A new noise map points the way to the loudest neighborhood in The City — the South of Market area, which is rapidly growing with new high-rises packed with residents.
SoMa has a noise level of 70 decibels, which is the average measurement during a 24-hour period. The noise levels at night factored more heavily than during the day.
The SoMa noise levels can be compared with that of a vacuum running within a few feet of a person, according the Department of Public Health. The department recently completed an acoustic study of The City, which measured noise levels experienced by each building — its residents and workers.
Although SoMa is rising with the recent construction of thousands of units in newly built skyscrapers, the primary contributor to the noisy neighborhood is that many streets are traffic arterials.
“They’re highly impacted by freeway noise and they’re the most heavily trafficked arterials in The City,” Tom Rivard of the Department of Public Health said.
Tens of thousands of cars, buses and trucks flood the SoMa area each day as commuters use neighborhood streets, such as First, Fourth and Sixth streets, and The Embarcadero to access the Bay Bridge and U.S. Highway 101.
An estimated 27 percent of residents in South of Market are “highly annoyed” by the sound levels in the neighborhood, researchers estimate.
Noise annoyance is exacerbated in areas where the population is dense, Rivard said.
“In Chinatown and the Tenderloin, where you have real high people densities and real high traffic densities, the number of people that are annoyed is very high,” he said.
Other areas with higher noise levels include downtown/Civic Center, the Financial District, the Inner Mission, Western Addition and the Nob Hill/Russian Hill/Pacific Heights/Marina neighborhoods, according to the study.
The “central west” and Glen Park/Bernal Heights neighborhoods had lower sound levels.
Supervisor Chris Daly, whose district includes SoMa and the Tenderloin, said noise issues are one of the primary calls he receives from constituents who complain about fireworks at AT&T Park, motorcycles and construction-related ruckus. “I’m living about 100 feet from the Central Freeway project. I certainly empathize with my constituents,” Daly said.
The new map, which replaces an outdated one from 1974, will head to the Planning Department so it can be referenced when new construction is considered and efforts to regulate noise levels can be more targeted.
Dial down the decibels
How San Francisco neighborhoods rank when it comes to noise.
An average noise level of 70 is equivalent to a vacuum cleaner running next to a person, and a noise level of 60 is comparable to two people having a conversation.
South of Market: 70
Financial District: 68
Inner Mission: 68
Western Addition: 68
Nob Hill/Russian Hill/Pac Heights/Marina: 67
Bayview-Hunters Point: 66
Haight Ashbury: 66
North Beach: 65
Potrero Hill: 65
Upper Market/Noe Valley: 64
Central West: 63
Twin Peaks/Diamond Heights/Oceanview: 62
Glen Park/Bernal Heights: 61
Citywide Average: 65
Source: Department of Public Health