|Santa Monica’s Noise Ordinance Altered to Accommodate Free Speech Concerns
By Jonathan Friedman
April 3, 2017 -- Loud protests outside the Shore Hotel can continue starting as early as 7 a.m. without fear of police interference following the Santa Monica City Council’s passage of an amendment to the noise ordinance last Tuesday.
Although the Shore Hotel is not mentioned in the amendment and it was not included in most of the public comment and council discussion on this item, it is common knowledge that protests there triggered the change.
The hotel workers union UNITE Here Local 11 demanded the exemption last year so that it could continue leading protests outside the non-unionized hotel.
And most council members accepted the request despite City’s staff’s recommendation against it (“Free Speech and Noise Regulation Collide in Santa Monica,” April 13, 2016).
Comments focused mostly on Donald Trump and perceived injustices from his administration and a need to protest them.
“If a local resident, employee or visitor is walking or dining anywhere outdoors, don’t they deserve to be protected from excessive noise? We think so,” said Hunter Hall from the restaurant coalition.
The only person to mention the conflict between the Shore Hotel and the union was Mike Gruning, who sits on the chamber board and once served as its chair.
Gruning told the council, “I encourage you to vote for the benefit of your constituents, ie the residents of Santa Monica and not for transparently self-serving entity, ie the union.”
Councilmember Gleam Davis looked at the amendment differently than the opposition speakers, saying she saw it “more as a clarification over the existing law as opposed to really extending some new rights” and “sort of a recognition that we do need to acknowledge the need for free speech.”
She added, “Sometimes we need to accept that the First Amendment can be messy. It can lead to annoying situations [and] conflict. But unless true public safety is concerned, I think we have to be cognizant of the fact that the First Amendment doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It exists right outside our door.”
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