Public Comment

Amplified Music Permits in Residential Neighborhoods Produce Amplified Problems for Neighbors

By Cynthia Hallock
Tuesday August 16, 2011 - 10:11:00 PM

I think the public is unaware that the City of Berkeley is profiting by issuing amplified outdoor music permits for large annual private parties in R1 residential areas, even if the neighbors in closest proximity object. 

The public health staff is responsible for monitoring the sound levels at these parties but are closed on weekends and have nothing to do with these noisy events that they are encouraging. They take no responsibility for damages to neighbors cars, property, or supervising underage drinking, parking issues, etc. Party hosts are also not required to notify or get permission from the victimized neighborhood residents. 

I live in the very dense San Pablo Park neighborhood. Even though the park is right around the corner from the proposed annual private party at 1308 Derby Street (for this coming Saturday, August 20th, from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm.), they are not utilizing the more appropriate park location. I am very concerned when these large scale amplified events are taking place in the residential neighborhoods. 

To make matters worse, home sellers are required by law to disclose chronic noise nuisances, which lower our property values.The city just hosted the sound amplified Olympic Day at San Pablo Park on the 4th which is approximately two weeks apart from my neighbors event. There seams to be no limit as to how many of these amplified sound permits the city can issue. 

I think it's time for the silent majority of Berkeley residents to speak up against permits for large, loud, private parties in single family neighborhoods, before the city makes the quiet enjoyment of our homes on a sunny day, a thing of the past. 

This letter was sent to Manuel M. Ramirez, Director, Environmental Health, and Eric Brenman, Secretary, Peace and Justice Commission, Department of Health Services, City of Berkeley:  

To: Manuel M. Ramirez and Eric Brenman 

Re: Amplified music permits in residential neighborhoods produce amplified problems for neighbors 

As a long time Berkeley resident, I value the quality of life in our neighborhoods and want to protect it. 

I am writing this to you because I am objecting to having my neighbor, Robert Harbin aka -"Red", (directly across the street from me @ 1308 Derby Street), be issued an amplified music permit for his annual private outdoor party, (Saturday August 20th), this year, because of the noise and the size of the crowd it attracts to our very dense R1 residential area. 

Not only was the noise level of last years party just too much, but the city is overlooking the fact that the San Pablo park is only 50 feet away. Is there any reason that this event can not take place in one of our city parks? Especially, when San Pablo park is right around the corner from us. 

I understand that the city's public health staff have discretion in measuring sound levels and responding to noise complaints. I also understand that they are boosting city revenues by issuing amplified music permits in residential neighborhoods. Environmental Health has a lot of freedom but do they have a right to excuse our R1 "quiet enjoyment" noise ordinances for parties for profit? I believe this permit process is tipped in favor of applicants instead of protecting the rights of close proximity residents. 

Amplified music permits are not good for the community and neighborly relations. What value is it to the neighbors to host an individuals private party? 

My experience is that amplified music permits are actually promoting loud, unruly public nuisance gatherings. They hamper our quality of life by bringing noise, trash, parking issues and congestion to the area. If the neighbors custom and practice is to have loud parties then it is our legal duty as home owners to disclose this fact when we sell. Loud parties decrease our home values in an already depressed market. 

Who is going to measure sound decibels and respond to complaints for the noise ordinance to be enforced? Weekend events are enforced by the police department as the environmental health offices are closed. But ironically the police department are not issued noise meters. It is the city's staff responsibility to mitigate the neighbors problems, but at the time of a weekend event they don't have anything to do with it. 

Do you think the current procedure of calling the police to report excessive noise or suggesting one neighbor sue the other is a way to create a harmonious neighborhood or does it just jeopardize our relationship as a community? 

Another fact that should be considered is the frequency of loud, heavily attended events in the San Pablo Park neighborhood during good weather. 

While I am in favor of community events at the park, I am very concerned when these popular amplified events are taking place in the residential neighborhoods. 

San Pablo Park Events: 9th Annual Summer Kick Off and Bike Rodeo - on Saturday, May 7th from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 pm Olympic Day - on August 4 from 10 am to 2:30 pm Martial Arts Tournament - on September 24 from 9 am to 4:00 pm 

Now my neighbor wants to move the same kind of highly attended, yearly events to our residential neighborhood. Saturday, August 20th is another one of our best weather days added to the annual list of must have loud amplified events approximately two weeks after the city's big, Olympic Day. This is unconscionable as it makes our neighborhood less livable. 

In conclusion, we need to balance our community life with our quality of life. Encouraging an annual loud private party constitutes a chronic nuisance that negatively impacts the value of the properties immediately adjacent. It is a detriment to the health, safety, peace, morals, comfort and general welfare of the neighborhood. Please consider the good of the entire community and work towards solutions that ENHANCE the San Pablo Park neighborhood. 

If this permit is to be issued, please move the event to a more appropriate location. If it is for the neighborhood's benefit as claimed, then why is it not taking place at San Pablo Park, which is easier to monitor and more equipped to accommodate the quantity of people, parking and noise level? 

Thank you for your attention to this matter and please route to applicable departments. 


Cynthia Hallock