Editorial: It’s time to strengthen noise laws

We believe in second chances, but the city of San Luis Obispo has been too lenient when it comes to policing loud, obnoxious parties. Under current regulations, one residence can be issued as many as six — six! — warnings over the course of a year.

If this benevolent approach worked, we might not have a problem with it. But statistics show that it hasn’t been effective in changing behavior; the number of noise/loud party complaints has been holding steady at around 3,000 per year.

No wonder longtime residents of college neighborhoods — where many of the noise complaints originate — are fed up and demanding change.

We’re right there with them; we strongly urge the City Council to adopt the more stringent noise violation ordinance on today’s agenda.

Here’s how it would work: After a single warning, an address would be placed on a special watch list. Then, any subsequent violation would be subject to a citation that carries a $350 fine for a first offense, $700 for a second or $1,000 for a third or subsequent offense.

City staff initially recommended that an address remain on the watch list for an entire year, but student leaders found that too harsh.

In response, city staff recommended reducing the amount of time to six months, but Residents for Quality Neighborhoods — a group concerned about noise, littering, vandalism and other recurrent problems — would prefer a full year of “probation.”

Rather than getting hung up over this point, we urge the City Council to split the difference and set it at nine months. The time frame could be adjusted later if necessary.

As we’ve said previously, we believe that education and outreach efforts aimed at teaching students about responsible partying are important — and should continue.

But there also must be consequences for those who fail to get the message.

The city must make it clear that it will no longer tolerate blatant disregard for the rights of others, and a more stringent noise ordinance is an important first step in that direction.