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Thursday, December 13 , 2018, 8:39 am | Fair 42º


Santa Barbara Council Gets Update on Noise Ordinance Recommended by SBCC Neighborhood Task Force

The Santa Barbara City Council was briefed Tuesday on a draft noise ordinance that could be implemented in response to neighbors rankled by the volume of some Santa Barbara City College students living in residences near the school.

The Santa Barbara City College Neighborhood Task Force was formed last year to help maintain relationships between the college and the surrounding neighborhoods of the Mesa, the Lower Westside and West Beach that are home to many students.

The task force has recommended a noise ordinance modeled after the San Luis Obispo Neighborhood Assistance Program, or SNAP, which uses hired students trained by local police to issue warnings to loud-noise violators, with police issuing citations on repeat calls.

At this week's meeting, council members asked about the progress of the task force report during a presentation from the Santa Barbara Police Department.

The city does not have the authority to implement all of the changes asked for in the report — some things such as student conduct will have have to be enforced by the college — but the noise ordinance is an issue the city has been working on.

City staff have come up with a draft ordinance, and the next step likely will be to schedule public forums to get feedback on any issues and concerns, said police Sgt. Riley Harwood. 

Because the ordinance would change the noise complaints from a criminal to a civil issue, it would streamline the process.

"It would be significantly easier for us to enforce and would not require officers to find the complaining party to sign a complaint against the offender," Harwood said. Cases would go in front of a city hearing officer and would not likely be dismissed, as they are many times during the current process.

Harwood said SBCC has some seed money to help start up the program, with the hope that ongoing costs will largely be funded by revenues generated by the fines.

Harwood said that starting a SNAP program in Santa Barbara will require screening for high quality candidates to respond to these noise calls, similar to the process to hire community service officers to police the downtown corridor.

"It's not easy to find people that are going to be a good fit," he said, adding that it could take until spring to make the hires for the program. 

"There's a desire here for them to be students also, but we'll see how it pans out here," he said.

Staffing in general has been a challenge for the department — an anticipated 18 vacancies are expected by December — and hiring "officers and dispatchers will always be the priority," he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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