Noise Code Good But Needs Work
(April 20, 2000)
Noise Meeting Hears Complaints(April 22, 1999)
Mayor's Proclamation on International Noise Awareness Day, 1999 (April 22, 1999)
NOISE CODE GOOD BUT NEEDS WORK
NEWS RELEASE --April 20, 2000
A recent review of the Mayor's proposed changes to the Albuquerque Noise Control Ordinance by the leadership of the Citizens for a Quiet Envirnoment concluded that there are many good provisions in this bill, particularly the cap on noise in City owned facilities and the "Hazardous Noise Area" sign provision. First time ever controls over sound leaving commercial or industrial property are also a great addition. The provision for summary settlement of violations is excellent and could be a real boon to enforcement since those issued tickets for violations would, in many cases, not choose to appear in court - the whole matter could be handled like a traffic infraction where they can plead guilty, pay the ticket and avoid the Judge.
This bill contains many of the recommendations made in the City Noise Report submitted to the Mayor, the Council and the Environmental Health Department last fall before CQE changed its name from the Citizens Noise Advisory Group to the Citizens for a Quiet Environment. That report is available at the web site of CQE: www.nonoise.org/quietnet/cnag/cnag.htm
Beyond some of those listed above, other fine additions have been made by the EHD such as the cap on noise at all City owned facilities and controls on portable sound amplification systems other than those in motor vehicles.
There are some provisions in this bill, however, that are problematic to the CQE In some instances there may simply be a lack of clarity in indicating the intent of a provision. In others the intent is quiet clear and is simply not acceptable to the CQE. There are also some problems that group feels should be, but are not, addressed by this bill.
Following are problem section numbers from the code and the position of the CQE on them:
9-9-3 DECIBEL MEASUREMENT CRITERIA: As the "A" scale only measures sound at or above 500 hertz, while the "C" scale begins measuring at the much lower level of 32 hertz, we believe it would be preferable to use the "C" weighted scale for enforcement of this code in order to measure low bass music and other low sounds. Many city codes that use the "A" scale compensate for this by separately addressing vibration (as separate from noise) which this code does not do except in the definition of "plainly audible sound" which rarely appears in the body of the code.
We would revise 9-9-3 to say, "...measured with a sound level meter using the C-weighting network. [+In this ordinance, the terms dB and dB(C) are synonymous unless otherwise state." All other reference to dB(A), or A weighting would then also be changed.
9-9-4 (A) SOUND AMPLIFYING EQUIPMENT: We strongly oppose the 50 dB(A) or 5 dB(A) above the ambient wording. We believe noise level limits should be fixed and not be defined in relation to ambient noise levels. This position is supported by Eric Zwerling, Director of the Noise Technical Assistance Center at Rutgers University and a recognized expert in the field. Writing specifically in regard to the ALBUQUERQUE CODE he said:
"I believe that the permissible sound level limit should be set at a SPECIFIC SOUND LEVEL, SUCH AS 50 dB(A) at night, and allowances for the ambient sound levels should be made in the Standard Operating Procedures developed for enforcement officers."
This comes from the man most responsible for the New Jersey State noise code, an expert who has advised numerous municipalities on the development of a code and then trained their enforcement people. He has been sought out by major national news magazine and the TV networks for comment on noise issues.
By not adhering to such fixed standards, what we term "decibel creep" can occur. A study done for the Abq. EHD (but never released) found the average ambient daytime noise level in Albuquerque residential neighborhoods is 53 dB(A). This means that the allowable limit would be 58 dB(A) in those neighborhoods. Over a period of time, small increases could be introduced into an area, each raising the sound level 1 or 2 dB. None of these would be sufficient, individually,to cause a violation . Added together over a period of time, however, eventually the ambient could be up to 58 dB, making the allowed maximum 63 dB and it could continue this growth until the situation was completely out of hand. CQE has labelled this phenomenon "decibel creep".
CQE opposed these provisions in the old code and, in a newsletter last year, objected to this provision in the draft of the City bill made available at that time. That position has not changed and CQE feels the code should carry the same maximum levels as those of almost all other major cities, namely a flat 55 dB daytime and 50 dB nighttime in a residential neighborhood with correspondingly higher levels on commercial and industrial property. The World Health Organization recommends a flat 50 dB and 45 dB day/night level in residential settings.
In order to control decibel creep, we object to this 5 over 50 terminology wherever it appears throughout the revised code. It is bad noise control....... in fact it does not control noise, it allows it to grow.
We would replace it, where it is used to refer to residential property with 55 dB(C) daytime/50 dB(C) nighttime. The first paragraph of 9-9-4 would thus be changed to read: "(A) [+Bands+] It shall be unlawful for any person within any zone of the city to practice, play or conduct live band activities using sound amplifying equipment in such a manner that the noise level produced exceeds 55dB(C) daytime/50 dB(C) nighttime when measured on any other RESIDENTIAL property or, if a condominium or apartment house, etc..."
9-9-4 (E) VEHICULAR SOUND AMPLIFICATION DEVICES: These are sure to become labelled the boom car/ice cream truck provisions and it was the consensus of the group that a 1 year grace period for compliance is overly generous. It is our position that 30 days is adequate time to allow those found not to be in accord with the new law to make the necessary changes to adhere to the new regulations.
9-9-4 (H) OUTDOOR PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS: Although we may agree with the intent of this provision, It does not define outdoor public address systems. Does this include McDonalds? The drive in bank? The loudspeakers over the entrance to Cottonwood Mall? If so, it should say so clearly, If not, that should also be clear.
This provision calls loudly for a rewrite or replacement by the less inclusive provision suggested in the CQE report. It said, "It shall be unlawful for any person to operate or permit to be operated, any outdoor sound amplifier, loudspeaker system or similar device producing, reproducing or amplifying sound for the purpose of paging or calling to employees." This provision was drawn from a suggested addition to the code of Sunnyvale, CA where 16 auto dealers removed paging systems from their lots in response to the public outcry- a complaint with rising public volume here in Albuquerque.
In other provisions dealing with amplified sound, we feel the hearing impaired are being ignored in this code and would like to see paragraphs D and G of the City Noise Report be offered as amendments to the proposed bill. They help those with a hearing disability function where otherwise they cannot converse, cannot hear sales people or wait staff or carry on everyday business. They can't talk with those around them. The loud music can often start, with no advance warning, after they have begun a meal or a sales transaction or progressed half-way through a building.
Those two provisions read as follows:
(D) It shall be unlawful for any person to play or permit to be played, amplified music at a level exceeding 50 dB(C) (measured at a distance of 25 feet from its source) in any area of any enclosed or open air mall, airport, lobby or concourse, hotel lobby, convention area or other public or private facility whose principal purpose is to make possible the passage of the public from one place of business or activity to another."
(G) With the exception of paragraph (d) above, no person shall play amplified music at an indoor location where the general public is invited at a level above 50 dB(A) (when measured no less than 10 feet from its source) unless a SEPARATE "QUIET AREA" is provided for the hearing impaired OR AN APPROVED "HIGH NOISE AREA" SIGN in the form prescribed in section 9-9-16 of this code is prominently displayed at all entrances."
Both of these provisions were endorsed by the Albuquerque Chapter of SHHH (Self Help for the Hard of Hearing). They also received the endorsement of Keith D. Muller, the Executive Director of the international organization, the League for the Hard of Hearing. Talking of Albuquerque code changes to protect hearing and ease the burden on those with a hearing disability, he said, "Specifically, we support the intent of paragraphs D, E, F and G suggested as additions to section 9-9-4 (Sound Amplifying Equipment) designed to meet those ends."
9-9-8:CONSTRUCTION OR DEMOLITION OF BUILDING AND PROJECTS, EXCAVATION AND GRADING: With the exception of allowing work to begin at 6 A.M. instead of 7, we take strong exception to this rewritten clause which, as we read it, for all practical purposes removes most restriction on nighttime construction and demolition and ask that the original clause in the old code be left unchanged.
9-9-10 (C) MOTOR VEHICLES:In this section that deals with motor vehicle alarms, we feel the whole clause is not clear and should be reworded to clarify its intent. Possibly it could say,Except "where it can be established that the alarm sounded due to attempted vandalism or theft, no person..." rather than, "except where necessary to provide a warning signal..."
9-9-[+13] GENERAL NOISE: This clause is not, to our reading at least, clearly worded. To CQE it says that a person on a commercial property cannot export sound to another property louder than 60 day/55 night whether the receiving property is commercial, residential or industrial. If this was the intent, it is at odds with almost every noise code extant where it is normally the receiving property that sets the limit. It could have been clarified by adding a clause found in many noise codes that states that where adjacent properties with different zoning are involved, "When a noise source can be measured from more than one land use location, the permissible sound level of the more restrictive location shall govern."
In the CQE report, the wording estalishing maximum sound levels was, â Except as otherwise provided in the article, it shall be unlawful for any person to make or continue, cause to be made or continued, or allow to be made or continued, any noise in excess of the following limits when measured at or within any receiving property line, at any location on that property.
9-9-[+19] PENALTY: In the opinion of CQE and many who were questioned at the recent Earth Day Fair, the fines set here would not be effective in controlling noise. Recent experience in New York City has shown that only when fines are substantial are they effective. They were considered a "cost of doing business" in NY until they were raised dramatically, then they were observed.
In Colorado Springs the fines for 1st, 2nd and 3rd offense are $75/$150/$300. Changes proposed last spring to the code in Seattle were $100/$250/$500 and could go as high as $1000 and/or 6 months in jail. The small fines being proposed for Albuquerque are $25, $50, and $100.
If a "boom car" is involved in an infraction of the noise law, both Colorado Springs and Chicago confiscate the equipment (the whole car if necessary) and impound it. If a guilty verdict comes down, the sound equipment is destroyed and the owner must pay to get the car out of impound. The Chicago law withstood a well organized and financed assault by the manufacturers of such equipment last summer - the Council voted overwhelmingly to retain the law as it is currently written. These cities are serious about controlling the problem.
A $25 fine means nothing to a person with a $5000 sound system in his car. To a contractor who is a 2nd time offender, $50 fine means nothing if he wants to start work at 5:30. $100 means nothing to a retailer who believes a blaring loudspeaker on his building will produce $5,000 in sales in one day or a car dealer trying to get out from under some inventory.
CQE supports fines of $100/$250/$500 plus confiscation on the third offense.
Whether they support all of our positions or not, CQE urges the public to let their elected officials know their feelings about noise and about this proposed law. The text of the proposal is available at the CQE web site. This bill has now been offered to the Council where it will first be reviewed by the Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee. Public input is invited at these meetings and again when the bill goes before the full Council.
The Noise Pollution Clearinghouse says: "Good neighbors keep their noise to themselves." Where this legislation is concerned, good neighbors will not do so, they will make a whole lot of noise about this bill and let their Councilperson know their feelings.
Stephen O. Frazier
Citizens for a Quiet Environment
formerly The Citizens for a Quiet Environment
P. O. Box 1714, Corrales, NM 87048
For a comprehensive overview of noise in Albuquerque, our noise laws and our noise report, visit our web site at: http://www.nonoise.org/quietnet/cnag/cnag.htm
NOISE MEETING HEARS COMPLAINTS
NEWS RELEASE - APRIL 22, 1999
A small but vocal crowd attended the public meeting of the Citizens Noise Advisory Group last night at Winrock Mall. The meeting was called by CQE in observance of International Noise Awareness Day and to get citizen input for the groups efforts to develop proposed changes to the Albuquerque noise ordinance.
Barking dogs and loud car stereos topped the list of complaints from those present but noisy PNM power transformers, loud trucks on Academy and traffic noise from San Mateo also were brought up. Loud sales promotions by car dealers that are heard from far awaywere reported. A good deal of frustration was voiced when code enforcement was discussed and the consensusseemed to be that it is far from adequate.
Steve Frazier, Chairman of CQE, pointed out that at one time the city had five people who worked full time on noise code enforcement but that, today, there is not one charged exclusively with handling noise problems. Lack of adequate staffing and funding in Albuquerque occurred when the EPAs Office of Noise Abatement and Control lost its funding in the 80s. Grants from that Federal agency were reported to have subsidized the Citys noise control program and when the funding was lost, it was not replaced by local tax dollars. One of the recommendations CQE plans to make to the City Council is that they budget more money for an adequate noise control program.
Albuquerques Environmental Health Department was represented at the meeting by Leo Bottos who read a proclamation from Mayor Baca declaring it International Noise Awareness Day in Albuquerque and detailing the harmfull effects of exposure to excessive noise. Bottos also took an active part in the question and answer session.
Those attending last night's meeting filled out a Community Noise Survey that is part of the International Noise Awareness Day campaign. Forms were also filled out at the Earth Day Fair held on Nob Hill over the week-end. Once the results are compiled, they will be released locally and also sent on to the Noise Center in New York for inclusion in their International study.
Information on CQE is available by e-mailing the Group at firstname.lastname@example.org. or calling 897-0840.
MAYOR'S PROCLAMATION ON INTERNATIONAL NOISE AWARENESS DAY, 1999
Whereas, The impact of noise on hearing, health, and Albuquerque's quality of life can no longer be disputed;
Whereas, Volumes of literature exist to show the hazards to hearing from repeated exposure to noise;
Whereas, Numerous studies can be found to document that noise, like other stressors, is related to negative physical and psychological changes in humans;
Whereas, Noise is not just a concern for adults. Noise poises a serious threat to our children's hearing, health, learning and behavior;
Whereas, Because children are exposed to an onslaught of noise at home, in recreational activities and in the community, the risk is widespread;
Whereas, Noise induced hearing loss among children is a serious public concern and impacts speech, language, cognitive, social and emotional development;
Whereas, According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, three million children under the age of 18 have some kind of hearing difficulty;
Whereas, Research has correlated exposure to noise with physiological changes in blood pressure, sleep, digestion and other stress-related disorders;
Whereas, The City of Albuquerque is working towards developing a compre-hensive noise policy to protect the health and quality of life of our children and all citizens of Albuquerque.
Now, therefore, I , Jim Baca, Mayor of the City of Albuquerque, do hereby proclaim April 21, 1999 INTERNATIONAL NOISE AWARENESS DAY in the City of Albuquerque, New Mexico and urge all citizens to join in this important observance.