DC Council Tables Street Noise Bill

by Nena Perry-Brown

Opponents of a controversial bill to crack down on street noise in the District won a temporary victory on Tuesday afternoon.

Shortly after the emergency Amplified Noise Amendment Act of 2018 rose to the top of the agenda for the DC Council's legislative session, Chairman Phil Mendelson ordered it to be removed from the docket — but first, he responded to some of the critiques of the bill.

"There has been a lot of criticism of this over the last few days, and I'll say that there has been some misunderstanding about what the proposal is," Mendelson stated. He then went through some of the more popular points of protest:

  • That the bill would suppress the city's culture, particularly percussion and bucket-drumming. Mendelson said that because the bill only concerns amplified noise, drumming would be exempted.
  • That the bill would entirely prohibit music being played on the sidewalk; Mendelson again noted that only amplified noise would fall under increased scrutiny if the bill passed.
  • That the bill criminalizes noise by threatening punishment of 10 days in jail for those who don't remedy their noise offense after being warned.  "Now, while there's a provision like that in the permanent bill, the emergency that was circulated last week as a draft did not include that," Mendelson explained. "This legislation does not have a criminal provision in it." This part, however, is a bit murky: It is unclear whether the incarceration provision will be removed from the permanent legislation as well.
  • That the bill prohibits amplification entirely. It does not; it only requires that amplified noise not be audible from 100 feet away. "It has to be turned down, following a standard used in other cities that the noise, if amplified, cannot be plainly audible at 100 feet, which typically, for enforcement purposes, is measured at a greater distance," Mendelson clarified.  

"This legislation is the result of complaints that have been going on for well over a year from residents, from business tenants, and others who are concerned that the amplified noise has gotten so loud that there is never a quiet moment, whether in someone's apartment or whether it is in a business's conference room," Mendelson continued.

Before withdrawing the bill from the agenda, Mendelson circulates it for the record and noted that it would be posted to DC's Legislative Information Management System (LIMS); the permanent bill is also available. With valid — and amplified — concerns on both sides of the issue, it is clear that the matter bears further examination and Mendelson's tabling of the bill acknowledges that rushing such a bill to passage would have been a difficult sell to many.

Update: An earlier version of this article stated that the emergency bill had not been posted to LIMS; the bill went live shortly after. LIMS also notes an "Amplified Noise Amendment Emergency Declaration Resolution" was introduced yesterday, which states that there is an immediate need to address the noise issue.

See other articles related to: noise ordinance, noise, dc council

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/dc-council-tables-emergency-legislation-to-combat-street-noise/14197

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