At next week’s city council meeting, council will be asked to change the city’s sound ordnance. With little discussion or notice, city staff have added an item to the agenda that could have big implications for city planning and residential neighborhoods in Davis.
In a nutshell, the amendment would, as one person has put it, allow someone to stand in front of your house and blow an air horn for a minute or two every hour without violating the sound ordinance. This would be allowed because city staff have decided it is better to measure sound by averaging it over an hour, rather than use a simple measure like the maximum allowed sound, how the current ordinance works. A quick check on the web shows that two other college towns – Chico and San Luis Obispo – have existing sound ordinances that use the “maximum” sound standard. Others have found that most cities use the maximum allowed sound rather than an average.
And this makes sense. Using maximum allowable sounds – particularly during quiet periods like nighttime – eliminates repetitive loud noises like, to use an extreme example, pile drivers and other such concussive noises as the Chico ordinance notes. San Luis Obispo has sound levels for daytime hours that are meant to limit loud noises such as leaf blowers and the like.