Sonic attack on the poor - Page 2

Concert promoter blasts industrial noise at illegal levels to drive away homeless people


The reason for the seriousness the city gives the issue of controlling excess noise is expressed in the very first paragraph of the noise ordinance: "Persistent exposure to elevated levels of community noise is responsible for public health problems including, but not limited to: compromised speech, persistent annoyance, sleep disturbance, physiological and psychological stress, heart disease, high blood pressure, colitis, ulcers, depression, and feelings of helplessness."

Many of the cities homeless already suffer acutely from conditions on this list. Asked how an already vulnerable population could be affected by random industrial noise known to (and in this case intended to) cause agitation, Offer-Westort said, "It's crazy to try to create these conditions, they are quite literally trying to create a civil disturbance, and not on their own property, but in a public space."

With the adverse effects of noise pollution well-outlined, the ordinance goes on to state, "In order to protect public health, it is hereby declared to be the policy of San Francisco to prohibit unwanted, excessive, and avoidable noise."

The ordinance pays particularly attention to licensed entertainment venues like the Bill Graham auditorium: "No noise or music associated with a licensed Place of Entertainment shall exceed the low frequency ambient noise level defined in Section 2901(f) by more than 8 dBC."

As a matter of comparison the difference between a whisper and a quiet conversation is roughly an eight decibel increase, a relatively narrow margin. It seems reasonable that if you're standing outside a venue, and the music coming from inside sounds louder than the person talking next to you, the city's noise ordinance has been exceeded.

So motorcycles, saws, and other industrial sounds that were described at the auditorium late at night would range around 100 decibels without being amplified. Amplify it enough to shake the window in the building, one can assume it's louder than a power tool, louder by far than the noise ordinance permits.

Everyone who has ever held a loud late night event in the city know the consequences of breaking the noise ordinance. A knock on the door by the SFPD that comes with a ticket and the end of your gathering. Do it again in a year and the fines doubles.

The strategy at the auditorium seems to be having some effect, but where the homeless will be shuffled off to is anybody's guess. The reality of the homelessness crisis is there is no place for the homeless to simply move off too. With their numbers in the thousands, only bold political action on behalf of the city's leadership can solve the problem.

"The root of the problem is that people can't afford rent. Everyone who rents in San Francisco knows that it is way too expensive to live in this city," says Offer-Westort. "We stopped creating public housing. Housing has become a commodity, an investment rather then a home, and that has driven up prices."

Passing back through the area later at night, the building was quiet for the moment. A tow truck was loading a car out front with a beeping alarm, a motorcycle roars by, a boombox is playing across Civic Center Plaza, a man is yelling around the corner only to be drown out by a broken wheeled shopping cart clanking by. If this is the normal late night quiet of the streets, it's a wonder the homeless get a moments sleep at all. But the building itself remains quiet right now.

A lone homeless man has bedded down in front but has not yet fallen asleep. Young and dreadlocked, he tells me that he has been in town only two days and is unaware of the controversial blasts of noise.

"God I hope they don't do that," he said from his sleeping bag. "It's supposed to rain tonight. Why would they do that? As long as you are up before sunrise and move on, who are you bothering?"


it figures that Mayor Lee and his cronies are giving it a pass.

Free earplugs for the poor!

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 16, 2012 @ 7:32 pm

Actually, revisions to San Francisco noise laws in 2008 gutted protections for peaceful enjoyment of residences throughout S.F. The Board of Supervisors passed the legislation on National Election Day—when no one was looking.

Current California Assembly member Tom Ammiano, sponsor of the legislation, didn’t bother to attend the final Board committee hearing. He stated in the press however that it responded to the “many, many noise complaints.”

Changes to the noise ordinance, Article 29, before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, raised the threshold for an enforceable noise complaint citywide from the historic 5 decibels (dBA) to a minimum of up to 55 dBA—and potentially to 70 dBA in mixed-use neighborhoods, with an exception of up to 78 dBA for nightclubs.

The legislation stripped SFPD of jurisdiction for noise coming from inside nightclubs (we can also thank bartender Chris Daly, club owner Gavin Newsom and former supervisor Bevan Dufty for that bit of nonsense).

More to the point of the article, offending noise now sanctioned under S.F. law violates protections of California residents: harassing someone with noise is illegal based on California state law.

Residents of San Francisco need to wake up and hear the special interests at City Hall. If you can imagine, they sound like the sonic attack described in the article.

Homeless or not, your real estate and our civic resources are their gain—whether we like it or not.

Posted by Tom Ferriole on May. 21, 2012 @ 8:17 pm

My partner and I are boycotting Another Planet Entertainment for their BULLYING and HARASSING of SF's weakest and most vulnerable citizens. We are disgusted by APE's decision to sonically abuse the homeless folks we share our city with. We are letting friends on facebook know about APE's heartless actions and we will reach out to artists with shows being promoted by APE to let them know what kind of abuse their artistic efforts are supporting. Another Planet & Gregg Perloff are the worst kind of compassionless jerks. They don't deserve the exclusive contract they've been awarded for the Bill Graham Civic and they don't deserve to profit off San Franciscan's love of music.

Posted by Bully Hater on May. 22, 2012 @ 12:20 pm

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