And on your right ... a tour bus debate 

The City wants to quiet down those bus tour guides.

Guides on some tour buses use a public address system to talk about the sites as they drive through neighborhoods, and the sound is irritating city residents to the point they want it stopped.

The complaints have prompted city officials to examine ways to deaden the sound, including banning tour buses from certain streets, prohibiting the PA system and having tour bus riders wear a set of headphones, as is done in Europe.

“These are beautiful locations. There’s an aesthetic environment that makes them beautiful. We don’t want to turn them into a carnival,” said Tom Rivard, senior environmental health specialist for the Department of Public Health, who sits on the recently formed Noise Task Force.

The “main focus” of the problem is the area around Lombard Street, where residents have to hear over and over again, “the most crooked street in the world,” Rivard said.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu said he is working with a neighborhood group and local merchants who not only are complaining about the noise but also where the tour buses park and the pollution.

Chiu said he has had meetings with local tour bus operators, but that the most problematic ones come from outside of The City.

The tour bus noise is the latest sound to come under scrutiny. The effort to kill this noise is part of a broader movement under way to bring more quiet to San Francisco’s streets.

In 2008, the Board of Supervisors worked with the Public Health Department to update The City’s noise ordinance — previously left untouched since the 1970s — by creating improved measuring techniques, new enforcement guidelines and a Noise Task Force to monitor noise complaints and recommend improvements to The City’s law on noise pollution.

“They’re loud. That’s all,” said Vajra Granelli, a member of the Noise Task Force and an Entertainment Commissioner. “San Francisco is a funny city. There is a lot of residences right in the middle of the tourist attractions.”

Granelli said that tourism is an important industry to The City, so any fix needs to be sensitive to that.

The City is now gathering information about what laws are on the books that could address the complaints, and officials may attempt to take some decibel measurements.

Chiu said he would consider legislation if the problems cannot be addressed under existing laws.

The sounds of The City

A Noise Task Force was created in 2008 as a result of the Noise Ordinance. The task force is intended to be a forum for city departments to discuss noise issues and enforcement, and propose further changes in this ordinance to the Board of Supervisors.

Leading sources of noise in San Francisco
- Vehicles, including cars, motorcycles, trucks, trains and trolley cars
- Ventilation fans
- Industrial and construction equipment
- Garbage collection and street cleaning operations
- Fire engines and ambulances

Potential health impacts
- Levels of environmental noise observed in San Francisco can adversely affect sleep, school and work performance, blood pressure and heart disease.
- Noise can interfere with speech outdoors, in the workplace and in  schoolrooms, and interfere with the ability of people to perform their work

Source: Department of Public Health

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