Residents in the West San Jose Starbird neighborhood are wondering why parties with loud music and strobe lights aren’t shut down.
The noise and at times lack of response by the San Jose Police Department may have led some residents to believe the city doesn’t have a noise ordinance, but that is not the case. While city code has no established noise curfew, it says no one is permitted to “disturb the peace, quiet and comfort of any neighborhood” by creating any disturbing or unreasonably loud noise. Dealing with these disturbances comes down to call volume and how many officers are available, according to the San Jose Police Department.
Resident Tommy Wei doesn’t mind people enjoying music in their backyards, especially on the weekend. But he said earlier this month the music from a neighbor’s house was too loud and the thumping bass was unnerving.
He said the music started at 3 p.m. and the bass kicked in an hour later. When Wei asked his neighbors to turn it down, he said they told him they had the landlord’s permission to party until 11 p.m. As the decibels increased, Wei started calling the San Jose Police Department’s non-emergency line on the hour and was told they’d send someone over when available. At 10 p.m. he called every 15 minutes, but there was no response.
“That noise was so loud the entire block was affected by one neighbor,” he told San José Spotlight. “I can manage loud music, but I cannot manage this loud, deep bass. It’s shaking my house. I couldn’t sleep. I cannot work. I cannot read. I cannot watch TV.”
Wei said the neighbor has played music loudly before, but this was the first time it continued for eight hours straight. The 311 operator told him Saturday was a busy night for police and officers responded to calls according to priorities.
Steve Aponte, spokesperson for the San Jose Police Department, told San José Spotlight that SJPD responds to noise complaints depending on staffing resources and call volume. San Jose has 1,074 officers and is authorized for 1,173, according to city data.
Since Jan. 1, SJPD has responded to more than 1,700 music disturbance calls, Aponte said. According to SJPD’s website, “Persons wishing to remain anonymous or that are not available for contact will be advised that an officer will not respond but their call will be logged.”
Aponte said although there is no established noise curfew, a disturbance is a violation of the code regardless of the time of day.
Vice Mayor Rosemary Kamei, who represents the Starbird neighborhood in District 1, said she knows how frustrating excessive noise can be—but the lack of resources and officers affects response times. Kamei said in the event of a loud party disturbing the peace, residents should call (408) 277-8900 and include the address.
“It’s one of the reason why it’s such a high priority for us to continue to hire more officers,” she told San José Spotlight. “This year we put more money in the budget to hire more police … but we’re still lacking in the number of officers that we wish we had.”
The city manager’s office deferred comment to the police department.
Resident Sean O’Connor had strobe lights flashing in his windows and music vibrating through his home. He asked his neighbors to turn the music down to no avail and had a text from the landlord to call the non-emergency line after 10 p.m. if the noise continued. When he called, he was told officers would be sent when available. O’Connor posted a video on Nextdoor, a neighborhood social media site, with a plea to San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan to intercede.
“Mayor Matt.. please help,” he said. “So many neighbors have called in this Disturbing the Peace noise ordinance between 10pm and now and we’re all being told there is no noise ordinance in the City of San Jose?? Dog is freaking out and wish me luck getting the family to sleep. Unfortunately, the renters don’t understand common courtesy… I’ll keep playing the lottery so I can afford to move out… until then, would be nice to help the good citizens who pay local taxes to… Never mind.”
The issue of loud parties in San Jose is a common problem. Resident Mengna Lin said on Nextdoor that her neighbor hosts parties past 2 a.m. When she asked her neighbor to turn the music down, they did for about 30 minutes before cranking it back up, she said.
“I called the non-emergency line, and they did send someone a few hours after the party,” she said. “At least they did something.”
O’Connor said it’s about courtesy and being respectful of each other.
“Update: they shut it down,” he posted later that same night. “Shout out to all the neighbors that called this in.”
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected].