City Council

Comment on “Austin Noise Discussion

Posted in City Council, Live Music, Music Commission, Music Office, Sound Permit on November 8th, 2011 by admin – 6 Comments

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”.

———- begin Comment ———-


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” –

“Disingenuous Politickin’” –

“Mistake on Decibel Reading Location” –

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
several years

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?” –

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
inappropriate “mistake”.

“Location of dB Readings Changed” –

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
my point.

Respectfully, Gary Etie

———- end Comment ———-

Kris Bailey for Austin City Council

Posted in City Council, Code Compliance, Live Music, Music, Neighborhoods, Outdoor Music, Outdoor Music Venue Permit, Sound Permit, The Code on April 5th, 2011 by Gary Etie – 1 Comment

Would somebody, please, just get this guy elected. Please?

Endorsement: “The Teapot Party was started to help people like Kris Bailey get elected. We endorse him in his run for Austin City Council. Good Luck Kris. - Willie Nelson

Kris Bailey: “Austin is the Live Music Capital of the World. We need to keep it that way! As a council member, I will support our local music venues, we need an environment in which they can easily do business. We don’t need more restrictions for the industry that we are famous for. Sometimes the City Council doing less would actually accomplish more.

More specifically, this means I don’t think we should be passing out tickets to bar owners, and the permit process to have a show should be simplified. If somebody applies for a permit for a show, they should not have to fight the city for it, they should just get it.”


Sound Ordinances and Permits: “Austin is the “Live Music Capital of the World,”  we need to be friendly and understanding towards the people that make it this way!  Our bar owners and music venue owners are constantly running into a brick wall with the city over being allowed to operate.  Some bar managers have been cited multiple times in a single night over trivial issues.  The music community needs an advocate on the City Council and Kris Bailey will do just that.”

Clarification: “To the people talking about voting for Toby Ryan for Austin City Council I want to make it clear, you can vote for us both, I’m not running against Toby, we are running for different seats!”

Toby Ryan for Austin City Council

Posted in City Council, Live Music on February 17th, 2011 by Gary Etie – 2 Comments

I like what I’m hearing from City Council candidate Toby Ryan, running to displace current member Laura Morrison. What do you think?

Toby Ryan: “Check out my friend Brad Womack’s letter to the Chronicle editor about what City Council is doing to live music. This is scary stuff.”

“”The same 4% of Austin voters have dominated every City Council race for years. And it’s going to take hard work to get the rest of Austin to care about protecting the soul of Austin. I know many of you haven’t participated in Austin politics before – I know I haven’t. …”

“Just yesterday, while the good people of Austin, were out enjoying all the city has to offer, the City Council passed an ordinance that will utterly destroy live music. Measuring “noise” from the speaker means my home computer would violate the city’s sound ordinance. And I don’t even have suped-up speakers! Be sure to read the comments of this story.”

New Temporary Events
& Outdoor Music Ordinance

Posted in City Council, Code Compliance, Outdoor Music Venue Permit, Sound Permit, Temporary Permits on February 8th, 2011 by Gary Etie – 1 Comment

(Updated 02|10|2011 8:45 am !) A REVISED Draft of the proposed ordinance has been posted on the morning of the Council meeting:

“The city council finds that the City’s existing noise regulations do not provide adequate flexibility to address the unique challenges posed by multi-day music events. Given the prevalence of such events during the upcoming spring festival season, the council finds that the need to improve the  City’s noise regulations constitutes an emergency. Accordingly, this ordinance takes effect immediately upon its passage for the preservation of public peace, health, and safety.”

Read the full Draft Ordinance here (now a broken link!)

Read the Revised Draft Ordinance here
(3 Excerpts are provided below)

Sign up for Thursday’s Council meeting
The Austin Music Community should to be heard.

Excerpt 1, the intro:

Temporary Events & Outdoor Music Ordinance
Page 1 of 18
COA Law Department
Responsible Att’y.: Brent Lloyd

ORDINANCE NO. ____________________

City Code Section 9-2-1 (Definitions) is amended to delete the definition of “Director,” to add the following new definitions, and to renumber the remaining definitions alphabetically:

(3) MUSIC OFFICE means the division or  working group of a city department designated by the city manager with advisory and administrative functions related to permitting of outdoor live music.

(5) RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY means the portion of a site or property that is zoned and used as residential.

(6) RESPONSIBLE PARTY means a sound engineer, audio professional, or other person authorized to make decisions regarding the use of sound  equipment permitted under this chapter.

(9) TEMPORARY EVENT IMPACT PLAN means a plan  required in connection with approval of a temporary event permit under Section 9-2-52 (Temporary Event Impact Plan).

(10) SPECIAL EVENTS OFFICE means the division or working group of a city department designated by the city manager with planning, coordinating, and overseeing special events requiring city approval.

(11) SPRING FESTIVAL SEASON means Wednesday through Sunday during the third week of March, unless the city manager designates an alternate five-day period for a particular year.

(12) TEMPORARY CHANGE  OF USE PERMIT means a permit issued by the building or fire code official to authorize a temporary increase  in occupancy levels allowed by applicable technical codes for a property or structure.

(13) TEMPORARY USE PERMIT means a  permit issued by the Planning and Development Review Department  under Chapter 25-2, Article 6 (Temporary Uses) to authorize a temporary activity not otherwise allowed as a principal or accessory use in a base zoning district.

Excerpt 2, new “Live Music Permits” category:


Excerpt 3, the closing:

“PART 11. The city council finds that the City’s existing noise regulations do not provide adequate flexibility to address the unique challenges posed by multi-day music events. Given the prevalence of such events during the upcoming spring festival season, the council finds that the need to improve the  City’s noise regulations constitutes an emergency. Accordingly, this ordinance takes effect immediately upon its passage for the preservation of public peace, health, and safety.”

Bigger Picture

Posted in City Council, Music, Neighborhoods, Outdoor Music Venue Permit, Sound Permit on January 15th, 2011 by Gary Etie – 3 Comments

Noise & Sound Ordinance Changes Are Imminent:

There is no mention, at this time, on the City of Austin website (See City Council Draft Agenda for Jan 27th) but if you are interested or involved, bookmark that link, and help me keep an eye out for the addition of an Item that is going to have a significant impact on the Austin Music Community. Note: “Draft agendas are subject to change without notice”.

On Jan 27th, or soon thereafter, the Council is going to propose significant changes to the Noise and Sound Ordinance.

Whether they intend to amend the existing ordinances, or create a completely new  sets of rules and regulations to guide the City of Austin in reviewing, approving, and hearing appeals, for Outdoor Music Venue and Sound Permits, and enforcing the ordinance, I don’t know. Several interested parties appear to be heavily involved in the discussion and formation of these changes. The Music Commission voted on recommendations on Nov. 1, 2010. As far as I can tell, this year, thing are much less transparent, and will only see the light of day when added to the Agenda.

One big question is, will the Council reinstate the expired, multi-day Sound Permit, as, again, we are stuck with the existing 1 day Sound Permit, or the year-long Outdoor Music Venue Permit, as the only 2 options for an outdoor music event, and that won’t cut it, especially during SxSW.

Listen, in the video below (32:00 ), to the discussion at Thursday night’s Council hearing, when Council Member Sheryl Cole asked about Lustre Pearl’s ability to have an outdoor event during SxSW.

The listen, closely (35:10) to what Council member and Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez says about discussions that are going on, referring to the revival of last year’s first-ever,  multi-day, 96 Hour Sound Permit.

I suspect that several well run organizations have gotten their PR campaigns and lobbying tools in order, and may get actual consideration of some of the backward looking suggestions that are being presented to Council. At the moment, it does not feel like this is going to turn out well, for the music community, and the creative class in our town, unless something is done to counter the forces that desperately needed protection of their dominant position, or real estate investments.

Vanity forces me to watch my 3 minutes (at 6:15) but it’s painful, and you may just want to skip it. I was contacted by Lustre Pearl only 3 days before the Council’s hearing of the Appeal, which left little time to prepare, and by postponing the hearing until 10:30 PM, the people who had donated their time to me had to go to work, and I was limited to 3 minutes. My halting attempt to edit 12 minutes down to 3, on the fly, are apparent.

The vote and the public discussion were all choreographed ahead of time (watch Council Member Martinez closely), so it was all for naught, anyway, for me and about 30 other people who gave up the 8 hours from their day, and their jobs, because the hearing got postponed from it’s originally scheduled 4 PM slot in the Council Agenda (another nice little trick, since entertainment and music business people have to go to work, at night, and can’t stick around to speak and/or show support at 10:30 at night!). My plea to Council, to follow the law, and adhere to the rules and regulations in the Code, was in vain.

As the Lustre Pearl hearing concluded, as the rest of the crowd exited the Council Chamber, I just stood and looked, incredulously, at Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez, as the last item on the Agenda was taken up by Council. The Mayor Pro Tem decided to come down from the dais, walk up to me, and  tell me that I had “copped an attitude”.

And you know, he’s right. The way that Permit appeal was handled, in my opinion, was a shame. Neighborhood organizations are specifically barred from the appeal of approved Outdoor Music Venue Permits, in the CBD. It is specifically spelled out in the Code, as part of the Noise and Sound Ordinance that was passed only 2 years ago.

Instead, the letter of the law, and the spirit of the Code was circumvented. The economy was trotted out and blamed for things not working out as the Council had planned, when they zoned the area CBD, at the request of, and by a vote of, the Rainey area residents themselves. Misinformation, fear mongering and overt overstatements of safety concerns were invoked by neighborhood organizations reps, in order to try to salvage their apparently unwise real estate investments.

So I reckon I do have an attitude, and now, a deep distrust, to go with it. I thought we, as a City, as a music community, were better than that.

Reckon me this … what’s the use of rules, if the same people who are entrusted to pass the rules don’t follow the rules, themselves, when it’s politically inconvenient?

Source: Council Meeting Info Center | Austin City Connection The Official Web site of the City of Austin