Last year, city code enforcement officers began cracking down on noise complaints in some of Dallas’ loudest neighborhoods. Many business owners were peeved.
Nowhere was more affected than Deep Ellum, whose popularity can at least partly be chalked up to its high decibel levels. That very popularity—and with it the recent influx of new residents helping to (somewhat controversially) transform Deep Ellum from a boom-and-bust live music and entertainment district into a neighborhood of more mixed (and, hopefully, sustainable) uses—was at the heart of the problem.
“Deep Ellum is known for music and sound and culture but we’ve also got a large influx of residents as well,” Allen Falkner, a board member of the Deep Ellum Community Association and the owner of The Nines dance bar, told me last summer. “But residents also need to understand, if they’re moving to an entertainment district, there’s sound here.”
There was a petition protesting the supposed silencing of Deep Ellum, and then a task force: The neighborhood’s City Council representative, Jesse Moreno, asked city officials and Deep Ellum residents and business owners to put their heads together and come up with a plan.
Its recommendations include:
- Create an overlay district that would allow businesses in Deep Ellum to be louder—setting a limit of anywhere from 78 to 92 decibels—than the 60- to 70-decibel noise limits allowed by city code in most areas.
- Require code compliance officers to show a recent decibel reading to enforce noise ordinances. This recommendation is key: When it ramped up enforcement last year, the city turned to a section of code that vaguely prohibits any noise “offensive” to someone’s “ordinary sensibilities,” with code officers in charge of determining what qualifies as offensive. This would call for a more objective standard for enforcing noise ordinances.
- Limit the use of speakers aimed out onto streets and sidewalks.
- Create “musician loading zones” to help bands playing at venues in the neighborhood load in and load out.
- Educate residents and business owners on all of the above noise rules with fliers and direct contact.
The report includes some other interesting findings. Check out, for example, this map of recent residential development in the neighborhood:
And this map showing the locations of noise complaints from the last 6 months (red dots) alongside surveyed residents who upon moving in anticipated the occasional sound of live music from their neighbors (green stars) and those who only “somewhat” anticipated that it might get loud.
Next, the City Council will get this report and decide what to do with it.