I want to let you all know about a recent collaboration between representatives from Armory Park, Barrio Viejo, WUNA, FAMA, DID, Downtown Tucson Merchants, TPD and other residents, business managers, property owners and stakeholders to revise the local noise ordinance so that there are distinct standards for businesses in the Downtown area (the “Downtown Entertainment Area”—as opposed to the Entertainment District you may have heard of in the news).
As I understand the issue, this project began in response to growing noise complaints from residents living inside the Downtown area. It is unclear whether the proposed changes will cause actual increase in overall noise in the area. And, the ordinance is still under heavy review and could still change significantly, after input from stakeholders like us.
At the heart of this effort is a push from Downtown businesses to self-monitor noise levels at their property. Currently, enforcement is difficult because noise levels must be measured at the property of the complaining resident. In turn, because enforcement is complaint-driven, and TPD doesn’t have the resources to respond quickly, the ordinance isn’t helpful to anyone; even Downtown business managers recognize that unhealthy noise levels are not good for business. The hope is that a noise standard that is measured at a business’s property will allow self- regulation, reduce uncertainty for business owners, and, if TPD agrees, could allow the purple-shirted Downtown Partnership security employees to help keep things in line (of course, residents will still be able to call in complaints to TPD).
This is a complex issue, particularly because the manner in which sound travels and dissipates is extremely difficult to predict. Efforts to simplify measurements and predict the effects of a proposed decibel level on residents (including my own musings) have not been helpful to the discussion so far. But, the drafters seem bent to craft something workable, and may start taking readings at both residences and business at the same time to see what, for example, 85 decibels at the front door of HiFi sounds like to residents at the Cadence.
I’ve attached a set of the Downtown Merchants’ minutes on the issue here: Noise Ordinance Committee Report May_5_2014. Please let us know if you have any comments on this issue or have an ingenious way to solve the problem. The ordinance isn’t being enforced as written at the moment, so it’s in our interest to help draft a solution that ensures reasonable noise levels will be maintained as we move forward.
Thanks for your time!