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Posts tagged: George Critchlow

Council adopts easier-to-enforce noise law

Testimony at Monday’s Spokane City Council meeting included the sounds of William Cruz on guitar and trumpet as some downtown buskers argued against proposed noise restrictions.

But Spokane City Council members said the new rules, which they approved 6-1, protect free speech while making the law easier to enforce when buskers or other sound makers infringe on other peoples’ rights.

The ordinance will replace a law that was approved in 2010 that required an officer to take a decibel reading of the noise in order to issue a violation. It bases most noise limits on how far away the sound can be heard, a standard that many other Washington cities use.

Performers or anyone else making sound on public rights-of-way such as sidewalks will be barred from making noise that is “plainly audible” 100 feet away if other factors are at play, such as if the noise is rattling windows or includes “heavy bass frequencies.” If a performer were playing between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. they also can't make noise that is “plainly audible” on adjacent private property. The distance limit for noise from private property was set at 50 feet or the property line, which ever is shorter.

Spokane City Councilman Steve Salvatori, who co-sponsored the ordinance with Councilman Mike Allen, said the 100-feet distance may the longest distance that any city in Washington allows for noise. He also stressed that the new law, unlike the old one, requires police officers to give offenders a chance to stop making the noise before issuing a citation.

“This is a kinder, gentler ordinance,” Salvatori said.

After his brief, amplified performance Cruz called the 100-foot limit “a joke.”

He and others argued that the standard is less subjective than using decibel readings and could open the city to lawsuits for infringing on people’s free speech rights.

Gonzaga law professor George Critchlow likened the ability of police to issue noise violations without a decibel reading to issuing speeding tickets without using a radar gun.

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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