Noise Enforcement Program
With its diverse and active population, proximity of homes to businesses, urban traffic, and construction, San Francisco can be a loud place. Sound is inevitable in cities, yet levels or types of sound occurring in some parts of San Francisco may be bothersome to residents and workers and in some cases could be high enough to harm health and quality of life. Any unwanted sound can be characterized as noise; everyone reacts differently to noise, and not everyone agrees about what sounds are noisy.
In San Francisco, Article 29 of the Police Code specifies the joint responsibility of the Department of Public Health, the Police Department, the Department of Building Inspection, the Department of Public Works, the Department of City Planning, the Department of Recreation and Parks, and the Entertainment Commission for collectively sharing the responsibilities for noise control and prevention. Noise and sound are also governed or referenced in several other San Francisco Codes, however many noises and sounds are not covered by the noise control laws in San Francisco. These include wind chimes, the unamplified human voice, and use of leaf blowers. When citizens have complaints about any sound, whether it is covered by a specific law or not, all agencies that regulate noise in San Francisco advise people to attempt to discuss the issue directly with the person or entity producing the sound in order to try and achieve a solution and to agree on an appropriate time frame to do something about it. If the situation hasn't changed after that time, it may then be necessary to contact the appropriate authority that regulates or limits the particular noise source.
In December 2014, SFDPH released Citywide Guidelines for Noise Control Ordinance Monitoring and Enforcement, the result of the collaborative work of the
Noise Workgroup convened to respond to the letter of inquiry submitted by Supervisor Norman Yee to the Board of Supervisors in January .
Principal Activities and Services
- Enforce local regulations regarding fixed-equipment noise, such as ventilation equipment, generators, and compressors.
- Collaborate with other agencies to ensure consistent enforcement and interpretation of Article 29 and other city laws governing sound.
Making a Complaint
The Environmental Health Section investigates complaints regarding fixed mechanical noise sources such as rooftop air conditioning units, restaurant ventilation systems, motors and compressors. Service requests about these issues may be made directly into the 311 complaint form.
It is not required that noise investigations and sound measurements be conducted at the exact time of a noise complaint. In most circumstances, the evaluation of noise sources relative to standards and limits can be conducted during regular working hours. If an inspection shows that sound levels exceed the allowable limits inspectors will require the property owner of the noise source to make sure they are compliant.
The following agencies are also responsible for noise control and prevention. Please contact the appropriate agency based on the issue. You may find details on these agency responsibilities for noise at 311's noise complaint page; or click directly to the 311 complaint form to enter details of the situation, and 311 Customer Service Representatives will route your complaint to the appropriate agency.
Department of Planning
- Violation of conditions of approval (includes noise)
- Environmental review of plans and projects
Department of Building Inspection
- Regulation of construction noise
- Regulation of entertainment noise (nightclubs)
Department of Public Works
- Street opening
- Regulation of construction noise
- Regulation of noise from audio equipment
- Regulation of noise from people or animals