At its April 18 meeting, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors approved the request from 4th District Supervisor V. Manuel Perez to have the Planning Department staff review the current Noise Ordinance (847) for possible amendments.
Perez noted that since summer 2022 when Code Enforcement implemented its Special Enforcement Team, primarily on weekends and evenings, the number of noise citations in his district, particularly at ranchos in eastern Coachella Valley, has increased.
Ranchos constituents feel that the new enforcement is too restrictive for these large agricultural properties, such as date palm ranches. It is harming their ability to provide locations for community and family events, such as baptisms, weddings and quinceañera parties, a girl’s 15th birthday, celebrating her entering adulthood and other cultural celebrations.
In his memorandum to his colleagues, Perez wrote, “… the lack of an identifiable standard of what constitutes noise, the variable measuring tools used, together with the ‘human ear’ discretion defined in Ordinance No. 847 has created confusion and frustration for many of our residents …”
Public comments in support of Perez’s request lasted nearly an hour. Many simply wanted to participate in drafting the revisions to the ordinance. Specifically, several speakers felt that its enforcement was subjective. “We want 847 [the ordinance] to be based on something that actually works — a decibel reader. It can’t just be because Code Enforcement showed up because a neighbor called,” declared Claudia Lua Alvarado.
Kelly Wash told the board that the noise “… ordinance is written in a very unclear way and makes it confusing to understand how to do things right.”
And Laura Flores said she is “… willing to hire a company to measure and keep track of the noise.”
Specifically, Perez wants the Planning Department to review “types of sounds and what constitutes noise.” The revised ordinance should rely on sound level readings and appropriate levels for the county’s zones. This would include “special circumstances and sound exemptions and special requirements for events.”
The current Noise Ordinance does have a table that sets sound levels for various zoning categories and parcel sizes in the county. For example, in most residential areas, the daytime maximum decibel level is 55 and from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. it is lowered to 45 decibels. In most commercial areas, the decibel levels are 65 until 10 p.m. and 55 from then until 7 a.m.
Section 5 of the ordinance specifies the equipment and its calibration. “Sound level measurements shall be made with a sound level meter. Immediately before a measurement is made, the sound level meter shall be calibrated utilizing an acoustical calibrator meeting the standards of the American National Standards Institute.” And this equipment must be re-certified annually.
However, Public Information Officer Felisa Cardona confirmed by email that Code Enforcement has and does issue some citations without using sound meters, “… but sound meters continue to be an enforcement tool.”
Third District Supervisor Chuck Washington, who acknowledged noise issues in the Wine Country, concurred that discussion about the ordinance would be valuable. “It does seem our ordinance in areas is vague and somewhat subjective in its interpretation … We want to ensure we give staff the tools that are needed to enforce a noise ordinance so businesses can survive and thrive while neighbors are not tortured. It’s a delicate balance.”
Board Chair Kevin Jeffries (1st District) noted a similarity with the feelings about the short-term rental issue and ordinance.
“Private property rights are at play and apply to both sides,” Jeffries averred. “The challenge is getting the right balance. I’m not sure one size fits all will work for everybody.”
In closing, Perez agreed, “We have struggles [with this ordinance] in the eastern Coachella Valley and there are struggles in other districts. Whatever we come up with has to have balance.”
The board then voted unanimously to have the Planning Department begin a review of the noise ordinance, which was originally approved in 2006.
In its April 19 press release, the Planning Department stated its objective was to “… create a clear and effective noise ordinance that preserves the opportunity for nighttime events while also balancing the public’s right to peaceful enjoyment of their property. “
Individuals who wish to comment on the review of Ordinance 847 (Noise) are encouraged to contact the County Planning Department via email at [email protected].
Also, updates on the process can be obtained by subscribing to the Department’s newsletter at //planning.rctima.org.