Noise from the neighbors and what to do about it will be the focus of one or more community workshops, perhaps a series of Saturday morning coffees, as the town of Portola Valley grapples with an update to the noise element of the general plan and a new noise ordinance.
The Town Council commissioned a report on this topic by Town Planner George Mader and reviewed that report (available at tinyurl.com/PVnoise) at its Sept. 24 meeting.
"A major source of objectionable noise" is weekend construction, permitted now for residents and their families, but being done by workers thought to be posing as family members, Mr. Mader said.
The town consciously protects its stargazing-friendly darkness at night and its reputation for environmental sensibility. Why not do the same for noise, he asked. "Somehow, that's got to become more of an ethic than it is."
While a date for a workshop has not yet been decided, the discussion at the meeting hinted at the issues, and the debates, that it might turn up.
Barking dogs, for example. "Many homeowners don't know that their dogs bark when they're gone," Mr. Mader said. "Dogs left alone in a house for a long period of time can go pretty wild in terms of barking."
Planning Manager Leslie Lambert, who handles noise complaints because the town has no code enforcement officer, said she gets dog-related calls daily. They're often about the same dogs, but from different neighbors who may have waited months before deciding to complain, she said.
"I think there are worse things than barking dogs. We are rural. Dogs bark," said resident Marianne Plunder, who added that her dog "doesn't bark."
Early morning noises are another sore point for neighbors of The Sequoias retirement community. Several spoke at the meeting.
Grove Drive resident Clair Jernick told the council that a piece of machinery at The Sequoias wakes her every day at 5:15 a.m. She's been on the site at that time to witness it, she said, and noted that she's talking with Sequoias officials about it. "It's a very, very slow process," she added.
Councilman Steve Toben, an experienced mediator who would likely chair the workshop(s), said talking it through, as Ms. Jernick is trying to do, is the recommended approach. The council asked Ms. Lambert to look into Ms. Jernick's complaint.
Former mayor Jon Silver recommended "singling out" leaf blowers for special consideration, echoing sentiments expressed minutes earlier by resident Bernie Bayuk.
Someone mentioned chainsaws. "I like using my chainsaw on the weekend and would be very upset about not using it," Ms. Plunder said.