Members of the City-UC Davis Student Liaison Commission met last week and discussed an ASUCD noise ordinance reform proposed by the City-County Affairs Vice Chair, Dylan Schaefer.
The goal of the reform is to prevent the police department from issuing citations for noise violations to residents who have not received a citation in the 90 days previous to the incident or more than one within the past year.
Under the proposal, police officers would be required to issue residents a formal warning and wait a 15-minute grace period before giving a citation. The reform would not apply to those who have received formal warnings in the past 30 days or more than five warnings within the past year.
The reform would also require officers to determine which resident is primarily responsible for the noise disturbance and give a citation only to the resident.
“This is not about making it easier to have parties,” said Schaefer at the meeting. “We understand that there are some problems with people having parties, but we don’t think [the reform] will prevent the police from keeping peace in the neighborhoods.”
“We just want to help the average party thrower who does not have a history. What is too loud varies from person to person and location to location and we really want to make sure you’re not getting a citation by accident,” he said.
The current law states that for a resident to receive a citation, the police department must first receive a noise complaint and a police officer must corroborate the disturbance before any further action can be taken.
According to Captain Darren Pytel of the Davis Police Department, 92 percent of noise complaints do not result in a citation.
“People who are getting citations are typically people who are having repeat parties,” Pytel said during the meeting. “The majority of calls result in a case being taken and a warning being issued to the person. What [the reform] does is really limit our ability to deal with very large parties. If only one person gets a citation there will be no motivation to stop the party.”
ASUCD Senator Adam Thongsavat, a senior history major, worked with Schaefer and other ASUCD leaders in drafting the proposal. During the meeting he cited examples of students he felt had been given a citation unfairly, such as a friend that got a citation in her apartment for playing music from her laptop with her door open.
Thongsavat said that despite 92 percent of complaints not resulting in citations, “the remaining 8 percent are mainly students who have to go to court, pay the fees and take money out of their budget.”
“With this proposal we are not trying to make the job of the police harder,” he said. “But this is one of the sticking points students have with the community. As a student leader, I don’t like how there’s mistreatment or a hierarchy of treatment. I pay my rent as my neighbors do.”
One of the debates during the meeting was the problem of determining appropriate noise levels and maintaining a consistent policy. According to Pytel, the ambient noise level in Davis has changed, making it difficult for noise to be measured during parties.
One possible solution discussed was to reform the noise ordinance by limiting the number of people necessary to be at the event in order to give a citation, rather than the current proposal that bases enforcement on the residents’ citation history.
Schaefer said in an e-mail that he plans on speaking with the police department and the members of the commission in the coming weeks to come up with a proposal that the commission will accept. He said they would have an updated draft by the commission’s February meeting.
Anybody who has had prior issues with the enforcement of the noise ordinance or comments about the proposal should feel free to contact him, he said.
Pytel warned, however, that historically the process of changing the noise ordinance in Davis is not short.
“It took two years to draft the original ordinance,” he said. “When it was rewritten 10 years ago it took another year. The council then spent six hours writing the current ordinance. Noise complaints are one of the things I spend a lot of time dealing with and we should spend time coming up with a new one if it’s really going to affect the town.”
MELISSA FREEMAN can be reached at email@example.com