Supe seeks to heighten the hush

The rattling roar of a car without a muffler, the booming bass from a nightclub or construction workers who begin too early are all sounds residents in The City may know — and hate.

The City, however, is looking to bring relief to residents’ eardrums by cracking down on noise polluters.

Proposed legislation would make it easier for The City to penalize those who exceed the noise limits and impose stricter noise controls. Under the proposal, The City could charge someone with an infraction of $100 for a first offense and up to $300 for three or more offenses in a year.

The noise-control ordinance was introduced Tuesday by Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who said the legislation grew out of the “many, many constituents’ calls” complaining about loud noises bothering them or waking them up from sleep. Not since 1973 has The City updated its noise standards, and advancements in technology make sound level measuring much simpler, Ammiano said.

Ammiano said that residents of Bernal Heights have called in to complain about the noise from stadium rock concerts, while others have complained about construction noise and “certain motor vehicles without the mufflers that are really loud. It’s really annoying.”

Dr. Rajiv Bhatia, director of occupational and environmental health with the Department of Public Health, said excessive noise can result in a number of health problems, including an increase in the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.

Bhatia said the department receives “a lot of calls” from residents complaining about the noise of exhaust fans used by restaurants or other businesses. Bhatia said that a properly maintained exhaust fan would emit an allowable noise level.

The law also specifically addresses the complaints of residents who live near nightclubs and say the noise disturbs their sleep. The law would create a new frequency measurement for bass and drum sounds.

Enforcement would remain divided among various departments depending on the type of noise. For example, the Entertainment Commission would enforce noise controls when it comes to nightclubs. But the Public Health Department would have oversight control of all noise enforcement and report annually to the Board of Supervisors about The City’s noise problems. The department would also designate an employee to act as a noise prevention and control officer.

The law would establish a task force that would regularly meet and ultimately recommend amendments to the noise-control ordinance. The task force will also recommend to the Planning Department how to better locate development based on The City’s acoustic levels.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

Common noise complaints

  • Construction
  • Restaurant exhaust vents
  • Bass and drums at nightclubs
  • Motor vehicles without mufflers
  • Stadium rock concerts

Source: Department of Public Health, Supervisor Tom Ammiano’s office

My Story

“There is certainly a need for something of that nature … but I would question the motive. It seems like [The City’s] trying to make money instead of solving a problem.” John Baxter, 41, San Francisco

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