Turning down Temecula – New noise ordinance limits bands, construction

Temecula will soon be a quieter town than ever before. On Sept. 25, the City Council approved an ordinance which will limit noise and give code enforcers the right to ticket violators.

Though the county already has laws limiting noise, the city designed the ordinance to give it the power to cite offenders.

Violating the ordinance is a misdemeanor, and punishments range from a verbal warning to $1,000 and six months in jail. Local police, park rangers and code enforcers all have the power to cite residents.

The council approved the ordinance for the first time at the meeting. The council still needs to approve the ordinance on its second hearing – which will be within the next 30 days. The ordinance will take effect 30 days after the second hearing.

In the past, and until the ordinance takes effect, a resident with a complaint about noise had one course of action: to file a complaint with the county.

The city will equip code enforcers with acoustic calibrators which can measure the volume of a noise. The cost to the city is unknown, said Senior Planner Emery Papp, because the city is undecided on how many calibrators it will need. A calibrator can cost from $100 to $2,200.

The city had revised the ordinance once due to ambiguous wording, according to Papp. The code enforcer would have the ability to decide subjectively what would qualify as a violation of the ordinance.

In August a Temecula resident and band member told the Planning Commission the term “loud and raucous” was too subjective, so the city defined this term in precise, objective language in the final version of the ordinance.

The ordinance limits noise in terms of decibels. In residential areas, the ordinance forbids noise louder than 55 decibels – which is slightly quieter than a normal conversation – from crossing a neighbor’s property line.

All audible noise is banned between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Marshall Hess, 17, who attended the meeting, said the ordinance was too restrictive and that kids should be encouraged to play music. “Drums are hard to keep quiet, and you can’t soundproof a garage,” he said.

The ordinance should have banned garage bands outright, according to Temecula resident Conrad Ellefson, who spoke at the meeting. “I don’t know anything that can totally ruin the quality of life in a neighborhood faster than a garage band,” he said.

Residents can still hold loud events, such as loud music at parties, if they first get either a Minor Use Permit or a Temporary Use Permit. The permits run from $17 to $477.

The ordinance does not regulate loud music coming from vehicles because the California vehicle code already regulates it. This displeased some residents, said Council Member Maryann Edwards.

Animals may not make noise for more than 30 minutes in a 24-hour period, or intermittently for 60 minutes in a 24-hour period. In a 30-day period, if an enforcement official witnesses such a violation three times the enforcer can cite the animal owner.

Noise is acceptable if the animal is making the noise due to a passerby coming onto or near the property.

Government-owned facilities and city-sponsored events and construction are exempt from the ordinance. This exception drew criticism at Planning Commission meetings, said Edwards. “Many [city] events would exceed the limits in the ordinance,” she said. “These events are put on for the public benefit.”

The ordinance can be revised indefinitely, should the need arise. “If we find [the ordinance] needs to be tightened up, we’ll take care of it,” said Council Member Mike Naggar. “I think we nailed it, but we can always revisit it.”

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