City, TPD study noise ordinance effectiveness

An aggressive noise ordinance passed by Tacoma City Council two years ago appears to have had its biggest impact on the city’s bustling nightlife scene along Sixth Avenue, according to the Tacoma Police Department (TPD).

The ordinance, which was passed on April 2, 2008, limits night time noise to no more than five decibels above the background noise levels and day time noise to no more than ten decibels above background noise levels; limits music in bars or nightclubs to no more than six decibels above background noise from no more than 100 feet away; limits construction hours from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays, and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends and federal holidays; and limits noise from instruments, stereos, or car stereos to no more than 50 feet away.

According to city officials, the ordinance was created to help regulate noise levels that exceed the recommended day and night time levels that are considered disruptive to the health and welfare of the community. Civil complaints are handled by Building and Land Use Services (BLUS). Criminal complaints are handled by TPD.

On Monday, Tacoma City Council’s neighborhoods and housing committee received an update on the ordinance from the City’s public works staff and TPD officials. Much focus was on a drop in noise complaint calls in the Sixth Avenue Business District. According to data, TPD received 108 noise complaints in the area between January and April of 2009. During the same period this year, TPD received 83 noise complaints. Similarly, last Friday night, BLUS staff visited 14 businesses and found only one out of compliance, said Lisa Wojtanowicz, the city’s community based services coordinator.

“A majority of these complaints are noise calls from around the club areas,” said police officer Steve Piotrowski. “A vast majority are from patrons leaving the place at night and screaming and hollering. The most people can do is call the police.” The department has requested a bike patrol officer to monitor the area when nightclubs close. That request could be approved later this month.

“It’s not really bad compared to the rest of the city,” said Piotrowski.

Indeed, While TPD is pleased with the results along Sixth Avenue, the department received 3,613 noise complaints in 2009 citywide. “We still get about 100 noise call complaints per day, which is quite a lot,” said Piotrowski.