It may not compare to a busy airport or noisy nightclub, but the Quiky Car Wash on Broad Street in San Luis Obispo is driving nearby residents to distraction with the constant whir and hum of vacuums and blowers.
We sympathize. Putting up with occasional disruptive noise is one thing, but 11 or 12 hours a day, every day? That sounds unbearable.
And it isn't just one or two hypersensitive households complaining about the car wash; according to Tribune writer Nick Wilson, about 50 nearby residents say they are bothered by the noise, and they've asked the city to intervene.
Even if the car wash isn't violating city-imposed noise limits, if that many neighbors are complaining, it's a problem.
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Constant exposure to unwanted noise can be extremely debilitating, researchers say, and it doesn't have to be loud noise. Think about the buzz of a mosquito or the drip-drip-drip of a leaky faucet.
Residents who live behind the car wash have suggested fixes, such as reducing the hours of operation. The general manager says that's a no-go; many customers need to get in before or after work, which is why the business opens at 7 a.m. and doesn't shut down until 6 p.m. in the winter and 7 p.m. in the summer.
Quiky Car Wash isn't turning a deaf ear to the complaints; the manager says it's willing to add more landscaping to block the sound.
Ideally, a compromise will be reached that will put a satisfactory end to this neighborhood noise dispute.
If that's not possible, we urge the city to put the residents' welfare first. They bought their homes with the expectation of having a reasonable degree of peace and quiet, but that changed when the car wash opened in 2010.
Now, some residents are practically trapped inside their homes. One homeowner said she keeps her windows closed, doesn't use her patio, and said the value of her property has declined.
"Nobody wants to live behind that," she told The Tribune.
Scientific research — as well as common sense — back up the neighbors' complaints.
Environmental psychologist Arline L. Bronzaft, an expert on the impact of noise, told the Berkeley Wellness Newsletter that exposure to unwanted sounds causes stress and that, in turn, "can increase your heart rate, cause your blood pressure to rise, slow down digestion, or make you sweat. ..."
In other words, noise pollution doesn't just make us irritable, it can make us sick.
With that in mind, we urge the city to act as quickly as possible to resolve the Quiky Car Wash complaints — hopefully in a way that will allow the business to continue its current level of operations, while providing residents the quiet they deserve.