by Jeff Munson

Tahoe Daily Tribune (South Lake Tahoe, California)

March 5, 2003

A booming base pounding from car stereos is enough to drive a South Shore woman to make some noise of her own.

With the help of Noise Free America, Reshelle Smith and a handful of neighbors have launched a petition drive to present to the South Lake Tahoe City Council. They are asking for beefed up enforcement in residential neighborhoods where cars rumble through at night.

“It is now past the point where it is no longer loud, but excessive,” said Smith of what she says is a growing problem in her neighborhood with car stereos. “It is past the level of acceptability and civility. It is a problem that is growing and needs to be addressed.”

New Orleans-based Noise Free America named South Lake Tahoe the winner of March’s Noisy Dozen award, for tolerating “loud boom car stereos” and whose law enforcement fails to “preserve and protect the local soundscape.”

Ted Rueter, the director of Noise Free America, observed that South Lake Tahoe is known for its stunning physical beauty and that it is “tragic that local officials have allowed the beauty of the natural soundscape to be ravaged by boom cars.”

Rueter said it is surprising that a community that is dedicated to scenic, water and air quality and the preservation of natural habitats and wildlife, would allow it soundscape to be vandalized.

After talking with her neighbors near Highway 50 and Berbert Avenue, Smith, a librarian at Lake Tahoe Community College, said there is a consensus among them that something needs to be done.

“They are awakened, disturbed, annoyed and utterly frustrated by stereo music coming from cars that drive through neighborhoods,” she said. “In the bigger cities, it’s a way that gang members mark their territories.”

South Lake Tahoe Police Department does get calls periodically regarding music coming from cars, said Sgt. Alex Schumacher.

“They appear sporadically. I don’t notice it much, but I have seen citations issued for this in the past,” he said.

There is a vehicle code and a city ordinance that addresses noise coming from cars. While the vehicle code prohibits noise coming from cars that can be heard from 50 feet away, the city code is stricter, with the noise statute set at 10 feet.

Smith said her neighbors are behind her and will join her when she addresses the City Council, but they also told her that they fear retribution if they go public.

“It is something that they worry about because they have sons and daughters in school,” Smith said. “For me, I’m willing to go on the record and go out in public to raise awareness.”

Smith said she even confronts the drivers as they pull up to stop signs.

“I’ve gone up to them and told them that the noise is unreasonable and that they should turn it down while driving in the neighborhood,” she said. “And the response has been either ‘Ok, I’ll try,’ or ‘Mind your own business.'”