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ORANGE COUNTY PERSPECTIVE

Noise Rule Is Unsound

November 17, 2002

Santa Ana officials are a bit abashed about the ordinance that, along with a tree, fell on a Floral Park house last week.

A dose of common sense would help the players in this classic tale of well-intentioned people, crossed signals and small lapses that led to a nonsensical Veterans Day standoff.

Santa Ana has a reasonable ordinance that outlaws construction noise on weekends and federal holidays. An attempt to give working folks a quiet day at the castle.

But this past Veterans Day in picturesque Floral Park was less than peaceful. A resident called to complain about the noise from two houses where repair work was underway. Police stopped the work. Then they heard noise down the street, where tree trimmers were sawing into pieces a Chinese elm that had fallen against a house during the recent storm and blocked the front door.

Well, police thought, noise is noise.

Being reasonable, they let the trimmers clear a path to the door. But then, despite the uprooted tree leaning against the house, and the difficulty of finding tree trimmers after a damaging storm, the work had to stop. Police praise themselves for not issuing a citation.

There's a big difference between emergency work and noisy construction scheduled for a day when neighbors should be able to barbecue in peace. But somehow no one in the city thought of this before Veterans Day.

Santa Ana's little-known and poorly written ordinance needs a little repair work itself (not on a holiday, though). Urgent situations clearly override the neighborhood's desire for quiet.

Should a major sewer break or broken water main befall Santa Ana on a holiday, would the city obey its own ordinance and refrain from fixing the problem?

To his credit, City Manager David N. Ream said he would look into the law immediately.

Police also could have stretched their good intentions a little further. Drivers aren't allowed to speed, but if a motorist is pressing the gas pedal to get a seriously ill person to an emergency room, the police provide an escort, not a ticket. Good judgment is as important as the letter of the law. Officers could even have gone to the complaining neighbor and explained the situation.

Or here's a solution that, sadly, few people think of these days. Imagine if the neighbor had gone to the owners of the noisy houses to ask that they refrain on this holiday -- a day of respect for people who have served our country.

Imagine that the noise-makers were considerate enough to apologize and quit. If the neighbor went to the tree trimmers, they could explain the situation and the neighbor would understand. A situation handled with common sense among reasonable people without police intervention.

Just a holiday thought.

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