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October 10, 2011 – 9:29 pm | One Comment

This week our podcast discusses the Occupy movement, its Houston happenings, and the dastardly proposed revisions to the city noise ordinance.

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URGENT: City Council Considering Revision to Noise Ordinance, Further Muddying Ambiguous Standards

Submitted by @GunsandTacos on October 10, 2011 – 11:05 am7 Comments
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City of Houston residents, police officers, musicians and promoters have all been plagued by ambiguous language in the city Noise Ordinance. For many years the language in the city statute has lacked clear, objective criteria for what constitutes a noise violation. Consequently, businesses who host live music and their neighbors have been locked in a seemingly endless of tug of war with Houston Police Officers stuck in the middle. City Council is now considering revisions to the existing statute which will further confound all parties involved by asking officers to make arbitrary judgements with their own ears as opposed to equipment rooted in science. The proposed revisions would allow officers to write tickets for alleged violations without a Decibel or LEF ( Low frequency effect ) meter reading. This would be comparable to forcing officers to write speeding tickets based upon what they see as opposed to using their radar for concrete, objective readings of speed. Officers and courts would have a difficult time enforcing such laws. Importantly, there are questions as to whether the proposed revisions are constitutionally sound as the regulated community may often not know if they are violating the law or not. Lawyers would have a field day fighting these cases. However, an objective and concise criteria in the law would help residents, musicians, and police officers alike. Organizers and musicians would have a clear understanding of compliance with the law and residents could demand accountability. The proposed revisions have the potential to strangle and possibly exile Houston’s burgeoning music and arts community. Countless historic Houston music venues and festivals have resided in residential areas for several decades. Under the proposed revisions, someone could potentially end the music and dancing at the beloved Greek Festival with a single phone call. A downtown resident could stop a world-touring music artist at International Festival despite the fact that they have a sound permit issued by the City. Historic venues like Rudyard’s, Fitzgerald’s, and Last Concert, who have hosted myriad touring musical acts of the highest caliber, could be a thing of the past. Local musicians would be left with few if any places to perform. On a smaller but just as important level, family events like Quinceanaras and weddings which are often based around music would be stifled. Houston’s musical heritage and future are at stake with this. Let’s all urge City Council to create objective, VERIFIABLE, and enforceable laws which benefit residents, musicians, and police officers. Let’s open a comprehensive dialogue with ALL parties involved and find effective, scientific solutions.

We ask anyone who has a stake in this to come to Houston City Council Open Session on Tuesday October 11th 2pm at City Hall or write to City Council.

7 Comments »

  • Alex Wukman says:

    The ordinance will also double the fine for violations from $500 to $1,000 and revise the permitting process for businesses. Here’s a link to a KHOU article about it: http://www.khou.com/news/local/Volume-control-City-considers-revising-noise-ordinance-131107893.html

  • Alex Wukman says:

    Link to find your city council member. http://www.houstontx.gov/council/whoismycm.html

  • Doyle says:

    So these are the ‘revisions’ the Mayor mentioned in your recent interview?

  • Jude Dwyer says:

    HPD already can (& does!) issue citations without the need for a decibel reader. I believe the language in the code was changed in 2001 to allow that. (See the section of the Noise Ordinance that addresses that below). I am a little confused therefore as to what exactly is being proposed. I will take a guess though that somebody somewhere wants a bigger piece of the pie.

    Sec. 30-4. - Amplified sound.

    (a)
    It shall be unlawful for any person to make, assist in making, permit, continue, cause to be made or continued, or permit the continuance of any sound using any sound amplifier that is part of or connected to any speaker system, radio, stereo receiver, compact disc player, cassette tape player, microphone, or any other sound source, when operated: (i) in such a manner as to disturb the peace, quiet, and comfort of the neighboring inhabitants, or (ii) at any time with louder volume than is necessary for convenient hearing for persons who are in the vehicle or within the property or premises in which such sound amplifier is operated and who are voluntary listeners thereto. The operation of any such sound amplifier in such a manner as to be plainly audible at a distance of 50 feet from a vehicle shall be presumed to be violative of this section. The operation of any such sound amplifier in such a manner that bass sounds are plainly audible at a distance of 50 feet from the property line of a property or premises in which the amplification is located shall be presumed to be violative of this section.
    (b)
    It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that the sound source is a motor vehicle and that (i) the motor vehicle is a mobile sound stage or studio that is being used on a stationary basis at a location not situated upon any street for the purpose of providing sound, during daytime hours, for an event or function and (ii) the use is in compliance with all other provisions of this chapter, including but not limited to section 30-8 of this Code, if applicable.
    (Ord. No. 01-945, § 2, 10-17-01)

    Full code available here: http://library.municode.com/index.aspx?clientID=10123&stateID=43&statename=Texas (search “noise”)

  • Jude Dwyer says:

    HPD already can (& does!) issue citations without the need for a decibel reader. I believe the language in the code was changed in 2001 to allow that. (See the section of the Noise Ordinance that addresses that below). I am a little confused therefore as to what exactly is being proposed. I will take a guess though that somebody somewhere wants a bigger piece of the pie.

    Sec. 30-4. - Amplified sound.

    (a)
    It shall be unlawful for any person to make, assist in making, permit, continue, cause to be made or continued, or permit the continuance of any sound using any sound amplifier that is part of or connected to any speaker system, radio, stereo receiver, compact disc player, cassette tape player, microphone, or any other sound source, when operated: (i) in such a manner as to disturb the peace, quiet, and comfort of the neighboring inhabitants, or (ii) at any time with louder volume than is necessary for convenient hearing for persons who are in the vehicle or within the property or premises in which such sound amplifier is operated and who are voluntary listeners thereto. The operation of any such sound amplifier in such a manner as to be plainly audible at a distance of 50 feet from a vehicle shall be presumed to be violative of this section. The operation of any such sound amplifier in such a manner that bass sounds are plainly audible at a distance of 50 feet from the property line of a property or premises in which the amplification is located shall be presumed to be violative of this section.
    (b)
    It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that the sound source is a motor vehicle and that (i) the motor vehicle is a mobile sound stage or studio that is being used on a stationary basis at a location not situated upon any street for the purpose of providing sound, during daytime hours, for an event or function and (ii) the use is in compliance with all other provisions of this chapter, including but not limited to section 30-8 of this Code, if applicable.
    (Ord. No. 01-945, § 2, 10-17-01)

    Full code available here: http://library.municode.com/index.aspx?clientID=10123&stateID=43&statename=Texas (search \"noise\")

  • jaycee713 says:

    Unfortunately, the comments on the KHOU link only seem concerned about vehicles blasting bass while driving down the street in more suburban areas, and don’t realize this affects the circumstances pointed out in the Free Press article. It’s going to take pointing these issues out on their blog or else they are not going to care, as they don’t live in the city limits, and will not be affected by this until they venture out for the night. By the time they realize this, it will be too late for them to complain.

  • SPACE CITY ROCK » City Council Discussing Revising Noise Ordinances, Today: Bands & Music Fans, Let Them Hear You says:

    [...] Omar Afra over at the ever-cool Free Press Houston; he sent out a press release (which is also up here) warning that the Houston City Council will be considering changes to the current noise ordinances [...]

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