My nocturnal neighbor has the loudest motorcycle ever.
April 20, 2015 11:34 AM   Subscribe

Here's the short version: My neighbor has the loudest motorcycle I have ever heard. This thing is a serious chopper monster. I live in a pretty residential part of LA (Albeit, rapidly gentrifying and so this whole thing has weird classist overtones. I am the furthest thing from a NIMBY-ite, but this bike is insane) and it's become a complete terror. The police don't care very much- What're our options?

If this dude was just driving around during the day, I'd shrug my shoulders and chalk it up to bad luck. But his prime riding hours are between midnight and 7 AM when he seems to go back and forth from his apartment multiple times a night. He wakes up my fiancee and I, he wakes up the neighbors kids, dogs bark, car alarms go off etc etc. I'm a very sound sleeper and he woke me up five times last night. I seriously can't understate how profoundly loud this bike is, it actually shakes the windows in the apartment. Also, dude has one leg which adds to his air of sinister mystery.

The cops are basically helpless. They keep telling me to talk to my neighbor (And I've tried, but he won't return letters and hasn't called my number that I left) and that unless they kind of catch him in the act, there's not much they can do.

So the question:
1- Have you had success at dealing with a local neighborhood problem that the law doesn't care much about? Tips or tricks?

2- Are there specific LA ordinances that would cover exceptionally loud vehicles?
posted by GilloD to Society & Culture (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Are there specific LA ordinances that would cover exceptionally loud vehicles

According to this CHIP Bulletin, local motor vehicle noise ordinances are forbidden by state law.
posted by Jahaza at 11:41 AM on April 20, 2015

It sounds like you've already done what LAPD recommends on this site and this site if you called the local PD.
posted by resurrexit at 11:42 AM on April 20, 2015

The L.A. City attorney's office has free mediation services. You might want to start there.
posted by Sophie1 at 11:43 AM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

I live by the Amtrak yard, and we shroud our windows in heavy drapes and I wear earplugs (the waxy kind, not the swimmer's kind.) He could be working at night, he could be running errands, he could be a jerk. You could try pounding on his door and asking him if he could try baffles, but I wouldn't expect cooperation. Are you zoned for residential only?
posted by Ideefixe at 11:43 AM on April 20, 2015

To be honest, and I'm not some purse clutching doomsayer, heading in and out multiple times between ~12-7am sounds like drug dealing to me.

And I wouldn't bother calling the cops on that one, since it kinda does fall in the you have no evidence/they probably won't do shit category... I'd just move.
posted by emptythought at 11:49 AM on April 20, 2015

Aha--you say apartment. Your lease, unless handwritten in crayon, probably addresses noises and respecting neighbors, etc. I'd start there and take this to the landlord with the complaints of as many fellow tenants as possible.
posted by resurrexit at 11:51 AM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

He's probably running straight pipes (i.e. no muffler at all), and he probably lost the leg in a bike crash, which is to say that it sounds like you're dealing with a pretty hardcore old-school biker. If the cops need to catch him in the act, suggest that they have a car swing by every few hours at night, and cite that ordinance someone posted upthread. Only other thing I can think of is to tell the guy you'll go halvsies on a set of mufflers for his bike. (Very pricey.) Good luck!
posted by scratch at 11:53 AM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yes. I have experience. I was sued for a barking dog by a neighbor who was right. My dog barked now and then. When he did, I let him into the house, but he sued for one particular date, a day when we were out and left the dog in the back yard fence for 4 hours. And he won. He also retained the right to continue to sue me whenever he liked as long as he could prove the dog was disturbing the peace, or whatever it might be called. Its been some years. He never sued again but died instead (no, we didn't kill him).

The point is, it's a civil matter. Find out the ordinances in your jurisdiction regarding noise. Also, talk to your neighbors, including HIM, and just maybe together you all could begin to help him learn some empathy. I truly believe in trying to work things out face to face first. I know you've tried, but walk out into the street one night when he pulls up on his monster bike and just confront him (with your cellphone in your pocket).

If that doesn't work - use whatever law you're able to access. My guess is there is one, but you will likely have to be more specific than just "LA". Look up your specific location's ordinances on line or consult an atty, but I'm sure there is something you can use on the books.
posted by seldom seen at 11:54 AM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

My guess is there is one

Your guess is wrong -- How your right to a quiet home was stolen.
posted by Rash at 12:01 PM on April 20, 2015

I went through almost exactly this, except it was a "boom car" with my neighbor who worked rotating night shifts and thought nothing of waking up the entire block with his music at 2 a.m. (Also, unmuffled motorcycles are illegal in most urban jurisdictions, even during daytime non-noise-ordinance times. Look that up too.)

Start documenting the noise today -- "12:14 a.m., motorcycle so loud it rattled windows. 3:22 a.m., motorcycle, woke toddler. 6:14 a.m., motorcycle, all windows and doors closed." Note times, dates, and make particular notes of loudness, such as when it rattles the house or wakes you from sleep. You're going to need to show how unreasonable it is, and how it interferes with your life. You can probably find an app on your smartphone where you just roll over and hit a button and it records the time for you, so you don't have to wake all the way up, or keep a notepad on the bedside table.

You will also want to note how far his usual motorcycle parking spot is from your house, in feet or yards (you can get a good approximation via google maps) -- laws often specify how far away the noise has to be heard. If you can, get a guesstimate of how far away you keep hearing it ("can definitely hear until he turns the corner half a mile away") or whatever.

Finally, see if you can get a dB reading on it from your bedroom window (for example), maybe using a phone app. Obviously this is just an estimate with an inexact measurement, but we're building enough evidence to get the cops interested.

After you have maybe a month of records, call the cops again, ask to speak to whoever handles persistent noise complaints. Politely let them know you've called a few times before, and you understand the difficulty of catching transient noise violators like this, but you've documented over 180 incidences of noise ordinance violations in the past 30 days, which even your iPhone is recording the dB level from 75 feet away as 100 dB, with the greatest frequency occurring between 2 and 4 a.m. Would they send a patrol car to the neighborhood to try to catch him in the act? They might say yes, and then yay! Hopefully they will catch him doing it.

If they say no, your next step is talking to your city councilperson (or other appropriate elected official whose body oversees police and nuisance ordinances). Tell them that you have documented over 180 noise ordinance violations in 30 days (after calling the cops several times with no resolution), and that this is a clear and ongoing violation that is interfering with your quiet enjoyment as a law-abiding and voting member of the public. Hopefully your city councilperson knows who you should talk to, or can get code enforcement or the police off their butts to deal with your complaint. Do not feel shy about writing to your city councilperson with an individual complaint like this -- that is literally what they are there for. (This is the level where my complaint got resolved; my neighbor got caught by the police and got ticketed and towed because it was so loud. It was a really expensive ticket with a mandatory court appearance and he had to go to impound to bail his car out.)

If you still get no traction (and assuming your neighbor is still non-responsive to the polite approach), you will have to file a suit in small claims (or whatever the appropriate venue is) but, good news!, you have got two or three months of carefully-documented law-breaking behavior to present to the judge as evidence, while your neighbor just has "but I love my motorcycle! I should get to ride it! It's street legal!" on his. (Also, no way he's going to present his motorcycle to the court because there is no possible way it's street-legal if it's that loud.)

My neighbor has not spoken to me in almost four years, just FYI, because he's still pretty pissed I got him ticketed and towed, which I gotta say, I would be too if I were him. I knew it was going to be a pretty hefty ticket, but I didn't know it was going to be THAT big or involved a mandatory tow or that he had prior violations on his record. I'm not saying don't do it -- no regrets! Nobody's been woken up at 2 a.m. by his horrible car for four years now! And I approached him politely several times and he told me to fuck off! -- but do realize there may be fallout, and you may not know in advance how nuclear the fallout may be.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:10 PM on April 20, 2015 [39 favorites]

Thanks for all the details! Lots to digest here and certainly not the easy victory I was hoping for, but when is it ever?

As far as I'm concerned, between like 9 AM and 10 PM this dude can ride around rattling windows all over LA. It's what makes America terribleawesomegreatbad. But its a terrible ride given his hours of operation.

And I'm certain it has to be breaking some laws with regards to the bike. I seriously can't overstate how loud this thing is. I've lived in cities all my life, all over the world and this is the single loudest vehicle I've ever heard by a wide margin.

As for solving this as a civil matter, I mean. I'd love to be high-minded about this, but this is still a 'neighborhood in transition' as they'd say where many older members of the community have gang ties going way back. Confronting this dude at 3 AM in his driveway is substantially outside of my comfort zone and, I think, not the best idea I've ever had. Leaving a letter with my number and an invitation to discuss is about as close as I'd like to get.

I'll be sure to post updates as they happen. In the meanwhile, keep posting- I'm learning a ton!
posted by GilloD at 12:21 PM on April 20, 2015

This happened to me in LA! The asshole neighbor was a bartender and came home at 2:30 every night, waking us up and setting off car alarms.

During the same week, I heard he was pulled over and ticketed by police for not having mufflers, AND that an unknown disgruntled neighbor put up a poster next to his bike threatening to vandalize the bike if the mufflers were not fixed. I believe his landlord wrote him a perform or quit notice as well because tenants had complained.

Neighbor did fix the bike. He was such an asshole, the whole saga still makes me grin!

I wouldn't threaten the guy if I were you, and maybe the law has changed in the last seven years, but I'm letting you know this problem can get resolved. Also, your neighbors would probably love you forever if you can fix this.

LAPD does take tips that folks are drug dealers very seriously. Just contact the community liason officer for your district. Ditto about getting the fellow pulled over and ticketed. Community Liason Officer. Find him or her and open a dialogue! Good luck!!
posted by jbenben at 12:26 PM on April 20, 2015

Not sure how well it'd stand up as evidence, but this app lets you measure decibels and overlay that on top of a photo. Could snag a pic of the guy and measure the noise level at the same time. Should also record the time the photo was taken. You can then show this either to the cops or to your landlord.
posted by resurrexit at 12:28 PM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

Could you approach a few other neighbors about the problem, especially ones with kids? They might all be suffering in silence. If you can join forces as a united front with the complaint, you might get even more traction from the police/local government.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 12:32 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Another device that could be useful - Sense is a sleep monitor, but it also records loud sounds and notes the times that the sound happens and correlates that to your sleep disturbances, so you don't have to make notes yourself.
posted by three_red_balloons at 2:24 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Police often don't enforce loud motorcycle laws because a lot of cops like to ride loud motorcycles. You might have to enlist the help of a local politician to put pressure on the police to even take your complaint seriously.
posted by rikschell at 3:31 PM on April 20, 2015

Here is a nice (Android) app for recording events & they time they happen, with just a couple of taps.
posted by flug at 8:32 AM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

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