Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Several days ago, the Bellingham Herald ran a story (click here to read it) on noise in the downtown area. The focus was principally on the problem of noise emanating from night spots but it might also have been written about noise from some of our illegal rooming houses around town. I have said before in this blog that noise, litter, parking, etc., are issues tangential to the prime issue which is that of non-enforcement of our zoning codes. However, the commentary following the article is, unfortunately, representative of the commentary on illegal rooming houses and deserves a “look-see.” Aside from those postings which merely rant in a vulgar, uncivil manner, there is a central theme from those who oppose noise restrictions and who oppose ridding our neighborhoods of illegal rooming houses. That central theme is that of entitlement. The entitlement takes several forms. One is “We got here first – so you don’t have a say.” The second is “You should have known before you moved here.”

With respect to noise, it is clear that we live in a city where a certain amount of ambient noise or noise pollution results from the necessities of daily life. Background construction noise, automobile noise… mowers, trains, planes and movement of people all add to the commotion. These noises can be attenuated by technology and common sense. We can, however, make a large difference in the domain of that which I call gratuitous noise. This noise comes in many forms, for example, loud mufflers, loud radios to name a few. In these cases, one might aspire to civility, however, from that which I gleaned from the comments to the Herald article, there appears to be those for whom civility is a mystery and for whom a sense of entitlement is overriding. The sense of responsibility to one’s neighbors is as foreign a concept as is sticking to the facts of an argument.

Moreover, the city will have to get a grip on this subject. As it moves toward the creation of urban villages where the commercial and residential meet, the issue of noise pollution in all its forms will invade the discussion.

And finally - can anyone tell me why one cannot just turn the gratuitous noise down?


Anonymous said...

If you analyse the conduct of any noise freak. you will find insecurity and inneffectiveness. Mainly the freaks are just losers trying to make an impression of any sort and they satisfy their totally self centered drives by making noise of vaious types, particularly motor cycle exhausts.

Insignificnce drives loudsters to compensate for their immature nothingness by gross noise and the more gross the noise the more gross the creator.

Such traits as moderation are usually found in mature people as well demonstrated by less mature teens and young alduts who often seem to be unable to know the boundaries between conversing and shouting

Other than asking noisemakers to "grow up" it would seem necessary to introduce anti noise measures

Sonic sufferer

Poindexter P. Parkenfarker said...

I realize that my comment on zoning may be irrelevant in an urban setting, as I'm ignorant of whether any of these items exist within the City of Bellingham.
However, there is a "treaty like item" that supercedes any and all city or state jurisdictional authority for land use. These little Items are called Patent Lands. A property owner who's land is Patented does not have to adhere to local jurisdictional rules to land use. Similar to reservation lands, a Patent Land is under only Federal Jurisdiction as I understand it. There are many of these properties here in Whatcom County that predate the existance of the State of Washington. I am curious, if any of the propeties in the City of Bellingham are privately held under Land Patents? This question is purely from a point of ignorance, as I don't know the answer. But if some of these "rooming houses" exist under Patent Land, then the owner may have a private property right that supercedes local authority. These properties may not be locally listed as such, but the owner may have such documents in his posession. Could this create a dilema for local zoning issues?

by the way, I couldn't hear the comments of anonymous over the music my straightpipes on my big American V-Twin makes...but I don't visit your neighborhoods anyway...too many cellphone talkin' drivers...;)

zonemaven said...

If you want to know more about land patents, I suggest you check out the following: I don't think this would be much of an issue in Bellingham.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, it appears that we live in a community riddled with people who have not learned any manners. What happened to respect for the law and the rules that were designed to preserve the rights of rest and repose for others? It appears that integrity, courtesy,
civility are all part of a fading past..where people cared about a sense of right and of well being in our community. Those who have such little regard for the well being of their neighbors should be ashamed to look in the mirror each morning.....

Anonymous said...

Hello. I play very loud music in several local bands and have been personally responsible for a number of concerts that have ended with the arrival of the police. I'd like to weigh in.

To quote - "And finally - can anyone tell me why one cannot just turn the gratuitous noise down?"

I'll try. In a word: subjectivity. Simply put, what's "gratuitous" to one is "barely enough" to someone else. I find this to be true in reference to all things that can be had in any sort of quantity. Food, exercise, income - all things.

You mention "sense of responsibility to one’s neighbors." Recognize this is a two-way street. At what point does the responsibility fall on the singular noise-sensitive person to recognize that they are the minority when 200+ people across the street at a music venue are having a fabulous time?

Why spend the city's money calling the police to ask someone to turn down the volume when a package of earplugs costs $0.35? I can't fathom it.

It's unfortunate that, as you pointed out, a great number of the comments posted in reaction to the Herald article are all spit & vinegar - such is the nature of debate via the internet. While the attitude of many of these posters is disappointing, to be sure - it doesn't change the fact that they're on to something.

I sympathize with the argument of “You should have known before you moved here.” That's just common sense. When viewing an apartment, who doesn't take a look at the surrounding environment to estimate what that will bring to their living situation? I don't like the smell of manure, so I don't live near a dairy farm.

I lived downtown for a long time. I contributed to loud-volume activities there, and still do.

It may or may not come as a surprise to your readers that the day finally arrived when even I grew tired of living around noise.

I didn't call the cops on anybody. I didn't rain on anyone's parade, I didn't post a cynical blog or compose a heated letter to the editor of the Herald, and I didn't write to city council.

I recognized that loud sound is the nature of urban life - in fact, part of what defines it for many - and I quietly moved away from downtown.

I advise anyone else with a sensitivity to noise to do the same. Bonus? The rent's cheaper the further away you get.

Poindexter P. Parkenfarker said...

Yeah, that zoning issue with the student housing (I'm presuming) has been a long time issue and I know folks on both sides of the issue and for various reasons. It has nothing to do with conservative or liberal either. The "rooming houses" do seem quite spread out all over town now, and not just near the college. I'm presuming that some areas are zoned for this, and others are not?
I know that some folks think that it is a matter of affordable housing not being available, and some think that since they own it, they can do with it what they please, and some think that this is the way it's always been. way back when I attended WWU, before I discovered killing salmon and crab for a 20 year living, I visited friends that were not so near the college, that the houses were designed to hold multiple residents where it appeared to be cobbled together kitchen facilities in bedrooms, etc. (seems like a fire code violation?)

On the other hand, It seems like not just students, but drug traffickers and other less than honorable folks congregate in these locations, and folks who tend to live in these houses don't care about their neighborhoods or keeping the lawn up, and it seems that the tenants are not just careless, but so are the landlords. I even contemplating purchasing a house over near the college as a rental investment, then got a moment of sanity and backed out. If these houses were modified to hold multiple residents after the zoning laws were established to not allow that, then they are renegade and illegal. My question then would be, are some of them grandfathered in before the zoning change? (irrelevant if these areas were always zoned single family?)

I bought my property as Rural with light industry because of the commercial fishing industry. We now have folks who want to change our zoning because they don't like the shops that produce jobs and goods in their new neighborhood. My kid has taken over my shop and my motorcycle building has been moved aside for his welding and repair operation. I believe that if you buy into a type of zoning, you should be grandfathered into that zoning that you purchased your land under, if folks who move in later want to change the zoning. I have invested a lot of money in my shop and tools, etc. I never thought that these would be issues out here in the county, but some folks are wanting to change our zoning. Fortunately that is a slow process...
Again, I'm ignorant for the most part about the single family zoning issue because I don't live there and chose not to live there because I knew that my shop would not be allowed. It seems that living in the city adds more complications than I would like to tolerate. I would not want to live next door to a bunch of Delta House wannabes, or a bunch of folks who just want a cheap flophouse, either. I read your blog from time to time, and I am glad that I don't have to spend my time with the issue. But these "boarding houses" are spreading and there is no real enforcement of the zoning laws as it appears to me. My questions will probably always emanate from a perspective of how do you mitigate zoning changes without impacting pre-existing property rights of the individual owners.
I do think that the concept of entitlements is hogwash, and that ownership of private property is the basis of our free-market economy.
Zoning laws protect the individual property owner, but changing zoning laws can also be considered a taking of private property, too, in my perspective.
have I shown my true ignorance yet???

As for some who don't like us biker's loud pipes, feel free to visit my site and comment on a column called JUST A BIKER.
It pretty much says what many of us live breathe think and feel.
Have a great weekend ALL!!!