How loud, Midtown?

The neighborhood’s new noise has the city updating its century-old sound ordinance

Noise complaints are more popular than ever in Midtown’s burgeoning night-life districts, which is why I’m walking the streets this Friday night, July 9, with an Extech Instruments sound-level meter. The city of Sacramento has a sound ordinance—“From 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., the exterior noise standard shall be 55 decibels. From 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., the exterior noise standard shall be 50 decibels”—but what does all that fuzzy math actually mean in real life?

Sacramento city officials are working with the Midtown Business Association to update its noise ordinance as you read this, because, as the MBA’s Aja Uranga-Foster puts in plain words, “It’s 100 years old.” Her boss Rob Kerth agrees: “The city sound ordinance is written for the suburbs. And it’s awful.”

And they’re right: This weekend, the entire Midtown district is breaking the law. Too much fun. Busted. Here’s the data.

Friday, July 9:

At 10:55 p.m., on my apartment balcony at N Street: 62 decibels.

At 11 p.m., outside Zócalo: 75 decibels.

Minutes later, a car’s ignition fires on L Street: 72 decibels.

At 11:15 p.m., on the corner of 20th and K Street: 83 decibels.

At 11:25 p.m., outside Harlow’s during Arden Park Roots’ set: tops out at 95 decibels.

Minutes later, in front of Aura: 83 decibels.

The following night, Second Saturday, July 10, between 8 and 9 p.m.:

In front of my apartment on N Street: 77 decibels.

At Capitol Avenue and 20th Street: 84 decibels.

At 20th and K streets, same spot as the night before: tops out at 98 decibels.

In front of SN&R’s former headquarters at 1015 20th Street: 105 decibels.

The Hare Krishna band at 19th and J streets: 100 decibels.

The Trash Film Orgy’s zombie parade on 19th Street: 100 decibels.

Outside Yogurtagogo on 19th and L streets: 81 decibels.

Performance artist Mom’s set inside a Midtown boutique: tops out at 110 decibels.