Ms.Noisy neighbors get CAPP’d

By Manny Lopez

The San Diego Police Department (SDPD) has a new weapon to help curb noise disturbances caused by loud parties in residential neighborhoods.

As of Dec. 1, 2007, the city has expanded the Administrative Citation Program to include the Northern Police Division. In addition, the city has updated the existing Community Assisted Party Program to help curb nuisance behavior at habitual party houses.

Excessive noise is anything that can be heard 50 feet away from a residence.

According to SDPD, more than 4,600 noise complaints were documented in the Northern Division during 2006. As of August 2007, they had received nearly 3,400 noise-related calls.

The Community Assisted Party Program (CAPP) is an existing program that has been modified to identify residential properties such as condominiums, apartments or houses which host loud and disturbing parties on a chronic basis. Police will monitor disturbance calls and maintain a database of residences that have been CAPP’d.

A CAPP designation on a residence is basically a zero-tolerance label. The decision on whether to CAPP a residence is left to the discretion of the SDPD. If police are called two times within 30 days to the same address, or if a loud noise or disturbance call results in a citation or arrest, a residence be can be CAPP’d. The designation will be in effect for one year regardless of occupant changes.

The Administrative Citation Program was developed as a pilot program which took effect April 30, 2007 in the Mid-City area.

The new ordinance raises the city’s penalty fine amount and also gives officers more flexibility to select a fine that takes into consideration the nature and severity of the violation. Police responding to noise complaints can issue citations of up to $1,000 for violations of the Municipal Code Chapter 5 Noise Regulations. Each resident involved and property owner who has received prior warning may be cited.

Once a person has been cited, they can appeal the fine to the Neighborhood Code Compliance Department. An administrative judge then hears from those cited and the officer involved and decides whether to uphold, repeal or reduce the fine.

Disturbance and loud party calls registered with the SDPD are concentrated in the neighborhoods surrounding San Diego State University and the beach areas. Police in these communities receive a large volume of calls from neighbors which puts a heavy strain on resources which are already stretched too thin.

Lt. Lori Luhnow, who wrote the fist program and ran the pilot in the Mid-Cities area which focused on San Diego State said, “Complaints have decreased and warnings have increased. Citations have been written in about 8 percent of noise complaint calls. First response notices, where contact is made and notices issued, have doubled compared to last year. We have not lost an administrative hearing on any of these citations.”

Josh McCormick, who has lived in La Jolla the past three years, doesn’t mind turning down the volume on his stereo, but thinks the city is imposing too many rules on people like him, who enjoy hosting parties on holidays and during big sporting events. McCormick said, “I know the city needs to generate more revenue, but it would be nice if we could see a return on that. If we’re going to be ticketed for loud music and things like that, how about fixing up the streets so I’m not bashing up my car?”

Luhnow said, “Citations are not just written out for situations that just minimally meet a violation. They are for the extreme cases. We’re focused on chronic noise complaints or those situations that are so egregious and obvious that they are a major nuisance to the community. We’re concerned about cases where there is a lack of compliance, or, for example, when people slam the door in our faces.”

Pam Hardy, communications director for Councilman Scott Peters, said, “We have residents in both communities who have mini-dorms on their blocks and they were pleased to have another tool at the city’s disposal to deal with noise complaints.”

SDPD spokeswoman Monica Munoz cautioned owners that they are responsible for what renters do. She advises them to make it very clear in the lease language that tenants will be responsible for paying any noise fines.

Neighborhoods within the Northern Division include Bay Ho, Bay Park, Clairemont Mesa East, Clairemont Mesa West, La Jolla, La Jolla Village, Mission Bay Park, Mission Beach, North Clairemont, Pacific Beach, Torrey Pines and University City.