Thursday, March 28, 2019

Where to live in St. Petersburg — Downtown or OUTSIDE Downtown?

St. Petersburg Fl
Public Opinion 
By author: Robert Neff

In 2018, the City of St. Petersburg had 2517 noise calls and an additional 413 calls for loud party. If you separate the calls between outside downtown and downtown, outside downtown is 12 times as noisy as downtown. No wonder everyone wants to move downtown!

While that last line is a parody of sorts, the real issue is downtown has had all the press and that is no laughing matter. The City is growing and bars, clubs, restaurants and cafe's with outdoor music are encroaching on residential areas. While neighborhoods outside of downtown are desperate for growth, residents need to start the noise conversation with the neighborhood leads. Or you will "face" the noise.

While the Mayor, City Council, news media are focused on the downtown area, the real issue is outside downtown. No matter how many times the news media interviews a resident or shows a bar, it’s downtown. 
News media may want to look at the data instead of producing softball videos and softball articles. Instead of producing "sensational" work, go old school, investigate and report.
Tampa Bay's news media has forgotten how to produce local investigative reporting and have abandoned Tampa Bay residents.
Up until March 2017, when I provided the data to the City, they thought the noise problem was downtown. The data proved them wrong. City was in the process of revising the noise ordinance, and had not even bothered to look at the data. 
But the data discloses many questions. Where are all those calls? How do you categorize them? In the absence of a City effort and report to understand the location and how to categorize the calls, I have categorized the data based upon the locations provided. The City does provide some of the names for bars, restaurants and cafes, and some apartment and condominium complexes, but, as you can see, there are many more unidentified addresses.

The noise calls assigned to residences, businesses and hotels need to be reviewed to ascertain if the call was properly assigned to that address or if it was for another location, for example, a residence or an intersection. To verify the source, one has to obtain and review the Police's Call For Service Report(s). The table poses more questions, but I do not have access to the City's data and personnel to address the questions. Therefore, the City would need to provide more detail.

Look at patterns for both downtown and outside downtown.  

If you combine the downtown's bars, restaurants and cafe's, they out number downtown residences. The number has increased for some bars, because the Police do not always assign the call to the source. The number of calls can be refined by reviewing the Police Call For Service Reports to determine the call source. Then the report's tally for each location can be fine tuned.

Outside downtown, residences and businesses have far more calls than bars, restaurants and cafes combined. Parks are popular areas for noise calls. 
A resident or individual in a car or on a motorcycle in the City of St.Petersburg playing music too loud is more likely to be issued a citation than a bar, restaurant or cafe. The City may want to check the citations to if some areas have more citations than other areas.

The City of St. Petersburg can reduce the calls if the Police enforce the noise ordinance and the Mayor gives the order to the Police Chief. Unfortunately, the Mayor seems to be enforcing the noise ordinance at his discretion, and so are police. You should read Mayor Kriseman's email to Police Chief Holloway at the end of the article. How many more emails are there like this?

In Mayor Kriseman's email, he mentioned the "broken window" theory. That is, if noise calls can be reduced, then crime can be reduced. In past years, some bars have seen 4 to 7 times as many crime calls than noise calls at multiple bars. The City can easily look into this. The City can easily provide this information to the neighborhood meetings.

When the City does not provide reporting, or provides inaccurate reporting, the City puts residents at risk. Residents have been confronted, trolled online, or identified as a problem. City Council Members has stated they are residents who are, and to paraphrase, problem callers. The news media is not covering this aspect. 
Just by calling the police to report noise, you put yourself at risk, because Mayor Kriseman and Police are not enforcing the noise ordinance. 
The revised noise ordinance maintains the "Plainly audible" standard, and that is just one problem with the ordinance. Residents have stood with police officers and heard the noise or bass, but the police were unable to hear it. Plainly audible is based on time, distance, and zoning. However, sound does not discriminate, yet, the City and Police discriminate against residents who call about the noise, and this includes those over 60.

The noise ordinance's time, distance and zoning work against residents who live too close to a bar.  In one instance, Police have met with a downtown resident and confirmed a downtown bar's noise, but did not issue a citation. According to St. Petersburg Police Department, Incident Report, Case Number: 2017-010636, Officer states, "THERE WAS NO ONE CITED AT THIS TIME, DUE TO THE DISTANCE OF THE BAR TO THE VICTIMS HOUSE NO VIOLATION OCCURRED." 

The noise ordinance and the new noise ordinance is riddled with language that supports bars. This will be discussed in another article.

This email from Mayor Kriseman to Police Chief Holloway will help you understand why the City of St. Petersburg has an abysmal citation rate.   

Data Notes: The unidentified category is all the addresses the City did not identify. Sometimes the police assigns noise calls at bar and intersection to residences. Some noise calls are assigned to other events. Some noise calls are categorized as ordinance violations. Some are listed under a traffic citation. As these become known, the data will be updated. For the data reports, downtown is defined as downtown and Central Avenue corridor up to 30th. City has the resources to use their GEO data to refine the results.   
In addition, the City needs an education and outreach program on the noise ordinance and the medical impact on adult's and kids' health. To date the City has not authorized either of these.

 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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