Hayward noise ordinance debate, and how some council members like it loud

carspeakersHayward is holding a community meeting Thursday to discuss amending the city’s noise ordinance to bring it into the modern age. The current ordinance was drafted in the 1950s, and is vague. The city hopes to include language that will give it more teeth.

There’s concern over enforcement — it’s one thing to have an ordinance on the books, another to have the resources to go after what many consider a low-level concern.

“It’s probably going to be a work in progress,” said Assistant City Attorney Maureen Conneely, who prepared the draft ordinance brought before a council work session in October . “We’re going to have to see how to implement it, and it may need some adjustments depending on whether it is easy or difficult to enforce.”

At the Oct. 26 work session, the noise ordinance drew support from the council, although members spoke about how they or family members could well be current or past violators. Read about it after the jump.

” I have been a noise generator, with a teenage son at home  from 2000 to 2005,” said Councilman Bill Quirk. “I had cops come down after neighbors complained, as they should have. And it’s a good thing, because kids do quiet down after that.”

Quirk sympathized with people who are more sensitive to noise than others. By “others,” he may have meant fellow Councilman Francisco Zermeno.

“I’ve never been bothered any particular noise,” Zermeno said. “And music coming from cars, I’m guilty of that. … Who wouldn’t want to hear ‘Sympathy for the Devil‘ …  or ‘Riders of the Storm’ or mariachi music full blast on the radio?”

Indeed, Zermeno admitted that he has no qualms about subjecting an unsuspecting populace to Iron Butterfly’s “In a Gadda da Vida,” a psychedelic rock song that takes up the entire side of an album, emanating from his roving music mobile.

“If someone comes up with their noise, I’ll just jack mine up,” he said. “If my wife turns on the vacuum cleaner, I turn on the stereo. It’s no problem.”

Councilman Mark Salinas didn’t go that far, but admitted to enjoying rolling around town playing Metallica and AC/DC at fairly loud levels.

“It appears that even the reporting could be subjective,” he said. “What’s loud to (Councilman) Marvin Peixoto might not be loud to me.”

Councilwoman Barbara Halliday said she believes some of those car stereos out there are deliberately turned up to levels that will annoy people. And she said that if Zermeno pulled up alongside her with his blasting stereo, she might be forced to “crank up the Rachmaninov on the classical music station.”

You can find a flier for Thursday’s meeting here, and the draft ordinance here.

Eric Kurhi

  • Monica Ruiz

    Now I don’t know if I should bother with this meeting.

  • Sherry Blair

    Have you ever been in a movie theater when the noise was so loud you couldn’t stand it?

  • I seem to remember that there was a noise ordinance on the books in Hayward, specifically to address loud music from cars..Maybe someone else remembers it too.
    I no longer go to the movies because the sound is so loud. I wait til they come out on video and then I can regulate the noise. Must be really old=(

  • Sherry Blair

    There was an ordinance. This one will update it.

    I do the same, Kathi. I have really good hearing and have had to work on not damaging it for years. I am afraid that many young people’s hearing is already damaged. I alse see the hearing damage at the senior center where I work.

    This is one of those things that is going to be more important with increases in population.

  • Michael Moore

    If you examine the ordinance closely, you will find that it is very much aimed at specific ethnic enclaves within the city. The exceptions include all of the Emergency Response alarms, Public Safety Audio equipment, residential alarms, commercial alarms, car alarms, airport, animals, BART, local public transit, regional transit, Amtrak and railroads. The use of a decibel meter is not required for enforcement, only the complaint. The enforcement agent is the City Manager or designate.

    This is a bad law. Urge the city to say no.

  • Sherry Blair

    I’m interested. How would you improve it, Michael?

  • Michael Moore

    Sherry, I will attend the meeting tonight. Perhaps we can connect. The gist of my recommendations are as follows: The enforcement is up to the City Manager-designate during the day and is by the police after business hours. Any enforcement should be validated through the decibel measurement by a qualified operator. I am inclined to use a reward system for the community as opposed to a penalty that cannot be equitably assessed. The city manager’s office should be responsible for Sunday-Saturday enforcement from 8AM to 5PM. The Hayward Police Department should be responsible between 501 PM and 759AM.

    I would also not provide exceptions for Emergency Response alarms, Public Safety Audio equipment, ambulances, police, sheriffs, CHP, residential alarms, commercial alarms, car alarms, airport, animals, BART, local public transit, regional transit, Amtrak and railroads. Each of these sources of noise pollution would require a city license valid for six months, specifying the allowable decible level and duration of the aural disruption to a peaceable life. The copy of the certified permit to be carried by each person and vehicle and device responsible for the operation of the sound assault.

    The Residential test would be threefold:

    1. Two people at two different times in a 24 hour period complained.
    2. On both occassions the measured decibels were at least 76 dBA between 8 AM and 5 PM; and/or 66 dBA between 501 PM and 759 AM.
    3. The fines are deposited to the city general fund.
    4. The cost of the filing, permits, and enforcement, including time, benefits, mileage and materials should be included in addition to the fine.
    5. The penalty/fine should be doubled for the second offence.
    6. The penalty/fine for the third offcense should be trebled and the source of the noise should be confiscated and sold at auction by the city.

    The Commercial test would be threefold:

    1. Two people at two different times in a 24 hour period complained.
    2. On both circumstances the measured decibels must be at least 86 dBA between 8 AM and 5 PM; and/or 76 dBA between 501 PM and 759 AM.
    3. The fines are deposited to the city general fund.
    4. The cost of the filing, permits, and enforcement, including time, benefits, mileage and materials should be included in addition to the fine.
    5. The penalty/fine should be doubled for the second offence.
    6. The penalty/fine for the third offcense should be trebled and the source of the noise should be confiscated and sold at auction by the city.

  • Michael Moore

    I was fortunate to be able to go to this meeting last night. Inadvertently, the cause and solution were revealed by Lt. Sherry Boykins from the Hayward Police Department. What she said was the Penal Code 415 prohibits HPD from reacting to noise complaints. She clarified it by saying that if the officer responded to a noisy party, the officer is prevented by PC 415 from acting to stop the noise. The officer can only respond after two separate, non-related and cohabiting complaints occur and are documented by the officer. I looked it up and she is right.

    The solution is ridiculously obvious, the police department needs to not be called to issues of noise abatement. Only the city manager’s office should be called, since they can issue the fine after the second incident.

    As I said earlier, the proposed law needs to be tossed out and a completely new one needs to be written.

  • Sherry Blair

    I’m glad you went. Thanks for your ideas too.

    Personally, I am getting really uncomfortable with how we go about these things, adding regulations on regulations, expecting conformity to solve the simplest problems while not doing anything at all about the root causes or the big problems. We do this without much sense of humanity and sensitivity and those on the bottom always suffer the most. It is how we lose our freedom bit by bit.

    I do like the idea of the city responding when asked. But when asked to intervene, the intervenor should deal with the actual problem, not just someone’s anger at another. The result should be a resolution of the relationship problem. That is peacemaking at its best.

  • John W. Kyle

    To all: On the subject of noise ordinances. Special attention to Mr. Moore’s flawed noise solutions, requires a read of the problem which occurred at Hayward Airport. My contribution is flawed only by it’s length! If you have short attention span… print this out and read it at intervals suited to your own skills at contemplative thinking.

    In 1988 the subject of noise was a matter of great concern to me. Consequently, I became involved in the first of about 24 or 25 ad hoc or task force groups in service to the City. The nexus being proximity of personal residence to Hayward Airport. At that time an increasingly popular aircraft among time conscious business executives was the ‘Lear Jet.’ I believe it was the first jet engine type ‘business aircraft’.

    Oddly enough, the Lear Jet was a highly successful creation of a man named Lear. His problem at outset was centered on his belief that maintenenace of jet engines was more simple than that of gasoline powered reciprocating engines. His design requirements needed a jet engine which was limited by the fact that availability of jet engines in terms of quantity, were pretty much limited to the needs of the military forces. Military engines were notoriously unconcerned for noise generation for the obvious reason. Lear’s initial entry into the market spurred competition and engine manufacturer’s became alert to need but lackred demand for new, more quiet engine. Lear soon had competition but sufficient numbers of his product existed to excite alarm over noise.

    Air force had a design which suited his needs and he was able to acquire engine manufacture at a pace suited to meet the demands of his clients. The Lear jet aircraft design was at the time, limited to the number of passengers it could carry, as dictated by power supply, but it did appeal to a fairly large number of businesses here in the SF Bay Area.

    Hayward Airport was not located near the neighborhoods in which wealthy purchasers desired to live. A great characteristic of the type purchasing Lear jets was their need to keep ‘the bird’ close to home. Hell’s bells, why pay for a limousine ride from Black Hawk to Hayward when you have the advantage of living fairly close to Livermore airport, the proximity to which had the advantage of being able to take friends to a closely located hangar in order to display the new toy to friends without the considerable cost of an actual flight. On board liquor cabinets might also have attracted the ‘boys’!

    The problem was that Livermore had a short main runway (7-R) which did not enable flight when fully loaded with passengers, baggage, jet fuel and refreshments. There was also the additional problem that they had traded an older, propeller driven aircraft for the new jet. The fellow who had the fuel business at Hayward began to hurt but was resourceful. He began a price discount practice which caught the eyes of the guys owning Lear Jets. You had to figure that wealthy individuals did not gain wealth by leaving nickles on the table!

    So began the practice of taking off from Livermore and topping off the tanks at Hayward which was close enough and had advantage of a longer runway aiding the trip!.

    In those days, as well as in the present, the success of an airport is measured by the number of ‘operations’. The FAA lives and dies by the measurement of ‘operations’…. another subject well covered in long ago scribbles. The point to follow is noise… right?

    Lear jets had a noise problem since the military engine was designed for power without concern for noise. Life in Hayward became hell for those residing in tracts and mobile home parks near the airport. City expended much capital from it’s ‘entrepreneurial’ funds, ( airport is independent of City Budget matters,) studying various solutions to the legitimate noise complaints of residents, especially for those near the Longwood School which was built without concern for aircraft noise in early 1950’s.

    The problem reached acceptable resolution by the hire of consultants gifted with education in noise analysis and control.
    After many meetings with that individual and his associates, at no small expense, ( paid for by the least recognized of Hayward City’s two entrepreneurial funds,) the airport noise monitoring ordinance was enacted. Oddly, the noise ordinance was enacted in July 1991. However enforcement was delayed for six months with the purpose of allowing time to educate pilots needing education and development of added flight skills.

    It was quite amusing to hear aircraft owners and pilots complain about the dwindling numbers of ‘flight operations’ at Hayward Airfield even prior to enforcement of the ordinance.

    That loss in the count of operations was sorely lost and complaints by business tenants were directed to the ‘terrible creation of the noise ordinance‘. What really happened was the coincidental opening of runway extension at Livermore which occurred in July 1991.

    Opening of the runaway extension at Livermore saw extension for use by aircraft needing runway lengths of up to a mile in distance….. Livermore had lost tax revenue on aircraft fuels and FAA was more than happy to drop a few million at Livermore to accommodate FAA’s belief that unlike other Counties, Alameda County needed three adequately sized general aviation airfields. We are blessed with Oakland’s old North Field, Hayward and Livermore. Laughingly, folks in Livermore / Pleasanton soon became aware of their noise problem. FAA provided a gift of $30. million to acquire land that might have seen profitable development of a Truck Stop, had they any business acumen. It remains fallow land with an approved but undeveloped plan for a regional manufacturer’s retail outlet similar to the distressed developments in Gilroy and Vacaville. If you get me started on Truck stops again, I’ll quickly point out the immanent closing of Golden Gate Field which is near it’s final days. Little old Albany, in it’s ignorance and very limited population, has control over development of that land. It’s population of near 15,000 with voter registration of about 5,000 is adamant in it’s opposition to a truck stop…… what Albany desires is a ‘nice’ Mall of sufficient size to permit sales tax supported luxurious living to it’s population. Lilliputian in thought ?

    The so called ‘spill over benefits’ emanating into Hayward as result of ‘general aviation airfield’ presence are a farce! I have written on that subject too!.

    The point to be made here, as you read this, is that to create an effective noise ordinance designed to meet the anticipated need, as suggested by Mr. Moore, requires installation of scientific equipment at locations proven to be effective as to ‘full coverage’ of City’s jurisdiction. That idea will require an incredible expenditure for authoritative analysis by scientists qualified for the undertaking, add the expense of noise monitoring equipment
    (Airport installed four such towers, to do the job.) Triangulation would permit precise location as well as estimate of decibel levels created by offenders. Right?

    The involved expense would not come from the City’s two entrepreneurial funds. ( Airport and Tap Water/ Sewage concerns.)

    The additional problem is that City does not have a means of identifying the source of the noise in residential areas as does the Airfield where ‘Control towers at both Oakland and Hayward’ have recordings of conversations as well as aircraft identity
    devices in the electrical systems that aid charting of paths after takeoff. That possibility in residential areas is economically impossible. As well as being frivolous

    Te eventual solution, which will probably never occur here in Hayward is that the public ought be taught ‘neighborliness’ . Which is not to say that HUSD is at fault as it is a general decline in our morals…. Which goes, in some minds, direct to matters of religious faith!

  • Michael Moore

    Prester John, the proposed Hayward Noise Ordinance Revision does not address vehicle, airport or domestic animal noise.

    The authority and chief science on noise is avaialbe at nonoise.com. Specifically the EPA March 1974 publication and the concise version are the recognized science and authority in the US. The issue is not that noise is irritating and harmful. That is well known.

    The issue is the correction and prevention of the negative action. The present ordinance calls for the Hayward Police Department to address all after hour enforcement. They will not do the job well, because they are specifically forbidden to do so. If you do not believe me, call them or look it up yourself. The authority is the California Penal Code 415 1-3.

    The present proposal will not work, and has not worked. In fact noise ordinances do little to work because they rely upon the polilce.

    The solution is to have the city decide to require noise permits for all issues of noise. Failure to have a noise permit will require a fine. The city will enforce the law through the same inspection systems that it employs now. They cannot do any worse.

  • John W. Kyle







  • Michael Moore

    Sherry, you make excellent points. For those of you that want to learn as much or as little about noise, the most inclusive source I know of is found here:

    The Hayward City Council will begin its final proposals on or about 1/15/2011. If you have a contribution, now is the time to make it.

  • qodrn

    I don’t know about noise law. We had a VERY loud party last night in the hood here and the Hayward police handled it very well…Tip of the hat to them..They didn’t seem to have any problem telling the party goers to shut up or else….

  • Michael Moore

    Qodrn, that is all very good. I could not agree more with your assessment. The police do an excellent job when they are dealing with real crime, as was apparent last night. It is the issue of noise infractions that they are ineffective. In fact they are prevented from taking action by the same law that allowed them to take action. Catch 22 at its best.