Oct 20 2011

Commentary: Piedmont Leaf Blowing & School PA Noise

Citizen complains about noise from Witter Field and Lamorinda films leaf blowers in Piedmont

It’s fall leaf season and athletic teams are in high gear.  That means noise from leaf blowers and neighborhood concerns about noise pollution.  Lamorinda Patch reporter Russel Albert Daniels visited Piedmont, Orinda, Los Altos, and  Mill Valley to report on the noise of leaf blowers in communities that have controls on sources of noise pollution.  Watch leaf blowing and interviews with Piedmonters and others on the Lamorinda video.

PCA received a copy of the following letter from a Piedmont resident:

To the Piedmont Board of Education, Superintendent of Schools, and High School Principal Kitchens,

There were two evenings/nights (October 6th and 7th) of extremely loud noise from the Witter Field (Piedmont High School) football field public address system.  Thursday’s game went on until 9:30 p.m.  The loud, blaring music and announcer voices could be clearly heard in our home with all of our windows closed and our TV on.

After the lights went out at 9:30 p.m., they suddenly came on again at 10:00 p.m. At that time, I called the Piedmont police, who said they couldn’t do anything about any problems at the school because it is private property.  Friday night there was another game.  The High School Principal, Mr. Kitchens, had no idea who was using the field or who was using the PA system that was LEFT ON AND MADE A HORRIBLE NOISE (sounded like a cement mixer churning).  After many complaints, the police got in touch with someone who went over at 3 a.m. to shut the system off.  The loud PA system has been a problem for several years.  Mr. Booker, the former principal, had the ground speakers turned off a couple of times which made the noise level acceptable, as it had been for the previous decades.  But the relief didn’t last long and the noise was on again louder than ever after that.  The last time I spoke to him, before he took another job with the schools, his attitude was, that’s too bad, but nothing will be done.

Why is our field and equipment available to anyone?  Who has the keys to all this equipment?  Why don’t the users know how to operate the equipment?  There is absolutely no accountability!  No one seems to know who has access to the grounds/equipment and claim no knowledge of any problems.  The people in the surrounding area have to put up with this and calling after the fact gets false assurances that the problems will be addressed while they are not.  There should be a telephone number citizens can call directly to the field house where the announcers/PA system are located and would be required to be answered by a person to address the problem immediately and just not ignored.  The Police Department should also have better access so they can act on problems as they arise.

Sound familiar?  Another example of highly compensated people who ignore the people they are supposed to serve and their problems.

Paula Geiger

Noise Ordinance

Piedmont”s noise ordinance specifically prohibits the use of gas-powered leaf blowers by any entity except the City.  It prohibits construction noise before 8am or after 6pm and on Sunday, before 9am.  The noise from other sources, including public address systems, is subject to unspecified attributes of nuisance, “unnecessary, or unusual noise which disturbs the peace and quiet of any neighborhood or which causes discomfort or annoyance to any reasonable person of normal sensitivity residing in the area.”

Notwithstanding any other provision of this Code, and in addition thereto, it is unlawful
for any person to willfully make or continue or cause to be made or continued or to allow any
animal to make or continue to make any loud, unnecessary, or unusual noise which disturbs the peace and quiet of any neighborhood or which causes discomfort or annoyance to any reasonable person of normal sensitivity residing in the area.  Such noise is declared to be a nuisance.
12.8.1Standards to Be Considered.   The standards which shall be considered in
determining whether a violation of the provisions of this section exists shall include, but not be
limited to, the following:
(a) The sound level of the objectionable noise;
(b) The sound level of the ambient noise;
(c) The proximity of the noise to residential sleeping facilities;
(d) The nature and zoning of the area from which the noise emanates;
(e) The density of the inhabitation of the area from which the noise emanates;
(f) The time day or night the noise occurs;
(g) The duration of the noise and its tonal content;
(h) Whether the noise is continuous, recurrent or intermittent;
(i) Whether the noise is produced by a commercial or non-commercial activity;
(j) The intensity of the noise;
(k) Whether the noise is natural or unnatural;
(l) Whether the noise is usual or unusual.  (Ord. No. 512 N.S.,12/89)
12.8.2Prohibited Noise.    In addition to the prohibition described in paragraph 12.8.1,
the following noise is specifically prohibited:
(a) Construction and Demolition.  Operating or causing the operation of any tools or
equipment used in construction, drilling, repair, alteration or demolition activities
between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. each day, Sunday evening through
Saturday morning, and between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m. Saturday
evening through Sunday morning.
(b) Gasoline-Powered Blower.  It shall be unlawful for any person to operate a
gasoline-powered device used to blow leaves, dirt or other debris off sidewalks,
(b) Gasoline-Powered Blower.  It shall be unlawful for any person to operate a
gasoline-powered device used to blow leaves, dirt or other debris off sidewalks,
driveways, lawns or other surfaces within any area of the City except that
gasoline-powered leaf blowers may be used by public agencies on publicly-owned
or operated facilities.  (Ord. No. 517 N.S., 3/90)
(a) Emergency Repairs.  Emergency work conducted by public service utilities or
governmental agencies shall be exempt from the provisions of this ordinance;
provided that in the case of such emergency work, the public service utilities or
government agencies involved shall promptly contact the Piedmont Police
Department prior to or within 30 minutes after commencing such emergency
work, providing the Police Department with the exact location of the work, the
time anticipated to complete the work, the nature of the work to be performed,
and whether any assistance from the Police Department or other City services are
anticipated in connection with such emergency work.
(b) Other.  The City Administrator may grant temporary written exceptions to the
Noise Ordinance upon the showing of good cause by the applicant.  (Ord. No. 512
N.S., 12/89)
12.8.4Violations. Violation of any provision of the Noise Ordinance shall be an
infraction.  The City Council shall set the fine for violations from time to time by resolution.
(Ord. No. 512 N.S., 12/89)



One Response to “Commentary: Piedmont Leaf Blowing & School PA Noise”

  1. I have noticed an marked increase in the use of Gas Blowers in the last five years.

    I think it is time the City considers FINING the homeowners instead of just talking to the gardeners (are they fined at all? Is it collectible?).

    Homeowners don’t always know what their gardeners are using while they are away. If the police would respond to calls AND leave a notice of FINE at the homeowner’s door, I think we would see a decrease in use.

    It’s a waste of time to call the police otherwise.

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