April 1, 2004
Noise Free America
For immediate release
Madison: San Luis Obispo, California has won this month’s Noisy Dozen award from Noise Free America for failing to deal effectively with a growing culture of illegal and harmful noise from booming car stereos, illegal automobile and motorcycle exhausts, and out-of-control neighborhood partying. City government has turned a deaf ear to this mounting nuisance. While San Luis Obispo is widely known for its physical beauty and near-perfect climate, there is trouble in paradise.
Jennifer Robinson, a downtown SLO resident, states that “I have never before lived in a downtown area so full of rude and illegal noise–and I grew up in a city of four million people and lived in downtown Hollywood for three years. I get assaulted by excessive, illegal, offensive noise about fifty times a day–a five-fold increase from when I moved downtown two years ago. I’ve tried for a year to work with the police department, and they have offered some assistance. Sadly, though, things keep getting worse. As a result, I feel a sense of hopelessness and despair about the noise situation. Clearly, strong action needs to be taken to reverse this disturbing trend.”
Robinson is often battered by young males driving “boom cars” with loud stereo systems and “vroom cars” with altered exhausts, which she calls “hateful acoustic weapons.” She says “there is a great deal of toxic, violent misogyny in the rap music that so many of these young males blast from their vehicles. It’s a constant stream of verbal hatefulness, violence, and degradation. It feels like a mental and emotional sexual assault every time a car booming rap music goes by–which is all too often.”
Boom cars are but one source of excessive noise in San Luis Obispo. “There has been a marked increase in cars and motorcycles with altered exhaust systems vrooming as loudly as possible at all hours,” said Robinson. “Many drivers race and screech their cars, to make as much aggressive noise as possible. There’s been a significant increase in ‘legal’ noise also, from sirens, horns, car alarms, and helicopters. And then there are all the noisy students from Cal Poly and Cuesta College, getting drunk at all the bars downtown and making unnecessary and excessive noise until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning.”
Ted Rueter, Noise Free America’s director (and a former San Luis Obispo resident), notes that “remarkably, certain officials in San Luis Obispo don’t seem opposed to certain types of noise. City crews blast away with leaf blowers every morning, to ‘beautify’ the downtown. The San Luis Obispo Police Department actually has a public service announcement encouraging residents to install noisy car alarms–as if there is any evidence that these noisemakers deter anything other than a good night’s sleep.”
San Luis Obispo’s culture of noise came to a head on Mardi Gras weekend. San Luis Obispo is well known to college students across the state as “the place to party.” Jennifer Robinson notes that “it was the noisiest weekend I’ve ever spent here. It was like a war zone lasting through the middle of the night. There were drunken students, chopping helicopters, police sirens, pounding boom cars, and constant motorcycle and vehicle revving. I also heard that a couple of the rioters used a deafening explosive device as a weapon, damaging the hearing of several officers.”
According to Rueter, “The San Luis Obispo Police Department quite properly came down hard on noisy Mardi Gras rioters. However, the situation would have never come to that point if laws concerning noise, underage drinking, and public drunkenness had been strictly enforced all along. If city officials are serious about the city’s noise problem, they will arrest illegal boom car drivers, severely fine other illegal noisemakers, crack down even harder on public drunkenness, and shut down noisy bars and neighborhood parties. Until then, there will continue to be trouble in paradise.”
Noise Free America is a national citizens organization opposed to noise pollution. Its web site is http://www.noisefree.org. Past “winners” of the award include Flowmaster, Houston, Governor Gray Davis, Congressman Darrell Issa, and Pioneer Electronics.