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

URGENT: City Council Considering Revision to Noise Ordinance, Further Muddying Ambiguous Standards
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Don't shut us down

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.

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

  1. Fun November 9, 2011 at 1:13 am

    If the noise bothers you so much, then move! Should have thought about that before you moved right next to a bar! haha

    could it be possible for someone living right next to a bar if they didn’t like the music, to just call a cop and have everything taken care of? that would suck!

    Reply
  2. Christopher Gibson October 13, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    It is common knowledge that as a community we are an interdependent module. As such it is important to note that interdependence does not come without compromise. As it stands each party on the matter already has, what the community has deemed to be for years, an agreement that satisfies the necessary components of a compromise. By enforcing a stricter rule on one side we are simply avoiding the issue and possibly causing more economic turmoil within our community by putting businesses that already contribute to the community at risk of losing their necessary profit margin. When key business’s fail, consequently jobs are lost. Furthermore, because we are interdependent this would cause more stress on each and every community member.

    Also, keep in mind that those who are complaining choose to live where they do and most of these business’s were already in place long before these citizens took possession of their living space. Therefore, in many ways it is at the fault of the resident for choosing to live in conditions that they cannot cope with.

    All in all, it doesnt make much sense to punish the whole of the community because of a few who can’t seem to make small sacrifices to support the big picture.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Email the Mayor and all the City Council members today to block sound ordinance revision

  4. Jude Dwyer October 12, 2011 at 1:33 am

    I did go to City Hall today but got there late around 2.40pm. An officer told me that 5 people had registered to speak to the Mayor & the council about this. It was the first item on the agenda, the 5 had their say & then the council moved on to other issues & listening to random nut jobs. Does anyone know if the five that attended were for or against the proposed change in the law? And the Mayor or council’s response?

    Reply
  5. Pingback: SPACE CITY ROCK » City Council Discussing Revising Noise Ordinances, Today: Bands & Music Fans, Let Them Hear You

  6. jaycee713 October 11, 2011 at 11:22 am

    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.

    Reply
  7. Jude Dwyer October 11, 2011 at 4:05 am

    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\")

    Reply
  8. Jude Dwyer October 11, 2011 at 4:05 am

    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”)

    Reply
  9. Doyle October 10, 2011 at 5:18 pm

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

    Reply
  10. Alex Wukman October 10, 2011 at 12:50 pm

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

    Reply
  11. Alex Wukman October 10, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    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

    Reply

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