TRUE, SOUND FACTS
about the “Seven Essentials” and the Sound Amendments
introduced December 19, 2013 by the New Orleans City Council
On December 19, 2013, with all seven City Council members signing on as co-sponsors, amendments to New Orleans’ Sound Ordinance were introduced for “first reading.” “First reading” is always step one – putting potential legislation before the public to create an opportunity for community input. Since this action, there has been an attempt by some to create confusion, or even deliberate misinformation, about these amendments. Opponents fail to explain how these changes would shut down bars or musicians. It won’t! Here are the facts…
WILL THESE AMENDMENTS “KILL” NEW ORLEANS’ MUSIC SCENE?
NO! Of course not! No elected official in New Orleans would sign onto an ordinance that would kill, or even hurt, our invaluable New Orleans music scene. Music is an invaluable part of our culture and our economy. The reason all seven council members signed on was because, after four years of detailed study and hearing, these amendments are actually very limited in scope and provide common sense improvements.
Councilwoman Kristin G. Palmer was elected four years ago, with one of her stated missions to update and improve the city’s sound ordinance, to the benefit of musicians and residents. She initiated meetings, proposals and studies. To help with this process, for over two years a coalition of neighborhood groups met regularly to develop ideas which became seven “essential” improvements to the city’s persistent problem of lack of sound management. That coalition includes neighborhood organizations from every corner of the city.
You can read the 7 essential sound suggestions at TheMarketingCenter.com/Noise/.
DO THE DEC. 19 AMENDMENTS IMPLEMENT THE 7 “ESSENTIAL” LIST?
The Dec. 19 amendments only address three of the items (#3, 6 and 7). Only one of these items has a citywide impact, about where we measure sound. Two items are for the French Quarter only and refer to decibel levels. No decibel changes are being proposed for outside the Quarter. Those who say decibel limits would change citywide or in the Marigny or Tremé are not accurate; that’s NOT what the amendments say.
WHAT DO THE 7 ITEMS SAY RE: ZONING & STREET MUSICIANS, LIKE BRASS BANDS?
From the beginning, the neighborhoods came up with a few criteria:
· They wanted something incremental, but meaningful and passable.
· They did not want to target street musicians, instead focusing on the few bars in our city which may be bad neighbors repeatedly.
· They wanted to leave it to individual neighborhoods to debate zoning/live entertainment locations.
WHAT ABOUT THE CITY’S “WOOLWORTH” REPORT ON SOUND?
The 7 essential items are vastly consistent with goals of the Woolworth report.
THE PROPOSED AMENDEMENTS CLARIFY, BUT DO NOT CHANGE WHERE WE MEASURE SOUND. Current law is often mistakenly interpreted to require that sound decibel measurements be taken on the property of the person making a complaint about excessive sound. In fact the authors of the current ordinance meant for the measurements to be taken at the property line between the source and the nearest receiving land use. The music city of Austin measures from the property line of the place making the sound.
It makes sense to check whether a behavior is within the law - rather than if a citizen has a right to complain. For many people, such as our elderly, it can be intimidating to call authorities about a nearby bar. Many people are uncomfortable having police take sound measurements standing on their stoop or porch, or inside their homes. This provision clarifies existing law.
WHAT WILL BE THE DECIBEL (dB) LIMIT CHANGES IN THE QUARTER?
The neighborhood coalition proposed a slight roll back in some, not all, French Quarter decibel limits to what they were before being raised in 1997. New Orleans had an active Quarter music scene in 1997.
French Quarter Residential zones
· No changes are proposed at night. (Note, some vocal Internet critics have decried the 60 dB
but that’s already current the legal limit. No new areas are proposed for 60 dB.)
· In daytime, maximum (called “LMax) dB would reduce from a very loud 80 to a still tolerant 70.
French Quarter Commercial zones (like Royal St)
· Again, no changes are proposed at night.
· In daytime, maximum (LMax) dB would reduce from a very loud 80 to a very tolerant 75.
Bourbon Street (VCE)
· Current table of maximum permitted sound levels allows 10 dB above ambient (street/
background) noise – up to infinity! This has led to Bourbon Street “noise wars” among clubs – with no maximum! The amendments allow db levels 10 above ambient, not to exceed Lmax 85 dB.
WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER ITEMS ON THE 7 ESSENTIAL LIST?
Previously, two additional items on the “essential” list were adopted via City Council resolution (items 1 and 2). It was recommended that New Orleans develop a reasonable sound management system to be run by the City Health Department. Noise is recognized as a health issue. Meanwhile, our police have other priorities. Funding has been allocated. The next step is for the Health Department to recommend a plan on how to implement a program. No nightclubs are expected to close.
THESE MEDIA REPORTS ARE SIMPLY WRONG:
· TIMES-PICAYUNE, JAN. 2: Music and Culture Coalition said in a statement that the proposed revisions would make it "much easier to shut down venues that offer any form of live entertainment."
ü No. These modest changes won’t make it “much easier.” Nor does anyone want it to.
· OFFBEAT, DEC. 31: There’s no justification for neighborhood associations to dictate what happens within neighborhoods in the city.
ü That’s inflammatory. Nobody is dictating. Everyone has a right to petition their government. There will be an opportunity for further public comment and debate.
· UPTOWN MESSENGER, OWEN COURREGES, DEC. 23: …we’re talking about decibel restrictions, measured directly from the source, that range from the volume of a sedate conversation to the level of the average noise from a vacuum cleaner.
ü No, this shows a lack of understanding of how sound is measured with professional decibel devices. New Orleans’ decibel levels – even after these a modest changes to 1997 levels – will still be among the most tolerant in America.
PLEASE SPEAK UP: Some nightclub owners want NO change, not even when fair and common sense. Let City Council members know YOU want a city where visitors, musicians and neighbors can live, work and play together! Contact council members via nolacitycouncil.com or (504) 658-1000.