The following is a repost of my reply to the post “The Halfway Point Between Developers and Venues”, by Joshua Leasure P.E., an acoustical consultant living and working in Austin, on his excellent site: “Austin Noise | Discussion on community noise in Austin, Texas”.
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First, I want to applaud your comprehensive and professional approach to the issue
of Noise & Austin. Your most recent post, analyzing the Nutty Brown Cafe sound
issues, is excellent.
You have my complete support in continuing your efforts to educate all parties;
the public, business owners (especially venue managers), and developers as to the
facts, and workings of the current state of affairs, especially in the area of
analyzing the extremely bad and broken Noise & Sound Ordinance, in it’s current
I’ll point out the following, however, as to what, in my personal opinion, is the
real problem, in spite of the Music Commissions great work. I feel that if this
central problem is addressed, it would make your work, my work, and the Music
Commission’s work, much more effective and beneficial to everyone concerned.
At the following links, you can read certain facts, along with my analysis of why
the City Council is moving (albeit, as slow as molasses), in the exact opposite
direction of the Music Commission’s Recommendations to Council (which is the limit
of the Music Commission’s power.
“DANA Letter to the Mayor & Council” – http://goo.gl/y2pD4
“Disingenuous Politickin’” – http://austincitypermits.com/?p=4170
“Mistake on Decibel Reading Location” – http://austincitypermits.com/?p=4510
In the posts, above, it is clear as to why, on Feb 17th of this year, Council
staff basically “screwed the pooch” and set back Austin’s Noise & Sound Ordinance
The letter was from DANA (Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association) who were, at
the time, very much “at the stakeholder’s table” of the backdoor meetings being
called by certain members of the Council. I am of the opinion that DANA was
overzealous, drunk on the attention and support they were getting from Council and
Staff, and simply overstepped the boundary of just what an organization can
insert, of it’s own agenda, directly into the Code.
“Inadvertently … left in place?” – http://austincitypermits.com/?p=4526
That Ordinance included the provision that: ““The decibel limits prescribed under
this section must be measured … from the location of the sound equipment on the
property or site where the permit is issued.”
This meant that the current 70 dB (Restaurant) and 85 dB (Cocktail Lounges &
non-Restaurant venues) decibel level limits would hence forth be measured in front
of the speakers!
I was told that Staff didn’t have an Ordinance ready, and with mere weeks before
SxSW, a Council Member ordered, “We need something now. Put something together,
and get it on the Agenda!”. The Mea Culpa in the form of a Memo by the Council’s
staff lawyer, can be read here:
As a result of my efforts to quickly call attention the mistake, an additional
ordinance was passed (!) 2 weeks later, in order to rid the Code of the
“Location of dB Readings Changed” – http://austincitypermits.com/?p=4494
However, if you’ll notice, several other “suggestions” from the Dana letter have
remained in the Code, as of that one rushed Ordinance.
The Music Commission, as well as the City’s Music Office have been doing an
excellent job of communicating these damaging inclusions, starting as recently as
6 months ago, so far, absolutely NO action has been taken by Council … and that’s
Respectfully, Gary Etie
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