Our toothless noise ordinance

Give police the tools they need to control disturbances

The author has been a librarian at Chico State University since 1994. She became concerned about the noise ordinance due to the experience of friends who have suffered from a noisy neighbor for more than eight years. She spoke at the Chico City Council meeting on Aug. 7.

After a year of meetings, we still do not have an effective noise ordinance in Chico. There are no tools against chronic drunkenness, incivility, blasting music, screaming obscenities and rowdiness that are implicitly sanctioned as “parties.” Our quality of life is unraveling, and the City Council is fiddling. They are protecting neither the neighborhoods nor our students.

Due to limitations on police resources, citizens must deal with chronic noise and disorderly conduct on their own. They become “reverse vigilantes,” negotiating one-by-one with unruly neighbors and uncaring property owners. They come up with creative solutions, go to court, cajole, write letters, start neighborhood groups and suffer. And then they move.

The police sympathize and know where the repeat offenders are, but are stretched thin and often cannot respond. They can request that the rude, crude and drunken people desist, but under current law it takes another visit and 72 hours until they can issue a citation. Citizens are left to handle most situations alone.

The university has mitigated the “party school” reputation because it undermines the value of the Chico State degree. The city needs to support this effort and not create a false “town/gown” division. This maligns and patronizes our students, most of whom are responsible young adults who will have fun within the rules. They work hard in school, cover multiple jobs and internships, and want to graduate with a degree untainted by a bad reputation.

Yet Chico is becoming a “party town.” From the orchards to the foothills, neighborhoods are unlivable and unsafe because of noise and rowdiness. Several council members insist on a warning system, but continual warnings have no teeth, and the scofflaws ignore them. No one (including musicians, artists, students, retirees, families, young adults or businesses) wants to live in a neighborhood where loud noise dominates every evening, where there are no enforceable rules, and the police are not available.

As with a traffic violation, police should have the option of either giving a warning or issuing a citation. After all, the worst consequence in the proposed revision is a $259 citation; no one is going to jail and no one has ever died because of a ticket.

A revised noise ordinance is one way to make our neighborhoods safer by controlling rowdiness and non-civility. I will consider this my highest priority when I vote in the next election.