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How much noise is too much noise?
I operate a community noise measurement business in the Los Angeles area
using a portable technology that allows measurement for 3 or 4 days.
This is what I've found. Noise is like air pollution. It will increase
until the community decides to stop the increase.
The local Chambers of Commerce don't want any restrictions on noise
because they THINK it would hurt commerce. The General Plan for the
City of Pasadena, for example, states that the city's policy is to limit
the RATE OF INCREASE of noise! Who would ever think of this? A
reasonable policy would be to decrease noise, and that's it.
Pasadena has noise limits (40 dB night, 50 dB day) but they get around
this by forgiving these limits if the "ambient" noise is higher. A
noise producer is allowed high noise levels for about 20 minutes per
hour above this ambient. Most local cities in the Los Angeles area have
similar noise laws.
A way to start controlling the noise environment is to hold the local
governments to their own standards! These standards are both in city
planning (required in California) and in noise code enforcement. To
hold to standards, we must have numbers for the noise we're complaining
about. My business is to get those numbers and compare them to these
My experience is that the governments delay enforcement of their own
noise laws. One couple in the City of El Monte complained for 5 years
of noise from a recycling plant nearby which began operating each
morning at 3:00 a.m. Finally, I was called to make the measurements
which clearly showed the noise problem. But I couldn't blame the
The plant was there before the residences were built. The blame should
go to the developer and to the city planning department that allowed the
development! The city was at least partly to blame. I think that's why
they delayed so long.
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