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Orange County Focus

NEWPORT BEACH : City Moving to Hold Down Noise

August 16, 1994|HOLLY J. WAGNER

The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing Thursday to gauge community reaction to the city's first comprehensive noise ordinance.

Until now, efforts to regulate noise have been made through ordinances governing other matters, such as public nuisance and construction permits, planner Patricia Temple said.

"People do not perceive noise in the same way. Some people are very sensitive, others are almost oblivious. So you're regulating to an objective standard," she said.

The new ordinance is designed to reduce current and foreseeable noise problems, with specific attention to leaf blowers and air conditioners.

"What we have is a problem where we have a lot of really small lots with short setbacks," on which air conditioners can't be enclosed as they could with bigger properties, Temple said. "If there's only one place to put it and it's in a 3-foot side yard and it's next to someone's bedroom window, that's a problem."

The new plan would classify properties in the city as residential, commercial or industrial and assign acceptable noise limits for each. Under the regulations, daytime is 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., nighttime is 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

New policies under consideration include:

* Requiring new air conditioning units to have noise levels lower than 55 decibels at the property line, or 65 decibels if the property owner gets written consent from affected neighbors; existing units will be allowed to operate at 65 decibels until Jan. 1, 2000. (An average automatic dishwasher operates at about 60 decibels.)

* Adding noise from leaf blowers, lawn mowers and chain saws to the list of noise complaints to be fielded by police. Calls about barking dogs, loud parties, construction and remodeling already are answered by police.

* Coordinating noise enforcement efforts by police and code inspectors.

* Assessing a development fee to pay for construction of traffic noise barriers where the project is likely to generate new traffic.

* Establishing a threshold level for noise from home remodeling.

* Limiting the amount of noise that in-home work or hobby activities may generate without penalty.

* Consideration by the city of noise issues before issuing new charter boat permits.

Temple said that there has been little community opposition to the plan.

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