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Environmental Health

San Francisco Response to Noise Problems

Noise Task Force

Under the leadership of SFDPH, the Noise Task Force meets on a quarterly basis to exchange information regarding noise abatement matters in San Francisco. For more information on the Noise Task Force, click here.


Transportation Noise Element

In 1972 the Transportation Noise Element was incorporated into the San Francisco General Plan. The complete transportation noise element can be found in the Environmental Protection Section of the General Plan under Objective 9, 10, and 11. Various policies were formulated under the noise element that have never been implemented and are generally ignored. A policy to encourage enforcement of motor vehicle noise has been abandoned by SFPD. A policy to reduce siren noise has been met with increased siren amplitude and multiple siren vehicles responding to all 911 calls. Failure to control siren noise especially impacts high density areas like the Tenderloin with many elderly and sick residents.  Policy 9.6 discourages changes in streets that result in greater traffic noise and yet we create more “one-way” streets resulting increased traffic noise level. Most importantly the element creates a set of guidelines for noise compatible land use. Although these guidelines directly discourage residential uses in high noise area we find that much new residential construction is proposed on high traffic streets and near freeways in direct conflict those guidelines under the banner of “smart growth” or “urban infill”. The following table is a copy of the Land Use Compatibility Chart for Community Planning.


Transportation Noise Maps

In 2007 the San Francisco Health Department developed a digital local traffic based model using the FHWA- Traffic Noise Model (TNM) to update the existing 1972 model.  The new model describes ambient noise levels on each street in San Francisco and identifies those areas that exceed 60 Ldn. Title 24 requires new multifamily housing in areas in excess of 60 to be acoustically insulated. New residential construction must achieve an interior noise level of 45. The San Francisco Building Department is the enforcement agency for this law and does so under Appendix Chapter 12, Division IIA, San Francisco Building Code. Building inspectors use these maps to decide which new construction applications must be acoustically reviewed and evaluated.

San Francisco Transportation Noise Map(7MB) San Francisco Transportation Noise Map (2MB)


Noise Control Ordinances

The San Francisco Noise Control Ordinance addresses noise problems that slipped through the planning process or have evolved over time. The Ordinance addresses fixed mechanical noise, construction noise, solid waste/garbage removal noise, and has a general noise regulation which establishes a standard for all noises that are not specifically addressed in individual sections. In addition, Section 49 of the San Francisco Police Code addresses noises associated with amplified sound including music and television. More inforamtion on the San Francisco Noise Ordinance can be found in the 'Helpful Links' section.