Bad Guys: Edmonds Noise Pollution



Table of Contents

In Brief


Under a City of Edmonds permit, the Westgate Chapel conducted a "Community Fair". Part of that was a heavily amplified jazz band. As far as I could tell, it was good music and a competent band. But I didn't want to listen to it 3 blocks away, in Snohomish County.

After personally asking the band to turn it down, and after several calls to police, I was left with a distrust of the Edmonds permitting process and of the Edmonds police response to the situation.

Possibly what I observed is legal. In that case I can join with fellow citizens to assure the laws are changed. Since we are talking City-vs-County, that probably requires State Law changes. Noise pollution is ripe for citizen action anyway -- this could be a seminal case.

Possibly it was a simple mixup in permitting and then in enforcement:

  • Maybe no-one realized that the Westgate Chapel isn't a little "chapel" tucked away in the woods, but is instead a burgeoning multi-block building-and-asphalt empire pushing ever further into the residential neighborhood. Both trees and homes died for the latest round of parking lots, and the parking for this fair eventually reached my own driveway.

  • Maybe no-one realized just how loud a "dance band" at a "church fair" could be. With modern amps and speakers, it was well into the rock-band range.

In that case, I look forward to process improvements to assure it is not repeated.

Possibly it was a deliberate winking at the law, on behalf of a favored religion. This I would challenge vigorously.


When the "music" started, I printed a copy of this web page, and wrote on it "Not Again!". I walked the 3 blocks to the fair and gave it to the band leader.

The volume remained high. I called 911. Standard response: They have a permit.


Just prior to the annual onslaught, I exchanged email with Dan Radley

When the "music" started, I called 911. Got routed to an Edmonds LEO, who suggested I send a letter to the Edmonds City Council. As soon as I have a breather in my night school, overtime, and family committments, I'll do that.

By the way: The "music" made it difficult to hear the video tapes for my night school class. Once the tapes were done, I was forced to leave my home for several hours.


I personally enjoy Gregorian chants. I do not enjoy them at decibels requiring police escort. I also enjoy listening to the breeze whisper though autumn leaves, unsullied by amplified assault. Yet here is someone who takes me to task for not accepting "a little bit of noise": Rancidpvnker. Apparently I'm the one who is "cruel", not the people using amplification to destroy peace and quiet.


In May I got an email from someone trying to arrange a face-to-face meeting regarding this webpage. I respect that. We tried a couple of weeks to meet at the Conversation Cafe at 3rd Place Books, but he never made it, and he eventually sent a note saying to forget it.

Then I got a potty-mouthed note from James Deacon. (Please do not read if you are offended by foul language.)

Folks, I don't mind you having a party. Make a joyous noise. Just please don't use any more electronic amplification than Jesus used for the Sermon on the Mount. Or if you do, do it indoors where only your psyches and hearing are impaired.


To the Edmonds City Council:


How can we assure that the Christians of Westgate Chapel do not impose their taste in music or religion on the neighborhood, including the surrounding County?

To Snohomish Country:

Contact: TBD

At what point do Edmonds activities warrant action from the County? Or have you just written off the Esperance area entirely?

To Washington State:

Contact: TBD

In a jurisdiction conflict between city and county, what role does the state play? Do state regulations and code apply in this case?

In Detail


This morning there was loud music from somewhere to the southwest of my home. At first I thought it was the Woodway HighSchool marching band, since they sometimes march through the neighborhood. But it kept playing, was stationary, and it sounded amplified. So I got in my car and drove until I found the source. It was the Westgate Chapel, holding what they called a "Community Fair".

"Chapel" may have been an appropriate name at one time, but it has grown to overwhelm several blocks with buildings, parking lots, traffic rerouting and traffic light revisions. It is (barely) inside the City of Edmonds, and I just happen to live outside the city, in Snohomish County.

There was no parking for blocks around, so I drove home, walked back, and told the band leader I wanted the amp turned down. He pointed to the sound man. I said the same to the sound man, noting I would call the police if they kept it up. I pointed out that they didn't need amplification at all, since it was a fairly small venue. No response, so I walked home and called 911.

1:00 I explained that it was not an emergency, so who should I call? The operator said I could go ahead and report the problem. I said I didn't want to make a formal complaint, but asked that someone just go ask them to tone it down.

1:50 I asked if they'd had a chance to talk to the band. The operator said he couldn't find the original call, but would look into it.

2:25 I asked if there were any records of my previous calls, and what was going on. The answer was that, yes, they had records of 3 calls, but that the county could not respond because the Chapel was inside the City of Edmonds. However, the county could ask the responding Edmonds officer to call me from the scene so I could lodge a formal complaint.

I received a call from an officer Anway, who was off duty , working for the fair , who said:

  • He was working the fair with Sgt Jerry Gannon

  • Gannon had taken the "earlier call" [which one?]

  • The fair had the necessary permits from the City of Edmonds

  • He was a few hundred feet from the music and didn't think it was loud.

  • I was the only one who had complained.

  • He didn't know what decibel levels would be considered excessive for the permit.

  • It would be over by 4:00.

  • It was just like the Taste of Edmonds -- didn't I participate in that? NOTE: The Taste of Edmonds is held in a commercial area, not a (previously) quiet residential neighborhood. I don't recall the bands at the Taste being anywhere near as loud as this band.


  1. If the 911 system cannot track simple noise complaints, is it ready for more serious crises?

  2. Just how loud would an Edmonds party have to be, to warrant response from Snohomish County? How loud before Edmonds itself becomes concerned for its own citizens? How loud before DSHS asks parents why they are letting their children stand in front of the speakers?

    A quick search of the Edmonds web page didn't turn up answers.

  3. Is it a conflict of interest for the "responding officer" on a noise complaint to be the off-duty officer paid to work the event?

  4. The observation that I lodged the only complaint is not relevant. There are a number of reasons that might be true:

    1. The amplifiers happened to be pointed toward my house, with only a few trees in the path. As I drove around, I found relatively quiet areas close to the Chapel.

    2. My neighbors may be willing to give Christians a bit more slack than other religions or groups. The same decibels from a rock band (or an Islamic celebration) would not have been tolerated.

    3. It is intimidating to walk through a crowd toward an ear-splitting bank of speakers and request the band turn it down.

    4. It is even more intimidating to learn that the 911 process has turned your request over to someone paid by the source of the problem.

Creator: Harry George
Updated/Created: 2004-06-26