Noise Control Bill Moves Forward

Posted January 29, 2008 at 4:34pm

The noise control bill that residents along the H Street Northeast corridor have been clamoring for took a step forward Tuesday when it was passed out of the City Council’s Public Services and Consumer Affairs Committee. The legislation now can go before the full council on Tuesday.

Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells (D) wrote the citywide bill, which residents called for after years of enduring amplified preaching from members of the Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge at the corner of Eighth and H streets. The group preaches on Saturday afternoons for roughly three hours and has refused neighbors’ requests lower its volume.

“Thanks to the hard work of community members and representatives from labor, we were able to negotiate a meaningful bill that protects residents’ peace in their homes, and also protects a protester’s right to free speech and to be heard,” Wells said in a statement.

The bill represents a compromise with the Service Employees International Union, which was concerned that an earlier version would make some of its protests illegal.

As passed by the committee, the bill classifies daytime noise as a disturbance if it exceeds 70 decibels or is 10 decibels above the ambient noise level, whichever is higher.

SEIU pushed for the ambient noise clause to ensure its protests could be heard even on noisy downtown streets. A 10-decibel increase is equivalent to a doubling of volume, according to Charles Allen, Wells’ chief of staff.

Despite the compromise, the local chapter of the AFL-CIO refused to support the legislation.

The ISUPK’s preaching has been measured at over 80 decibels by officials from the Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs and by David Klavitter, an Eighth Street resident.

Allen said the bill should pass the full council easily but likely will not become law until early summer.

— Daniel Heim