“Milkman, keep those bottles quiet!”
That was the title of Ella Mae Morse’s big song hit in 1944. In that time milk was delivered to doorsteps early in the morning and some people objected to the noise the milkman made. They liked the idea of free delivery but did not like the racket. This is what I took away from the city’s outreach meeting last Thursday evening at the Library Community Room, held to discuss proposals for a new noise ordinance.
Since nearly everyone I know in West Hollywood has been quite verbal about noise and its polluting effects on civic life, the spare attendance was a surprise. Well, not really. Most of the usual suspects were not there and, happily, a couple of very reasonable, calm voices were. I counted 15 people at peak and, since the meeting ran late, a number slipped away before the announced closing time. A few with particular grievances to air stayed longest and, as often occurs at these events, took up much of the scheduled hours attempting to find surcease where it could not be given. This was not the place to present problems, rather it was an opportunity to offer suggestions. Most understood that process.
The usual complaints surfaced quickly: barking dogs, neighbor’s loud parties or late night conversation, commercial noise from nearby bars, clubs and restaurants, leaf blowers, and early bird contractors. In my view many of these situations are more of a social issue, and the comments pointed out how few really know their neighbors well enough to have a civil discussion with them. I am also referring to commercial interests, even they might like to know how they impact the city’s atmosphere. Over the 40-plus years of my residence in West Hollywood, I have made it a point to know as many of my neighbors as they will allow. This includes the commercial folk on Robertson. Dog walkers are some of the city’s best ambassadors, as they make their daily rounds. One of last night’s attendees noted that he sends out notes to neighbors when he will have tree trimmers work or other events that he feels might disturb people. Commendable!
Representatives of the Sheriff ‘s Station came in for a few jabs as well. Their enforcement activities with regard to some blatant disregard by both residents and visitors of our city ordinances was seen as weak and inconsistent. There is a remedy for that – if indeed it actually exists. Residents should understand that the sheriff works for us all. They are contractors to the city. If it is felt they are not paying enough attention to citizens’ concerns, they must be reminded. A call or letter to the captain will bring results. Keep in mind that the sheriff’s time is often spent in areas where the most contentious behavior takes place and they must preserve priorities. It is unfortunate that there is a divide between the police and citizens. We may often feel it is more of a confrontation than a partnership. No one wants it that way, and we need to be in closer contact. If the residents truly feel they need more police, the city must take notice – but the residents must tell someone who can do something about their concerns.
A particular, and it turns out, personal, concern over the enforcement of the noise ordinance is that there is no definite form of measurement of certain infractions. I speak of the use of noise monitoring devices that give a specific value to noise in terms of decibels. I do not see how the city could defend itself rom a litigious person who feels wringed based solely upon the report of an individual enforcement officer whose report is purely subjective. No numbers to prove a violation. Acoustical engineering has been well established, and the instruments now available are simple to use and maintain. Better to be safe than sorry?
The meeting was chaired by Dan Mick, the manager of Code Enforcement, certainly one of the more difficult jobs in the city, but who bore up well under the barrage of concern from the audience. Taking copious notes were two of his officers, one of whom is the night and weekend responder. A subsequent meeting will take place on Saturday, Feb. 13, at the Community Room in the Library. Bring your noise concerns to be addressed in the re-write of the city’s noise ordinance. Be part of the solution.