Tuesday, April 24, 2018

St. Pete’s bar noise can cause irreparable harm to residents

St. Petersburg Fl
Public Opinion by author: Robert Neff

The article, Why restaurants became so loud — and how to fight back, describes the restaurant transition that started in the 90s. However, there has been a pushback against the "Great Noise Boom”.  
Being exposed to noise levels above 70 to 80 decibels — which many restaurants subject you to these days— causes hearing loss over time, Gail Richard, the president of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, told me. This kind of hearing loss is “preventable, but it’s also irreparable,” she added.
Today, more people are choosing conversation over noise. People want to hear the conversation, but they have a choice. They can decline to go or not go to a noisy restaurant. However, when your home is subjected to noise, you do not have the same option.

Let's take a look at the word, irreparable (adjective). According to Merriam Webster dictionary, this is not capable of being repaired, regained, or undone. Thus, living next to a loud bar, and being exposed to loud music and thumping bass, can cause irreparable harm to your hearing.

The police have also stated that they do not want to issue a noise citation because they would be called upon by the bar to defend their actions in court. Then why didn't the Police, Mayor and Council work to change the noise ordinance to protect residences? My response is, this was a failure of leadership. The only conclusion one can make is, the Mayor and Police Chief chose to protect the bars over residents.

One thing is for certain, Mayor Kriseman and Police Chief Holloway and a few City Council Members have been gaslighting residents! But now residents have the City's noise data and some of the emails. Residents have been readily debunking City and Police comments. The City is  unsure how to side-step the resident’s data and research. 

Every new angle the city puts forth, residents debunk the argument. Bottom line is, the city is backing the bars, but the City has not realized how a noisy city will impact hi-rise development or after residents move into the $1 million dollar condo. 

Will the City require new buildings to include expensive noise abatement in their new designs? This will be passed onto the buyer. If the City does not require noise abatement, then new buyers will move in and be pummeled by the bar noise.

If the City is unsure, they need to research the bad press and court battles between Miami luxury condos and the bars. The City is enthusiastic that there are two new hi-rises going on 400 Central and One St. Petersburg. They will be right in the middle of the downtown noise. Let's see how those residents react when their multi-million dollar condominiums are pummeled with bass and audio. Those two hi-rises will soon join the residents in the other hi-rise condos complaining. How long before the police labels them as "re-occurring complainants". 

Current Noise Ordinance is Flawed

The current noise ordinance has a several flaws. First, the current noise ordinance is based on distance and not decibels. Second, the ordinance relies on the police officer's ability to hear the noise. What may be plainly audible to you or bother you for eight hours, is not a concern to the officer, who is there for a minute or two. This observation is based upon reading over 180 Police Call for Service Reports at the Flamingo Resort in the Skyway Marina District—some of which I personally experienced, and over twenty reports downtown. 

While, the noise ordinance specifically includes low frequency (bass), See 11-47, 
Plainly audible means any sound produced by a source, which can be heard by any reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities using his or her unaided hearing faculties. Measurement standards shall be the auditory senses. Words or phrases need not be discernible and low frequency sound reverberations are included.
the police have not trained officers on how to differentiate between audible and low frequency sound. Nor have they been trained on low frequency noise and how far it can travel, how it can penetrate walls or how it impacts your health. Thus, the police look at you and think you are crazy. Some officers had stated they are tired of responding to the address.

Many residents are subjected to the thumping inside the home for 2-8 hours at a time. You can’t escape. Yet, the responding police officer, who is there for one to two minutes, will probably not consider the noise to be an issue, even if they feel the vibration. 
When there have been noise complaints, officers have responded and stated the volume does not rise to the level of being a plainly audile or a nuisance. Yet, the officers have no issue asking the bar to turn down the music. In fact, from 2009-2016, the police asked the Flamingo Resort in the Skyway Marina District to turn down the music 66 times they responded to noise calls in over 160 calls since 2009.
Third issue is the bar, business or homeowner is not fined, just the most senior person on site. So one can say, the City has fined no bars!

How often have the police issued noise citations?

That is, how many times has the City fined the individual who worked there is how the noise ordinance is written. When you check the citations in 2016 and 2017, there were 24 citations and only three (3) bars cited out of 5440 noise calls. Yet, no one in the Police Department or City questioned this data point!

In 2013, Police Incident Reports spiked. Did the police consider why it spiked? Which addresses were involved? What changed?

Noise Ordinance revised in March 2016

Due to residents complaints, the next year the City revised the noise ordinance to mandate speakers must be turned inward and doors shut. City council declined to implement the decibels and kept plainly audible and the distance language in the ordinance. 

In 2017's 2nd Noise Ordinance Public Meeting, Kornell called me a liar when I shared my police noise experience. Kornell took exception that I had said the police had heard the noise and called me a liar. He was not there when the police told me they heard it. On one instance the two police officers responding after midnight issued an Ordinance Violation for the Flamingo Resort, located in the Skyway Marina District, and not a noise citation.  

If the City had implement a decibel standard and enforced it, there would have been fewer calls. Police manpower costs would have reduced. Resources could have been transferred to focus on high crime areas. Since 2014, the City has wasted resident's taxes for the next four years. 

However, in 2016, due to resident complaints that went unresolved, they marched into City Council Meeting. The City struggled to revise the noise ordinance. In March 2016, Council approved the revised noise ordinance and did not include decibel meters. The revision had two changes, point speakers inward and close the doors.    

In the 2016 article, City Council Member Kornell state fought back criticism that he was pro-noise in St. Pete adopts changes to noise ordinance. Kornell said people wrongfully assumed he was anti-noise ordinance, but that was not the case.

Here is an example where the officer had responded to a repeat noise calls from a resident regarding the newly opened The Landing at Jannus. The Officer's Actions indicate the resident lived too close to the noise source. Thus, there was no violation of the noise ordinance. There are more instances similar to this. 

Why would any Council Member representing their district vote on an ordinance proposed by the City that requires a minimum distance before a citation can be issued? Now, a person living next door to a newly opened bar has no legal recourse. The bar would need to be farther away before it could be cited. 

The only conclusion is, the City and Council did not make a data or health driven decision. Rather, the decision was based on sentiment for the bars. City Mayor and Council did not seemed concerned the bar owner were telling the resident to move. That is the sad state of City leadership. in St. Petersburg, Florida.

City Council should ask the Mayor to have City Legal research and provide an opinion to determine if the City's noise ordinance violates the Supreme Court's KOVACS v. COOPER decision.
The US Supreme Court has stated with regard to amplified noise in the community and preserving the tranquility:  “The unwilling listener is [336 U.S. 77 , 87] not like the passer-by who may be offered a pamphlet in the street but cannot be made to take it. In his home or on the street he is practically helpless to escape this interference with his privacy by loud speakers except through the protection of the municipality.” KOVACS v. COOPER,  336 U.S. 77, 135 N.J.L. 64, 66, 50 A.2d 451, 452 (1949) (underline added)

Medical Research on Noise

I have shared my noise and medical research with the City. Noise can have a negative impact on adult and kid's health. Recently the City has mentioned the health concerns in their presentation at the Public Service and Infrastructure meeting, which is responsible for accepting the new noise ordinance's draft.

While noise's health concern is mentioned as a line item, there has been no other discussion. This seems to be a "box checked," rather than a talking point. 

City Staff allotted 7 second to "Health effects associated with noise" and this did not cite sources, studies or research. This did not mention OSHA and noise impact to bartenders, waitstaff and patron's hearing. Former Mayor Foster, representing Jannus Live, "Jannus may blow a 100 (dB) at the sidewalk on game night. and you get across the street and they are in the 80s and potentially the 90s." If they are 100 decibels on the street, then decibels inside are greater than 100 dB. OSHA has workplace requirements for noise. Has anyone in the City checked on that? 

At the end of the meeting, Council Members did not ask any questions on the noise's impact to our health. However, Council Member Kornell allotted 36 seconds minutes introducing former Mayor Foster for his presentation to Council and 57 seconds on an impassioned speech for the music industry. 

I had asked the City to bring a medical expert from the National Institute of Health to address and educate the Mayor, City Council, Police, residents and bar owners. To date, this has not occurred. The City may want to hear from several experts to understand the risk to resident's health before they make ANY decision. 

The city must have their decibel recommendations vetted by an independent expert before the recommendation goes to vote.

In 2017, the City had hired an acoustic expert to analyze the noise downtown. The results were way worse than expected.

According to The Noise of Music, Sound advice for the music and entertainment sectors. Guidance on how to comply with the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007. Ireland, these noise exposures are identical:
  • 80 dB for 8 hours
  • 83 dB for 4 hours
  • 86 dB for 2 hours 
  • 89 dB for 1 hour
  • 92 dB for 30 minutes
Now the City wants to allow the Downtown Core to have 85 dB. Taking the average between 83 and 86 dB from the above list, and say that is outside on the property line, then 85 dB is approximately 3 hours. This is for the A-Weighted (Audible) and not the C-Weighted (Bass). The nearby condominiums and apartments will be inundated with noise at 85 dB. 

If you are inside, the dB will be more, and the noise may become a health hazard under OSHA guidelines for the workers and patrons.  

How did 85 dB go over in Austin, the nation's Live Music Capital which was changed to 85 dB? According to Map: In Austin, Noise Complaints are on the Rise
So it's not surprising that as Austin grows larger, it might also be growing louder. Over the past five years, noise complaints in Austin have gone up by 470 percent, from 2,782 total complaints in 2010 to 13,100 in 2014. Still, only 1.5 percent of those have faced citation – 515 out of 33,107, according to city data obtained by KUT.

If you think Austin has a low citation rate with 1.5% in 2014, St. Petersburg's citation rate in 2017 was only 0.4%.  

Other Considerations?

Another consideration for the Downtown Core's noise level requirement are FAA standards for Airports. The FAA has a day-night average of 65 db. Why does the City want the Downtown Core to be louder than the living near a runway? The FAA is now reviewing the 65 dB, where the decibel level is expected to be lowered. 

While the FAA may be looking to to protect resident's health, the City of St. Petersburg's Mayor wants to do the opposite and increase our noise exposure, our health issues, health costs and decrease our quality of life. 
The Mayor and City Council want the downtown to be louder than an airport runway! 

Criminal Acts at the Bars

Establishments that serve alcohol may or may not have police calls for criminal acts. The non-noise column includes a minute number of police administrative calls, like out to pumps or off duty.  

How safe are the bars?

The overwhelming number of calls to Police are for criminal acts. Trouble with Individuals, Call for Assistance, Battery, Burglary, Brawling and Theft are high ranking incidents. Narcotic, Battery on an Officer, and Domestic incidents do occur. Mental health issues such as Marchman Act, Suicide, and Mental issues also occur.

Former Mayor Foster spoke to Council representing Jannus Live and an undisclosed number businesses?

City Council Member Ed Montanari (Republican) made the request to have former Mayor Foster (Republican) deliver a short presentation on behalf of Jannus Live. However, Montanari's District is District 3, which does not include downtown. While any City Council Member may bring forth a request, this request should have come from District 6's Driscoll (Democrat)Public Services and Infrastructure Committee Chair Steve Kornell read the request, made the motion, which the committee approved

No resident was asked nor permitted to rebut Mr. Foster's remarks. This was failure in due process. 

When former Mayor Foster introduced himself, he said he was representing Jannus Live and other businesses along the Jannus block. Foster did not disclose which businesses along the Jannus Block. 
Listen: Former Mayor Foster speaks at PSI Committee meeting on Apr 12 2018, St. Petersburg

At the 33 second mark, Foster stated that the City Attorney is working with Jannus Live. Why isn't the city Attorney working with residents? Or has the City Attorney labeled them re-occurring complainants? 

During Mr. Foster's "almost 8 minute" presentation, he incorrectly stated,
  • Jannus had no noise calls. WRONG. There were 11 noise calls and you can read the Police Reports in the article. Many were right after The Landing at Jannus opened. However, Foster fails to state there were 168 non-noise calls, which were mostly criminal acts. Administrative calls are in yellow.
  • Better windows would reduce the noise issue. No, the window rating is called STC and stands for Sound Transmission Class. STC windows may block some audible but do not block the bass which coms through the walls. Windows will not stop all the audible noise (A-Weighted). Windows will not stop the bass (C-Weighted), where the building filters the sound and leaves the thumping inside the condo. If the noise is loud, this can drown out the television, dinner conversation, and disturb sleep, or residents may have to leave their home. This can last a solid 2-8 hours. He did not volunteer Jannus to pay for the windows.
  • Doesn’t think there are weather concerns. Wind and weather can impact the sound. Partially true, but weather is more likely to impact audible noise than bass. 
  • Foster is against the decibel measurement and thinks clearly audible is working fine. He has not read the police reports that say, the Jannus cannot be cited because the resident live too close.  

Former Mayor Foster is not an acoustic expert and is not well researched. The presentation amounted to #FakeNews. Former Mayor Foster has  again proven he is out of touch. 

City wants to increase Downtown Core's noise level

If you increase the allowable decibels, this will increase calls. Why? Because the sound will have more energy and travel farther, which will now impact a new set of residences who are farther away than the current callers. This will also increase criminal acts, which will require more resources.

But there is one key data point that council needs to understand. There are more noise calls to addresses with repeat calls than addresses that had a one time call.
In 2017, there were 2,535 noise calls. 1135 addresses had one noise call, whereas, 1400 repeat noise calls were for 361 addresses.    
Of the Top 20 Addresses with Noise Calls, six were bars that account for  the calls. Of the six bars, five are in the Downtown Core and one is in the Skyway Marina District. The non-noise calls include criminal acts.

The number of noise calls will be lower next year because (1) Many residents have stopped calling the police, and (2) there has been no change in the noise ordinance, and (3) Police have targeted residents identifying them as re-occurring complainant or identified them as the only one calling, which is not true. The City and the Police didn't do their homework like the residents did!

If the Police were to reduce the 361 addresses (bars and residences) with repeat calls, the Police costs for noise would decrease. The City could also run a marketing and awareness campaign to educate bars and residents to further decrease calls and Police costs.

What are the City Council Member's Concerns?

Council Members voiced a couple concerns in the Public Services and Infrastructure committee.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 7026 into law. Will the City will be required to fund the gun control legislation? The concern shared was the cost of the resources required to manage a noise ordinance with a decibel limit may take a back seat to the gun law.

If the Downtown Core's noise level is raised to 85 dB, this will bring more crime. Then the City will need to increase the downtown bar task force. This will increase police costs. This was not mentioned.
Another data point to consider is bars with noise calls have high non-noise calls, which is mostly crime. What happens when you increase the noise at the bars? You will have more crime. Police already have a task force dedicated to the downtown bars. This cost factor will need to be a consideration.
Since the City may need to allocate funds for the Florida gun law to protect students in the classroom, the noise level should not be 85 dB, but 70 dB or less. 

However, once enforced, the noise ordinance will reduce repeat calls and raise awareness to encourage residents to be respectful of the neighborhood. This will reduce police costs in both the short- and long-term.

Kornell's Empassioned Speech for Music Industry

Steve Kornell is the Chair of the Public Services and Infrastructure committee is Council Member Steve Kornell. In April's meeting, he gave an impassioned speech for the music industry. Kornell stated he knows many people in the music industry. Then added how is it worth millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars. He needs to: 
  • Bring them to the meeting, have them present and then allow residents to respond. 
  • Ask them why musicians who play live gigs wear specially made hearing protection that cost $300 and are made in Clearwater.
  • How much research he has on aging rock stars who have lost their hearing or have had their hearing severely damage, such as AC/DC, The Who, and Neil Young
  • Ask his music buddies if they live next to a noisy bar? 
  • Kornell does not live near a noisy bar! 
Kornell shared that a strong noise ordinance would scare his music industry buddies away. Has he ever considered if a weak noise ordinance would scare away luxury hi-rise condo. The property at 400 Central will have 43-story mixes use. Will the City mandate a multi-million dollar hi-rise add expensive windows and sound proofing? That may scare away developers!

Wait until the condos at One St. Petersburg open and see how the enjoy their million dollar condos being pummeled and possibly rendered unlivable.    

Does St. Pete want to become Miami, where "The conflict between the clubs that operate 24/7 and condo residents yearning for a decent night’s sleep is sure to grow if they can’t find a way to co-exist," according to the article, Downtown Miami's Heart Nightclub sues city to challenge noise law | Miami Herald

In a previous meeting Kornell made a joke about the noise. He whispered, is this too loud? Residents impacted by the noise did not find his remarks to be humorous. In the video, Kornell's audio gain was increased so he could be understood.

The Flamingo Resort is in Steve Kornell's district. Amongst "Establishments that Serve Alcohol" the Flamingo Resort ranked #1 in the city for noise calls and 4th for non-noise calls, which was mostly criminal acts. Kornell represents my district. 

Quality of Life

Once the number of repeat calls is under control, the amount of time required would be minimal, because the City would be actively enforcing a noise ordinance that provides a quality of life for all residents, not just the bars.

While St. Petersburg may want to be the next live music venue and boost tourism, residents need to let the City of St. Petersburg know that the noise issue isn't just about downtown, but the entire city. St. Pete needs a city vibe for all residents!

What can you do to help? 

Contact Mayor Kriseman and your City Council Member at the phone number or email address on the flyer.  Right click to download the flyer and share! Or share this article! 

Tell them, 
Yes, we want decibels measured!
"NO" to 85 db in the Downtown Core

The opinions here are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bay Post Internet or the Blog Publishers where it appears.

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