While Temecula musicians are still getting used to the ban on one of their favorite pastimes—smoking—they may soon have to deal with a ban on their other favorite hobby. The Temecula Planning Commission is designing a new noise ordinance that would effectively ban band practices.
The ordinance states “loud and raucous noise emanating from any . . . sound-amplifying device or live music is unlawful on public or private property.” This restriction was one of five kinds of noise banned in the proposed ordinance, but it was the most harshly restricted.
Other noise-making devices, such as power tools, stereos and even construction equipment, are only banned from 8 p.m. to 10 a.m. Live music and other “raucous noise” is the only kind of sound banned around the clock.
On June 6, the commission decided to revise the ordinance because of the term “loud and raucous,” according to Senior Planner Emery Papp. “We don‘t have a clear definition of what is loud and raucous,” Papp said. “Different code enforcement officers might have a different definition.”
The commission will vote on the ordinance August 1, and if it passes, it will go to the city council for a final vote on August 14.
“People think this is a wholesale change,” says Papp. “We’re just trying to codify what’s already in the general plan.” The county already forbids the making of noise with “malicious intent.” The problem, Papp says, is that someone’s intent is difficult to prove. Today, a police officer must visit the same house at least three times before they can cite the noise-maker.
But if the ordinance passes, a code enforcement agent will be able to cite a person without any verbal warnings after the first complaint. Papp says that most code enforcers would still issue a verbal warning, but they would no longer be obligated. The first citation will cost the offender $100, and each violation within a year will cost $100 more. The maximum punishment is $1,000 or six months in jail.
At the commission meeting, a Temecula resident and band member complained that there was no time set aside in which it would be legal to play in the garage. Papp acknowledged that, and said that when rewriting the ordinance, they would keep the resident’s complaint in mind.
Under the new law, noise must not exceed more than 45 decibels at the neighbor’s property line—the same decibel level in which people speak to each other conversationally. The city will need to buy some tools to measure decibels, which code enforcers will carry.
“We wanted to try and control things all day and night,” Papp says, arguing that people who work in the night and sleep during the day “deserve the quiet enjoyment of their property.”
Temecula’s young musicians need not worry. They may not be able to make music in a band if this ordinance passes, but there are still plenty of fun, quiet things they can do with their friends instead. Like drugs.