The Mountain View City Council has asked city staff to bring a twice-defeated noise ordinance back for a vote, raising the hopes of Palo Alto residents bothered by spillover noise from Shoreline Amphitheatre.
Both times the proposed law came before the Council, it was stopped in its tracks by a tie vote because only six of the seven Council members were present.
Linda Forsberg, Mountain View's assistant to the city manager, said that, in order to avoid a third tie, the ordinance will not be voted on again until all seven Council members are present. Nobody knows exactly when this will be, though it is expected to come before the Council within the next few months.
The noise ordinance, first proposed in 1992, would limit all noise from Shoreline to 98 decibels at the amphitheater rim, lower decibel limits for low-end frequencies which travel farther and fine the concert promoter $10 for each one-second violation.
It is uncertain whether the ordinance would reduce noise complaints, since the sound is often distorted in the atmosphere by a condition known as an inversion layer before being projected into areas many miles away.
In 1993, eight concerts generated large numbers of complaints, even though Bill Graham Presents said it kept sound levels below 98 decibels. More than 2,000 complaints were filed from Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, Palo Alto and Mountain View during the 1993 concert season.
Meanwhile, talks between Palo Alto and Bill Graham Presents resumed last month, in keeping with an agreement that whenever more than four concerts exceeded more than 45 complaints each, the parties would return to the mediation table.
On Jan. 21, the two parties held the first of a series of confidential meetings.
"We will have to come to some kind of agreement before the season begins," said Bernie Strojney, assistant to the city manager of Palo Alto, but "so far, no more meetings have been scheduled."
A letter addressed to Mountain View's mayor and City Council from Palo Alto Mayor Liz Kniss in late January warned that if negotiations are unsuccessful, Palo Alto will consider seeking the aid of a professional mediator. It encouraged Mountain View to develop new techniques to "solve this unfortunate situation."
Jim Lewis of Palo Alto, president of Abate Shoreline Amphitheatre Noise Coalition, said he is optimistic that things will change for the better. "People have been bothered by it for nine years," he said, "and I think something will finally be done about it this year. There are a lot of well-meaning, sincere and talented people working on the problem."
In a related development, at the Feb. 8 meeting of the Mountain View City Council, the city waived a previously imposed requirement for Bill Graham Presents to build an expansion to its lawn area to accommodate more people in the amphitheater.
Last season, BGP allowed as many as a few thousand more people into its concerts without adding more space. Since it received no complaints from audiences, it asked to be relieved of the building requirement.
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