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City Council to Tackle Noise

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By Jorge Casuso

September 11, 2023 -- The City Council on Tuesday will explore ways to quell early morning hotel union demonstrations, quiet roaring cars and tone down raucous musicians on the Promenade.

The item was placed on the agenda by Council members Phil Brock and Lana Negrete after fielding an increasing number of noise complaints from fed-up residents, Brock said.

Most of the complaints center on protests staged by Unite HERE Local 11 that began two monhs ago outside five hotels engaged in bitter contract negotiations with the union.

"I'm getting letters and emails every day the protesters are there," Brock said. "We're having huge issues with this. The complaints are going up."

The demonstrators sometimes begin banging drums and chanting through bullhorns at the hotels -- which are near residences -- as early as 5:45 a.m., Brock said.

Despite the complaints, "the City hasn't done anything as of yet," he said. "The City has been working (with) and advising" the union. But something more needs to be done. They have to enforce the (noise) ordinances."

The noisy demonstrations sometimes start 75 minutes before a 2017 noise ordinance pushed by the union allows protests to start at 7 a.m instead of 8 a.m.

"They think they're stopping the hotels from doing business. They've disrupted weddings," Brock said.

Given the power the union has traditionally wielded in Santa Monica, tackling the noisy demonstrations is a hot-button political issue.

While Beverly Hills has sued the hotel workers union over the noise complaints filed by residents in their city, Brock said the Council will not follow suit ("Protesting Noise -- A Tale of Two Cities," August 16, 2023).

"I want to work on a compromise" that gives residents relief and allows the union to continue protesting, he said. "I don't want to be Beverly Hills and file a lawsuit. I don't want a confrontational stance."

Brock and Negrete's agenda item calls for the City Attorney and City Manager to "draft and return with Municipal Code amendments that would limit noise affecting City residents between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m."

In addition to addressing the early morning union protests, the item asks the Council to address "excessive noise from exhaust systems in cars," Brock said.

"Young people are installing them," he said. "There's a plethora in almost every major street in the city."

The item asks staff to "evaluate the ability to enforce" two California vehicle codes that address the issue.

One code requires registered vehicles to have an "adequate muffler," the other prohibits modifying the exhaust system to increase or amplify noise.

Brock and Negrete are also requesting the City’s state lobbyist "to continue to advocate and pursue state legislation to enable the City to use sound-activated devices to enforce vehicle noise limits."

The Councilmember item also asks staff to "evaluate the costs and ability to deploy sound-activated devices to enforce noise limits on the Promenade."

"We're trying to get an all-encompassing noise ordinance that gives code enforcement and police more teeth," Brock said.

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