Mayor, city council close to working out deal on noise ordinance

Thursday, November 4, 1999

Seattle's mayor and the City Council have agreed to stop shouting past each other and work together to update the city's 22-year-old noise ordinance.

The council's last attempt at amending the ordinance ended in confusion over whether Mayor Paul Schell really had vetoed the bill on Oct. 20. He said he did, but he did not initial the bill's veto box.

“As far as whether it has been vetoed, we in our office believe that the veto stands. However, the mayor and the City Council have agreed to draft a new ordinance that will reflect the views of both parties,” Vivian Phillips, the mayor's spokeswoman, said.

The debate over changes in the 1977 ordinance comes as Seattle is preparing for the World Trade Organization's Third Ministerial Conference on Nov. 30. The proposed ordinance, which Schell said he vetoed on free-speech grounds, would have banned loud political demonstrations in neighborhoods and limited them to 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. in commercial zones. Among the political leaders expected to attend the WTO Conference is Fidel Castro, who is expected to draw a large crowd of protesters to the event. Schell's concern was that the new ordinance might make a tense situation even worse.

Nightclub and restaurant owners had opposed the proposed amendments that would have made it easier for police officers to enforce the noise regulations and hand out penalties ranging from $100 to $500 in fines. Some violators of the proposed ordinance could have faced a 90-day jail sentence.

“I'm not worried so much about the level of noise from my business but the noise from my patrons as they leave,” Mark Long, owner of the Attic bar, said.

Long has had his own run-in with the current noise ordinance. In 1992 he was sued by a by a Seattle resident who lived near his bar for violating the noise ordinance. The lawsuit was dismissed after 14 months.

Phillips said that the mayor and council were expected to reach an agreement over the ordinance very soon.