By Mike Toerge
Okay, so we are enjoying a quiet Sunday morning here in Corona del Mar. Gone are the noisy contractors and maintenance crews that dominate our neighborhood during the week and Saturdays. Thank goodness there is a noise ordinance in the City of Newport Beach, one that disallows loud construction noise on Sundays. But, OMG, what is that awful grating sound? Are you kidding me? It’s 10:30 am Sunday morning, and my neighbor has hired a construction crew and they are using electric grinders and hack saws on a metal staircase railing. Now this is not simply an inconvenience, it is disturbingly and uncomfortably loud and the work is taking place a few feet from our window. I’ve got a good relationship with my neighbor, so I walk outside and ask the construction crew to stop and I mention that, on Sunday, it is against the law in Newport Beach to operate any tool that disturbs people residing in the area. They do not argue. They are probably aware of the ordinance, but, they need the work and ignore it until someone complains. Well, I am complaining and they are cordial. Several minutes later, after I have gone back in my home, I again hear the grinding of metal and electric hack saws. What’s the deal here? They agreed to stop, but, here they are again grinding away at my and my neighbor’s peace and quiet when they know it is against the law.
When I return to the work site and ask why they continue to use these noisy tools, they tell me the police stopped by and told them they received a resident complaint and that they had 30 minutes to complete their noisy illegal construction. I was livid. It is one thing for a police officer to offer a warning rather than a citation for breaking the law, a reasonable approach in this circumstance, but it is an entirely different action for a police officer to grant anyone in a non-emergency situation the right to continue breaking the law for any period of time, especially when the officer is responding to a resident complaint. Never mind that this illegal activity was taking place for an hour or more before the police came on the scene. There is simply no reason the police officer should have allowed this illegal activity to continue after receiving a complaint from the very people this police officer was sworn to serve. Maybe this is why these contractors felt okay with breaking the law in the first place. They reason that Newport Beach Police will not cite them, so, they break the law until the police intervene and when the police do intervene, the police grant them a special privilege to continue. I am not suggesting that these workers should have been cited, but, they should have been told the law and ordered to stop breaking it immediately. I can list scores of examples where allowing a law breaker to continue to break the law after police intervention, would cause a community uproar. But what’s worse, after I spoke with the construction crew, they respectfully agreed to stop and stop they did, until a police officer came along and told them they could continue for another 30 minutes. So, after police intervention, the illegal activity resumed with the approval of the police. This is not keeping the peace. Frankly, it caused a bigger conflict when I re-confronted the construction crew and they were defiant knowing that the responding police officer took it upon himself to garner up his own set of laws by allowing them to continue for an additional 30 minutes. So, in this instance, I felt I had the law on my side, but, the contractors felt they had the police on their side. There should be no difference. The police will be the first to tell you that they do not make the laws, they simply enforce them. Well, I want the police in my city to do just that, enforce these laws consistently without granting a special privilege to a violator. Police officers should not take it upon themselves to compromise clearly documented laws especially when they are responding to a valid resident complaint.
BTW, the applicable noise ordinance follows:
10.28.040 Construction Activity—Noise Regulations.
B. Sundays and Holidays. No person shall, while engaged in construction, remodeling, digging, grading, demolition, painting, plastering or any other related building activity, operate any tool, equipment or machine in a manner which produces loud noise that disturbs, or could disturb, a person of normal sensitivity who works or resides in the vicinity, on any Sunday or any federal holiday.