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Monday, January 21 , 2019, 10:07 am | Fair 57º


Santa Barbara Backs Expensive New Fines For Noise Violations

People who party too loudly in Santa Barbara Mesa neighborhoods will have to pay steep new fines if the police come knocking on their doors. 

The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday voted 5-0 to fine noise-ordinance offenders $350 for the first violation, $750 for the second and $1,000 for the third offense.

Councilmen Randy Rowse and Gregg Hart, both Mesa-area residents, were absent for the meeting. 

"If you have repeated visits by law enforcement, it can get expensive quickly," project planner Andrew Bermond said. 

The City Council approved the changes in response to growing noise concerns in the neighborhoods near Santa Barbara City College.

The ordinance will apply to other residential areas in town, but the city exempted its own properties from the ordinance.

Downtown Santa Barbara is not part of the ordinance either, although some residents and hotel managers believe the ordinance should apply to the party-goers on State Street.  Some members of the public believe noise from Earl Warren Showgrounds and the Eagles Lodge should be included too. 

Violating the ordinance happens "when noise is plainly audible by a person of ordinary sensitivity at a distance of 50 feet from the noise source."

Noise from televisions, music players, loud speakers, amplification, or musical instruments that creates a disturbance across a property line between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. would constitute a violation.

Even dogs barking loudly or other animals making noise could result in a violation.

Two Santa Barbara City College students told the City Council that the fines were too steep, and the first offense should result in a student taking part in community service rather than paying hundreds of dollars, which is money that in many cases students cannot afford. 

Lower Westside resident Beebe Longstreet said her neighborhood has changed dramatically over the 30 years she has lived there.

"It's a transient population," Longstreet said. "When  you know your neighbors over several years, you respect each other. When it changes every six months, it's really hard."

Some speakers at Tuesday's meeting said that the ordinance didn't go far enough. The city should hold itself to the same standard as it holds members of the public, they said.

Elings Park hosts 44 weddings a year in Godric Grove near Bel Air Knowles, and resident John Jostes said it is common sense to address noise problems in other parts of the city.

He said he hears loud wedding noise all the time. 

"The best man has had too much to drink, and I can hear it from inside my house with my windows shut and my doors closed," Jostes said. 

"Somehow we need to change the model here. More often than not, our summer nights and weekends are filled with noise."

Tamara Erickson, general manager of Hotel Santa Barbara, and Bob Stout, owner of the Wildcat Lounge, both said the city needs to look at noise concerns in the downtown area.

"Not uniformly enforcing an ordinance on the books does a disservice to the rest of the community," Erickson said. "Please don't leave us stranded downtown."

Councilman Harwood "Bendy" White agreed that the city should in the future look at other areas of town.

"These are folks, taxpayers and residents and all of that, and deserve quality of life at the level most of us get to have," White said. 

Although violations of the ordinance are designed to keep noise in check with stiff financial penalties, the city would still retain the right to go after a "recalcitrant" offender with a misdemeanor, under a disturbing-the-peace charge. 

However, City Attorney Ariel Calonne said that would not be the case "99 percent-plus" of the time. 

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina 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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