Noise issues

The Eastlake Community Council advocates for the public’s right to peace and quiet. Noise disturbs sleep and is can harm public health. Noise denies people the full use of their home or business. ECC welcomes your questions, suggestions, and volunteer help in its efforts to address noise. Contact ECC at info@eastlakeseattle.org.

I-5 noise

Interstate 5 and its interchange with SR-520 (opened in 1962) destroyed or compartmentalized treasured parts of our neighborhood. And as environmental laws didn’t exist then, these freeways were built in a way that produces much higher noise levels than would be allowed for construction under the current laws. As a result, some Eastlake businesses, residences, streets, and parks have the worst noise levels in the state.

Since the Eastlake Community Council’s founding in 1971, we have worked with a long succession of Washington State Dept. of Transportation officials and 43rd district legislators toward placing this problem high on WSDOT’s priority list and getting the funds through the legislature to retrofit this section of I-5 for noise reduction. This joint effort led to the present I-5 noise walls on parts of Boylston Ave., but until recently WSDOT had no plans for completing them (once among its highest priorities for noise reduction), and had no backup plan after the failure of its test of noise insulation on the I-5 Ship Canal bridge. The legislators and WSDOT responded to neighborhood concerns, and the 2015 legislators funded completion of the noised walls, although little progress has been made on noise from the bridge itself. Here are both stories.

Structural noise-reduction measures on the metal I-5 Ship Canal Bridge are problematic because the bridge can’t support heavy additions, and even light ones could catch the wind, potentially damaging the bridge. As discussed above and in the Spring 2014 issue of the Eastlake News (see newsletter archive in column at right), ECC has taken the initiative to get WSDOT and the legislators talking about noise-reducing operational changes in traffic across the bridge.

In 2012 and 2013, ECC sponsored public meetings about noise issues with our state legislators and WSDOT; ECC also wrote to these officials and encouraged others to do so. In response, our 43rd district state legislators on Oct. 24, 2013 wrote to the Washington State Department of Transportation, urging resumption of the noise walls effort and the consideration of traffic operations changes on the bridge if structural noise-reduction measures prove infeasible. To see their letter, click here. Susbsequently, ECC wrote a Feb. 12, 2014 letter to WSDOT and a Feb. 14 e-mail to our legislators.

In short, the noise walls built so far have dramatically reduced noise, but they don’t extend north even to Hamlin Street. Citing a fragile City water main and the need for electrical ventilation, WSDOT had dropped the noise wall extension far down on its priority list, with no funding requested or received for years. ECC would not take no for an answer, and our 43rd district legislators and WSDOT listened. With Sen. Jamie Pedersen taking the lead, they turned this situation around in 2014, as can be seen by clicking on the following e-mail exchange and WSDOT study.

WSDOT has now found noise wall technology that won’t harm the water main or require ventilation. The long-delayed completion of the noise walls for the two blocks on the west side of I-5 north to Allison Street became a priority of WSDOT and Governor Jay Inslee, with an estimated cost of $3.5 million. Sen. Jamie Pedersen and Reps. Frank Chopp and Brady Walkinshaw then succeeded in passing through the legislature the needed $3.5 million. They (especially Sen. Pedersen), the Governor, and WSDOT deserve the neighborhood’s deep gratitude. If you write to them (jamie.pedersen@leg.wa.gov; frank. chopp@leg.wa.gov; and brady.walkinshaw@leg.wa.gov, please also send a copy to ECC at info@eastlakeseattle.org.

The Eastlake Community Council is now working with WSDOT to ensure early and continuous public involvement in planning and design of the noise walls. ECC is also working with WSDOT and our legislators to explore ways (especially traffic operations changes) to reduce noise from the bridge that will avoid any risk to the bridge’s integrity.

Gas Works Park noise

Eastlake’s grand view of Gasworks Park places us in earshot of illegal noise at night and early morning hours (noise travels well on water surfaces). Noise travels especially well over water, so noise in Gas Works Park can be loud enough for Eastlakers to hear with windows closed, the television on, and earplugs in. Much of the noise is in the summer, just when Eastlakers deserve to be able to open their windows or enjoy their decks or yards.

Drumming noise

Seattle Municipal Code section 25.08.500 prohibits “unreasonable noise which disturbs another” and the refusal or intentionally failure “to cease the unreasonable noise when ordered to do so by a police officer.” Included in this prohibition is “Loud or raucous, and frequent, repetitive, or continuous sounds created by use of a musical instrument, or other device capable of producing sound when struck by an object, a whistle, or a sound amplifier or other device capable of producing, amplifying, or reproducing sound.”

Drumming isn’t allowed in City parks without a permit, and no permits are being issued for such drumming. Illegal drumming in Gas Works Park has been increasing, and as the lake surface transmits noise easily, Eastlake suffers some of the worst effects. Unfortunately, the Seattle Police and Parks departments will not regard enforcement against illegal drumming as a priority unless many people ask for action.

In daytime the police can be fairly prompt in stopping the drummers. But in the evening shift (when drumming noise may be most disturbing to sleep), the officers tend not to respond to noise complaints unless they get a lot of them at once. Calling relatively quickly after the drumming starts will give an officer time to get out to the park to stop the drumming before it has gone on for hours and hours. So the minute you near the noise, please phone either 911 or the police non-emergency number at 206-625-5011 (don’t just leave a message–press 2, then 8 to reach a live operator). Be sure to mention the date and time of the noise. It’s better to give your name and contact information, but you can be anonymous.

Although officers are sent in response to calls to the non-emergency number, the Police Department does not total these calls or use them to proactively shape its enforcement priorities as it does for calls to 911. The accumulation of 911 calls enables SPD to act proactively on a problem, so please do not hesitate to call 911 with noise complaints. You will not be diverting 911 resources from life-threatening emergencies; the operators know where to route noise complaints to get results.

Also, please send an e-mail to loren.street@seattle.gov (Officer Street of the Community Policing Team in North Precinct, in which Gas Works Park is located ) letting him know the date and time that you called about the noise, and whether or not the drumming stopped. And please also share your message (and your concerns and experiences) with the Eastlake Community Council at info@eastlakeseattle.org, so ECC can monitor the problem and put you in touch with others with similar concerns. Let’s work to reduce or eliminate this continuing problem!

Event noise Eastlake Community Council volunteers are working with City officials to greatly reduce early morning weekend loudspeaker noise from sports runs that begin or end at Gas Works Park. For the ECC and City correspondence, click here. A Oct. 16, 2013 City response is worth quoting at length:

“In order to mitigate these issues, the following proposals will be made to the Special Event Committee for approval and implementation by January 1, 2014 for all neighborhoods: (1) Require event organizers to prove need for off-hours amplified sound; (2) Require event organizers to provide specific information about what sound will be amplified, what equipment will be used, and schematics of the direction of the sound; (3) When Noise Variance permission is granted, require event organizers to include information on off-hours amplified sound in distributed notifications; (4) When Noise Variance permission is granted, require event organizers to hire DPD monitor staffing, at the organizer’s cost, to be on site from 60 minutes prior to permitted Noise Variance hours through the end of permitted Noise Variance hours; and (5) Require event organizers to assign on-site personnel with authority to control sound issues from 60 minutes prior to permitted hours and during all hours of the event, with public contact information.”

“While events in all Seattle neighborhoods will benefit from this additional critical review, Gas Works Park is unique in that it is located between a lake surrounded by tens of thousands of residents to the south, and at the base of a hill with tens of thousands more residents, combining to create magnification of any amplified sound in the park. Because of this, the following will be implemented immediately at Gas Works Park: (1) Suspend issuance of Noise Variance permits at Gas Works Park immediately through April 1, 2014; and (2) Suspend 2014 Noise Variance permissions for organizers who violated 2013 permissions.”

“The Special Event Office will take steps to more adequately inform ECC of upcoming events in the area, both with year-end event expectations and with notification for impactful individual events. Our office is also working with the Department of Neighborhoods to create more thorough event organizer notification requirements that will include direct outreach to both impacted neighbors and neighborhood/business organizations who represent them. This, along with other information like thorough Noise Variance parameters and instructions, will be available online.”

You can ensure that the City’s promised reductions in early morning event noise are achieved. Please thank these officials and urge them to fully implement the above policies In e-mails to the following: Chris.Swenson@seattle.gov (City Special Events Program); Jeff.Stalter@seattle.gov (City Noise Program); and Kyle.Griggs@seattle.gov (Parks Dept. Events Management). Please also cc the Eastlake Community Council so ECC can monitor the problem and put you in touch with others who have similar concerns. The ECC address is info@eastlakeseattle.org, or c/o ECC, 117 E. Louisa St. #1, Seattle 98102-3278.

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