the officers that respond think the noise is unreasonable (there are guidelines given in the statute), they can issue a ticket. There is a huge amount of discretion in issuing the ticket, so if you're faced with one, be nice and you may avoid the writeup. You won't be able to successfully fight it, notwithstanding some really obvious misconduct on the part of the officer issuing it.

A noise violation usually costs a little under $200. If you know you are going to be making a lot of noise, you can avoid getting a noise violation by applying for a noise permit. If your house has already received a noise violation then the police will probably not issue you a noise permit. The most concise information on the law for issuing noise violations as well as how to obtain a permit can be found in the city's [WWW]Noise Permit Application.

If you are at a party and a noise violation is issued, it's good form to make a contribution to the cost if you can. Better yet, make sure to comply promptly if you are asked by the host to keep it down or to go inside (many noise violations are issued for noise from somebody's back yard). If a residence breaks the noise ordinance, the officer may cite every individual on the residence with a noise violation

Davis gained some notoriety for issuing a noise violation to someone who was snoring. In the mid 90's, shortly after the first noise ordinance went in to effect, DJ Jeyson (now in San Diego), Chris Doherty (a.k.a Chris Sequioa), et al, got their neighbor, Sari Zayed, cited for snoring too loudly. More can be found out in this dusty ancient Davis, CA FAQ and [WWW]here. This citation was issued under a since-repealed law that required a police officer to issue a citation if the complainant insisted and left no room for discretion.

Contrary to some rumors, there is not a noise abatement unit within the Davis Police Department. There is one guy who chooses to handle most of the noise calls, which may be what gave birth to the rumors.

Proposed Noise Ordinance Reform

In December 2011, ASUCD President Adam Thongsavat and City and County Affairs Director Jeanna Gindi began working with the City to amend the Noise Ordinance, in an effort to balance the rights of the student and non-student community. This will be a collaborative effort, and include input from homeowners' associations representatives. There is concern from residents that student renter density in houses, when combined with proximity to campus, designates certain houses as "party houses," in conflict with the zoning of these dwellings.

Noise Problems around Town

Davis High School Stadium PA System

According to a resident complaint at the April 3, 2012 City Council Meeting, the PA system is regularly used at a volume that can be heard as far away as Save Mart, "about a fifth of a mile". That is impressive penetration of sound, and could be deemed excessive. Can somebody describe the layout of the speaker-poles, stadium walls, etc, to explain the phenomenon, or is it a straightforward amplification issue? Would the athletics department need noise permits for football games, or do they get a pass on that because games are widely-attended public events?


Complaints Against Daycare Centers

There is nothing like the sound of a child's laughter (or so they say), but some residents of Davis disagree — when the sound is coming from a certain day care center, that is. These residents have filed multiple complaints about the noise levels during recess at the Montessori Country Day Care Center since 1994. The facility was zoned in 1983 on a 3/4 acre parcel designated for a childcare facility for up to 144 children. The issue will be discussed in the Tuesday, February 2, 2010 city council meeting at City Chambers, 23 Russell Blvd at 6:30 p.m. The city council meeting has been delayed. While the complaints are against this specific facility, a precedent of placing limits on recess could apply to other Davis schools and day cares as well.

Update: There is an update on the Montessori school noise issue tentatively scheduled for March 16, 2010, but as of now it does not appear to include discussion on the noise ordinance issue. If it is finalized, the issue will appear on the council's agenda for the Friday before, according to a phone conversation with the City Manager's office.

Basis for the Complaints

The Vanguard has [WWW]written extensively on this topic. The gist of the reports is that there are things about the layout of the school that amplify the noise of the children playing, and the school has not done everything that it was supposed to do to mitigate the noise. Note that excessive noise is bad for children, too, so this isn't just about the neighbors. So, while it might sound crazy to say that children playing can be too loud, you may wish to research the issue before making up your mind.

There [WWW]is a history of some 15 years of complaints about the noise levels. After an investigation by sound experts, a set of recommendations were issued, and Montessori and the affected neighbors apparently agreed to share the costs of making the recommended changes. (Information on the cost sharing and/or total costs would be good!) The problem is exacerbated by the design of the building and play area, which creates an echo chamber of sorts, amplifying the noise in the direction of the neighbors.

According to the Vanguard ([WWW]article), recommendations "include building a sound wall, moving the exit doors further from residents, utilizing a covered play area with sound deadening panels, create a new concrete surface that will reduce noise from wheeled toys, change the tires on these toys to soft rubber, cordon off the rear area near the fence, relocate the current patio, and change the rear exit doors to emergency use only."

The sound report apparently states that the sound wall, which Montessori erected, would not work by itself. To date, Montessori has not followed all of the recommendations. Following the erection of the sound wall, further investigation by sound experts found that noise levels inside neighboring homes, through double-paned sound insulated windows reached peaks as high as 90 decibels. For [WWW]reference, 90 decibels is about the same volume as a blender or a diesel truck running right next to you. It is also the maximum level of sound to which people can be exposed for 8 hours a day without causing hearing damage in 90% of people [WWW]according to OSHA. [WWW]A normal conversation takes place at 60 to 70 decibels. According to the complaints, the increased noise begins around 8:30 AM, when the school opens, and has continued as late as 7:30 PM at times.

To view some of the letters sent by neighbors of the Day Care Center, have a look at [WWW]this Vanguard article.

Response

The management of the child development center HAS erected a tall, soundproof fence and allegedly adjusted the schedule so that children do not go outside prior to 9am or after 5pm. The children are inside for several meals each day, as well as nap time and indoor activities. They are outside for a maximum total of 3 hours each day. Their complaints come from a small group of individuals who chose to live near the pre-existing school. The neighbors' proposals call the children to stay 20 feet away from the fence, drastically limiting their play space, and for the building to be completely redesigned.

It takes a quarter of an hour of sustained exposure to sounds up to 115 decibels to cause hearing damage in 10% of people (again according to OSHA). It is also important to note the difference between peak level and sustained level. It is also important to note that there are current exemptions to the noise regulation in place for gardeners (with leaf blowers and lawn mowers), power tools, air conditioners, lawn mowers, etc. but not for children. Requiring playing children to comply with the noise regulations has implications for parks, playgrounds, public schools, and even children playing in their own backyards. The center is open from 7am to 6pm Monday through Friday, and closed on weekends. The children are not allowed to go outside before 8:30.

Rebuttal

There is reason to think that defenders of the school are [WWW]systematically misportraying this issue. An agreement between all parties was made on August 24, 2007 to re-evaluate the noise levels after the soundwall was constructed, in order to determine if other measures needed to be taken. Instead of doing that, any further changes are being fought. Other measures that could be taken include: moving the exit doors so that the kids would exit away from the residences, changing the surface of the patio to reduce the noise from the wheeled toys, and changing the tires of these toys to soft rubber.

Resolution!!

The Vanguard reports that the [WWW]issue has been resolved: On July 15, 2010, Mark Wood, the city of Davis' Chief Building Official, sent out a memo in which he announced that mitigation measures had been completed and that the neighbors consider the matter resolved to their satisfaction. According to the memo, mitigation measures include: completion of a sound wall between the school and the neighbors; sound deadening mat applied to the day care concrete patio area; sound deadening material applied to the ceiling of the patio area; use of the patio area is now restricted to entering and exiting the play area; the area closest to the property line has been designated as a “quiet area;” and all hard plastic wheeled riding toys have been removed or replaced.

Amtrak PA System

In 2003, the local train station installed a PA system that would announce trains to waiting passengers. Although intended for the local area, the speakers pointed out across the tracks and into Slatter's Court, broadcasting an endless stream of announcements into people's homes. After years of complaints by residents, including Wayne Schiller, they redirected the speakers in 2006 to keep the loud announcements more confined to the actual station rather than being blasted off the property.

Stand Up For Your Rights!

If you feel like the police have violated your rights and you would like to file a complaint you can download a form at [WWW]http://www.fighttheman.com. You can also contact the local ACLU.

Stand Up For Your Rights! (The alternate viewpoint)

You DO have a reasonable expectation that your neighbors respect your rights as you should respect theirs. If you feel like your neighbors have violated your rights by making excessive noise you have the right to call the police and file a complaint. You are also under no obligation to speak with the offending party before filing a complaint and shouldn't feel intimidated doing so. What the police do about it is beyond your control however a filed complaint is one step closer to getting the offender to stop.

Comments:

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2004-12-20 09:36:32   After having a performance of our kids band shut down when they had a permit and had only been playing for 15 minutes, I've often wondered what would happen if I called the police and complained that the noise from Toomey Field or from the Davis High School football field was bothering me! Think they'd shut down the game? I doubt it! - BevSykes


2004-12-20 15:12:43   My house has followed the rules and tried to get noise permits and after paying the 25 dollar fee to file for one (and telling all our neighbors) we fail every time. - RobRoy



2004-12-21 21:13:04   If the ambient level of noise exceeding the permissible level is indeed the truth, I wonder if the rule would stand in court? hmm.. I might just help someone fight one of these just to find out. - JaimeRaba


2005-02-16 00:59:10   In case people don't know, you can view police logs, and the secret version that has names of reporting parties and arrestees at [WWW]http://cityofdavis.org/police/log/press. Use wisely =) —ChristianDanielsen


2005-02-16 11:48:12   My husband used to build theatre sets in our driveway. The table saw has to go off at 10 p.m. because of the noise ordinance. This one night he had one more cut to make at 10:02 and did it, then was in the process of cleaning up and by 10:05, the police were in the driveway saying someone had complained about a noise violation!! —BevSykes


2005-05-30 05:37:06   What would need to get done to overturn this code? Couldn't a ballot measure stop it? And if only the students bothered to vote in local elections ... —ChristopherMckenzie



2005-09-26 05:02:59   Anyone know why the Grad doesn't get noise violations? they are in a residential area and are far louder than any house party I've been to or heard. —CraigBrozinsky


2005-09-26 08:02:15   This may be emotionally shot down, but shouldn't there be some information on this page about how to file a noise complaint? The "oh don't worry, we'll find YOU" contact info is cute, but there might be a time when you want actually file one (a note about contacting the person directly first might be nice). —JabberWokky


2006-08-11 05:31:49   I found out my roommate wanted to call the cops when I had 2 friends over late into the morning (1am-5am) and we were playing music and telling jokes and laughing. If the police came, would that have been sufficient to get us a ticket? I am pretty sure the neighbors could hear us, but we weren't even 1/4 as loud as the Grad gets... Whats the scoop? —SamWard


2006-10-29 16:09:17   If the police come to your party, they will ask to see ALL your housemates, fuck that.... DO NOT COMPLY. It's part of their sneakly little trick to rape you financially. They will herd you outside to talk to them and THEN tell you they can give EACH of you one or multiple violations. Only send one person out, tell them everyone else is out of town. Also, it is a law unique to Davis (what a GREAT CITY!!) that upon your 3rd violation within one year you will be arrested on misdemeanor charges. They will give you three tickets in one night if you do not comply. ["Users/BrendanBoyle" Brendan Boyle' and myself received four tickets (two each) on 10/20. The total charges could exceed $1,000— Tells you something about the kind of people running this town. I'd propose an alternate solution. The Davis Noise Ordinance should be a supply of earplugs to each resident. —AndyPastalaniec

Well, obviously you discriminate against anything that happens after 10pm if someone under 30 is involved. Several days out of the week I'm woken up by screaming children, power tools and various other civically supported disturbances. I never complain— well I can't because they're family oriented, suburban noises and the city supports them because those are the sorts of people who control the city— but even if the law was on my side I'd throw in some ear plugs and go back to sleep. That's being a polite, flexible neighbor. When I received the above violations I was having three to four social events at my house annually. They ran late, and they were quite loud but all attendants were peaceful and harmless. My neighbors prevent me from getting some extra sleep every single weekend. The problem here is unreasonable neighbors and egregious police. Whenever we've held an event that goes past 10pm we notify every house that borders our own. Personally, I think it's a character flaw to call the police before calling your neighbor. You think I lack compassion or courtesy, the person who called on my house cost me $925 and I'm still not sleeping past 8am on the weekend. —AndyPastalaniec


There's a lot of complaining here about the sound ordinance, but why does it exist? I don't know the history, but it seems to me that it's a result of undergrads being unaware or unconcerned about how their noises disturb their neighbors. I've had to deal with my undergrad neighbors multiple times playing basketball in the street at around 1 and 2am, loud parties that end with brawls in the street, and cars that in the middle of the night park with their basses thumping away (and this is in "quiet" West Davis). I'm happy that the ordinance is available to reduce the number of nights my neighbors will keep me awake. —JimEvans


The grad doesn't get noise violations because there is an expectation that there is going to be noise coming from a bar/club. The ordinance has to do with what is reasonable. Keep it clear that the Grad is not in a residential neighborhood, it's in the Umall. If you move into the apartments behind it you have no room to complain unless the noise is excessively more than usual. It's like moving in next to the airport and then complaining that the planes make too much noise. You know it's going to be noisy before you move in. On the other hand there is no expectation that a residential house or apartment is going to be throwing loud parties late at night, that is unreasonable. The police do take into account Frat and Sorority houses that have been in place for extended periods of time. People moving in next to Greek houses should know there will be more noise from there then most houses. Still they sometimes get excessive and receive citations.


2008-02-06 01:38:29   I live next to the B street apartments, and their landlord, Kari, abuses calling the Davis police for noise violations. She'll call in the middle of the day if she hears loud music playing and shoos people away for talking in the common area. She told me that she calls the police pretending to be scared about noise in the area when she really just wants it to be quiet. They haven't come by as often, maybe because they don't come when she calls. The police told me they have to come if a neighbor is calling in saying they are disturbed by noise. Multiple residents have sent in formal complaints to the Realty company about her, but to no avail. You can ask anyone in this area about her, and they all grunt because she calls the cops all the time.

What can residents and nearby neighbors do when one neighbor is "disturbed" by any sort of noise, even at a reasonable time of day? People were having a BBQ in the daytime once and she called the cops. Any suggestions? —davistudent


2008-02-06 13:57:10   The noise has to be above a certain decible and be above the expected levels. If the police came I would ask them to measure the noise level. If that doesn't work, you can use the favorite way to handle annoying neighbors from my childhood - doorbell ditch...on a at least a weekly basis for a year or more.


2008-02-06 20:03:33   note, I don't feel like leaving this under the alternate viewpoint, I just stuck it in the comments

It's true your under no obligation, but that a 10 on the shady factor... Don't be a punk, and only call the cops if you've tried politely and rationally discussing the issue... —StevenDaubert


2008-06-07 22:38:54   A good way to think about it is that if you are causing someone else to be impacted through your actions (through loud noise, for example), it is your responsibility to take whatever steps are needed to mitigate the effects of your actions on others. It's not *their* fault that you decided to have a loud party, or otherwise be loud. And although you might find it perfectly reasonable to be loud at <fill in your favorite time of day to be loud here>, the people around you may be trying to sleep or study or have responsibilities early in the morning (such as a job or class) that they need to be well rested for. Or, they may just not appreciate hearing whatever noise you decide to make because, for whatever reason, it disturbs them. It's not different than if you ran a polluting factory - it isn't the responsibility of everyone around your factory to go out and buy respirators so that their lungs aren't damaged because you choose to pollute the air they breath. It's your responsibility to ensure that you don't dump pollutants into the air in the first place. If you aren't disturbing anyone, then don't worry about making noise. But if you live close to other people (like most people in Davis do), be considerate and assume that if you are loud, you will be disturbing them. If you choose to be inconsiderate, then you should expect that they will take whatever steps are reasonable to get you to stop disturbing them, including those listed on this page. —IDoNotExist



2008-11-29 20:51:17   Honestly, it's not that hard to have a good party with your friends without waking up half the neighborhood or irritating people around you. As long as you're not blasting the music, running around screaming, or howling at the moon it's kind of hard to attract attention. Most often what annoys me about my neighbors having parties is not ambient noise like talking or music playing, but yelling, whooping, or cheering. I can understand the appeal of parties and I enjoy going to them and being a little crazy as well. But on the other hand, I shouldn't have to miss out on sleep Thursday nights when my neighbors want to stand on their balcony or chill in the backyards and whoop it up. —DanaMace


2009-3-24 18:51:17   What about barking dogs? Is there something that can be done about them? I live in Sacramento, but am moving to Davis in a week. This has been a problem for me. I know that they are probably just lonely being left home alone all day, but I work at home and have found I cannot work around barking dogs :( I can go to a coffee shop some days, but it feels like being driven from my own home... Thoughts? —RachelCat


2009-03-28 17:45:18   I think that people need to be respectful of others no matter what time of the day. I don't want to hear music while I am trying to read or get some rest. There is a time and place for everything but if you are in a shared housing situation, it doesn't hurt to think about others. The students will be back today or tommorow from spring break. This was a good week because the building has been quite and almost empty. I am dreading their arrival. Back to their loud noises and stomping up and down the stairs. —nosomey


2010-01-27 14:44:35   Re: the Montessori issue... 90 dB inside the houses? What do they have the kids doing at that daycare, flying jets? When I first read about the issue I rolled my eyes and thought it was ridiculous. But that's a lot of noise... —TomGarberson


2010-01-29 15:23:18   I live directly next to a preschool and it sucks. They are so loud in the morning. A lot of days some parent acting like a pirate comes and gets the kids all riled up and they start screaming super loudly at around 8 in the morning. I wish the caretakers were more responsible and did their best to keep them quite or inside during the early morning hours. I realize that kids need to play, but I also need to sleep. —metalhead15


2010-02-07 00:55:54   Here's what you can reasonably expect when you move into a COLLEGE town. Loud parties.

The townies here are absolute idiots. I'm pretty sure they moved here, well aware that it's a COLLEGE town.

Next time I go to fresh choice I'm going to complain loudly about there being no meat ok? Then I'll be exactly as intelligent as the average davisite. —tombrokaw


2010-06-04 14:12:55   Anyone know if the City Council heard the issue yet, or what the resolution was? —TomGarberson


2010-06-04 14:41:25   I will have a story on it next week. —DavidGreenwald


2010-07-24 09:43:10   It took a bit longer than I thought, however, the Montessori issue was declared resolved by the neighbors and the city [WWW]Montessori Issue resolvedDavidGreenwald


2011-03-02 09:09:06   The fact that trash service is exempt from this is ludicrous. A garbage truck early in the morning is incredibly loud when the streets are otherwise silent. They should have to follow the 7am rule just like everyone else. Tossing dumpsters and picking up the green waste that Davis tosses all over the streets is quite a noise maker. —MyRealName


2011-06-08 09:59:26   What's the limit for baby/babies crying? Oh and their parents yelling at them! I can hear it with my window closed, so I'm sure it's too loud but what's a man to do? —vzegarski


2011-11-21 09:12:04   I think it's ridiculous how several people have commented on how one should talk to their neighbors about loud parties before calling the cops (and for the record, I am a female college student, who needs her rest!). Have you ever even thought about putting yourself in another person's (or gender's) shoes? Where I used to live, I had neighbors that operated some kind of drug house from their duplex, would smoke weed and drink beer in the middle of the day outside, and have suspicious people of all ages coming in and out at all hours of the day. Also, they would have incredibly loud parties that would drag on until the wee hours of the morning sometimes. They would pump their base, go outside and be rowdy, have fist fights, and disturb all the neighbors. Ear plugs did not help, by the way (they can only block so much noise). These guys were huge, obviously volatile, would make threatening faces at me and my boyfriend if we looked at them, etc. They also had a huge rottweiler that was not friendly at all. If you think that I as a girl, or anyone else really (no matter the gender), would want to talk and try to reason with these kinds of people, especially when they're obviously DRUNK, you are insane. I'd rather call the cops. They at least can defend themselves using learned techniques and tools at their disposal.

In the end, the point of this whole page is: don't be a dick. Just because you are a college student (and maybe you just came here to party? Wow, aren't you a goal-setter!), doesn't mean you can be disrespectful to other people around you at any time you feel like it. Noise ordinances are in place for a reason. They're for over-worked students who require much-needed rest, children who need at least 9 hours of sleep each night, and working professionals who have no choice but to live in Davis because their job happens to be HERE.

If you're planning a long, loud party, talk to your neighbors about it first and get the okay. Ask them when they want the noise level turned down or off. Party as hard as you want until that time, then turn it down and hang out and have a good time inside. It's not that hard. And if your friends don't want to quiet down at your request because they don't care about being respectful, then they're not very good friends (or people), then, are they. —KurageHime


2013-04-17 10:34:42   Re: Davis High School Stadium PA System This is indeed becoming more and more of a problem because of the more frequent usage of the system to play music. The neighborhood does not experience music, but a loud thumping bass noise. Last Saturday the 'noise' was on all day long - till 9.50 pm. I believe the high school should change their policies regarding speaker system usage; i.e. use the PA system for announcements exclusively and stop the current abuse. Please have the high school band play instead. —LutzF


2013-09-23 21:49:41   I'm not sure what is going on on campus right now, but I live at least a mile away from the Aggie Stadium and I can hear them crystal clear right now. Pretty impressive/obnoxious. ETA: Seriously, I can hear Missy Elliot more clearly/easily than any music my neighbors have ever blasted. —MeggoWaffle

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