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If Council Has Its Way, Residents May Get to Snooze a Little Longer : Construction: A proposed new 8 a.m. starting time for private building crews wins preliminary approval.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Responding to public complaints, Santa Monica officials appear poised to adopt an ordinance that would bar private construction crews from starting work within the city before 8 a.m.

The ordinance, which won preliminary approval on a 5-2 vote at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, was prompted by complaints from residents about early-morning construction noise.

Currently, city law restricts the hours of construction work to 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays. But residents told the council that some construction crews have been arriving at their work sites as early as 6 a.m.

The proposed new 8 a.m. start time has long been in effect in neighboring Westside cities such as Beverly Hills and Culver City.

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As currently worded, the ordinance would exempt city maintenance and utility crews from the shortened hours.

Some city officials expressed concern that without the exemption, the city’s construction costs would rise and its compliance with regional air quality regulations would be disrupted. The city’s 34 facilities and street maintenance employees work on a compressed workweek under the Air Quality Management District’s plan to reduce the number of cars on the road. Most of these crews work four 10-hour days a week.

Council members also justified the exemption because, they said, city crews usually work on shorter-term projects lasting several days and often work in the street, farther away from homes.

But the council directed staff members to study whether city and utility crews should be included in the ordinance.

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Pat McGinn, a representative of the Los Angeles County Building and Construction Trades Council, opposed the exemption for city crews. “Their equipment isn’t less noisy than ours,” he said.

Tuesday night’s public hearing drew 25 speakers, including several trade union representatives and public utilities officials, all of whom opposed the proposed ordinance.

The majority of speakers were Santa Monica residents who supported it. They told the council that even if crews abide by the 7 a.m. start time, the noise from food trucks, radios and chatter among the workers is bothersome.

“The noise is terrible,” said Betty Bunnell, who lives near a construction site.

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“The problems are easier to live with after 8 a.m.,” said resident Maryanne Solomon.

All construction sites must have a city sign posted that lists the hours of work and a hot-line number to register complaints. Since November, 1989, the city has received fewer than 10 complaints.

But several speakers, including some council members, said they have complained of construction noise to the police.

The council also asked staff to study ways to enforce the time restrictions on construction work.

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“You’re going to have people breaking the 8 o’clock rule who were breaking the 7 o’clock rule,” said council member Herb Katz, who voted against the ordinance.


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