Lytton Plaza has long served as Palo Alto's prime meeting ground for the discontent masses, from the Vietnam War protests in the 1960s to the demonstration against the city's freshly passed noise ordinance in the 1970s. But a musician looking to blast an angry riff on his or her electric guitar may soon have a new set of rules to follow.
The Parks and Recreation Commission is expected to approve a new ordinance later this month that would set time limits for amplified music. The proposal is far less drastic than the one the commission reviewed and rejected in October, which would have prohibited amplified sound unless the user takes out a $300 permit.
The latest proposal is far less stringent. It would limit amplified sound to 5 to 10 p.m. on Monday through Thursday, 5 to 11 p.m. on Friday, noon to 11 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday, but those who honor these hours can blast music for free on a first-come, first-serve basis. Amplified sound would also be allowed outside these hours through a $90 permit.
At its July 25 meeting, the commission was generally pleased with the revised proposal, with Chair Ed Lauing pointing to it as evidence that the city has listened to the public. Amplified sound became an issue two years ago when the city installed outlets to enable concerts at its newly established weekly farmers market. The market idea ultimately flopped but the outlets have remained in use.
According to Daren Anderson, a manager at the Community Services Department, people have been using these outlets to "power portable stereos, heaters, stoves and various other personal electronic devices."
Police have also been getting complaints from businesses and residents about loud music being played during the day and late at night, Anderson wrote.
Not everyone, however, is enthused about the new rules. Mark Weiss, a concert promoter and City Council candidate, criticized the proposed revision as "overly broad," "convoluted" and inconsistent with the First Amendment.