No increase in West Campus noise citations under first weekend of sound ordinance

Natalie Sullivan

Despite plans by the Austin Police Department to enforce the noise ordinance in West Campus, there were no noise citations during the first weekend under the stricter implementation of the city code.

According to Matt Adinaro, court operations manager for the City of Austin Municipal Court, no noise ordinance violations were recorded in West Campus the weekend following Oct. 1, when the new permit plan was put into place. The court averages about 14 citations per month, but only some of them are from West Campus.

Adinaro said there is usually a delay between when citations are issued and when they are filed, but all citations for the weekends mentioned above were probably already filed.

The reinforcement of sound ordinance violations is part of a plan requiring organizations to apply for a permit through the Austin Center for Events at least 21 days before an event. The plan also reinforces limits on live music in West Campus, according to APD Sgt. Alfred Trejo.

“Because 99 percent of West Campus is a residential area, not an entertainment district, most students living there won’t be able to get permits,” Trejo said. “These parties with rappers and live DJs have to have a permit, or be in an approved venue that has one.”

APD Detective James Mason said officers typically try to make residents voluntarily comply with the ordinance before issuing tickets, which could account for the low number of citations.

“When patrol responds to a call of loud music, we obtain voluntary compliance before issuing a ticket,” Mason said.  

The city’s sound ordinances require a permit for live music or outdoor entertainment, prohibit outdoor music within 100 feet of residential areas, limit music from speakers to 75 decibels in residential areas and prohibit amplified music after 10 p.m.

Mason said it is sometimes difficult to issue sound ordinance citations because officers do not carry sound meters and cannot always determine the exact decibel level of music.

APD and Austin Fire Department officials held a meeting with representatives from fraternities, sororities and co-ops in West Campus on Sept. 3 to inform students that the ordinance would be more strictly enforced in West Campus.

Sasha Henry, English and women’s and gender studies senior, said noise ordinances have not had much of an impact on residents at the 21st Street Co-op, where she lives, although members have implemented a few extra noise control measures since the meeting. 

“We always try to keep the doors closed to minimize sound,” Henry said. “But, now we’re thinking of putting barriers where the big windows are — in hopes of insulating our commons. Other than that, which hasn’t actually happened yet, I don’t think much has changed.”

Mehtaab Brar, an electrical engineering sophomore and member of Zeta Psi Fraternity, said the reinforced sound ordinances and new permit process led the fraternity to cancel one of its planned events.

“We rarely have noise complaints, despite our venue being surrounded by housing complexes,” Brar said. “We have been more careful about our parties and music. We did try to limit the noise level of the music at our last party. We had a fall carnival-type event planned for Movember, which would have involved live music and selling alcohol, both of which are a huge pain in the ass because of the new permit system, so we had to scrap the event.”

On Oct. 2, the City Council approved a resolution calling for the City to begin revising the ordinance.