Just when and how much noise will be tolerated in La Cañada could soon be reviewed by the City Council, after a routine discussion Monday on the organization of related regulations revealed some citizens may be lawfully abusing their right to make noise in residential areas.
The talk came as the council was asked to vote at its regular meeting to consolidate chapters of the city's municipal code that all pertain to noise but are currently in separate sections.
Residents are confused by rules that place different time restrictions on landscaping and construction noises and are located in different parts of the city and Los Angeles County codes, said Peter Castro, a senior management analyst for the city.
To clear up confusion, a recommendation was made to create a new section of the city code that will cover all noise-related regulations. The proposal also included information on animal and party noises as covered by the county code.
Mayor Laura Olhasso said Monday's vote wouldn't change current regulations, only their ordering. She stated her unhappiness with a September 2011 council vote that extended landscaping noise hours on weekdays to as late as 7 p.m. in summer months and asked City Manager Mark Alexander if changes could be made immediately.
Alexander said any changes or rewording would have to be brought back before the council as a separate matter.
In a public comment, La Cañada resident Helga Ohannesian asked council members to reconsider the regulations. She recounted her difficulty with a next-door neighbor whose noisy wood-working hobby has become a nuisance to her and other neighbors.
"The equipment he uses is 105 and up decibels; I'm exposed to it on an almost daily basis," Ohannesian said, explaining that the neighbor distinguishes between his hobby and "construction work" as defined in the code. "He says he can do it, and he's right. I don't have any rights," she said.
Currently, according to the code, equipment 65 decibels or louder can be used Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. (7 p.m. during Daylight Saving Time) and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.
Councilmember David Spence said he'd been approached by another neighbor of Ohannesian's, regarding the same hobbyist who makes cabinets in his driveway.
"What can we do to mitigate this situation?" Spence asked city staff.
City Atty. Mark Steres suggested Ohannesian consider pursuing the matter in court as a private nuisance, instead of going through the many channels required to change city regulations.
"You could have these issues that pop up at any given time," he advised the council. "You either leave it as a private neighbor to neighbor issue…or you can consider getting involved in this issue and putting in more stringent requirements."
Upon further discussion, Olhasso said she'd like to revisit the noise hours. Councilman Don Voss said he'd like more information on decibel levels.
After recommending revisions to the consolidation language, the council asked Alexander to talk to the planning and public safety commissions and come back with substantive suggestions.
"Bring it back post haste," Olhasso said offering a time window of eight weeks. "There's a discussion to be had sometime in the near future."
SARA CARDINE is a freelance writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.