The Turn It Down Coalition is a broad group of 250+ District residents, workers and businesses including medical facilities, offices, hotels and restaurants, that are asking the City Council to pass legislation to provide relief from excessive sound levels projected by some street musicians and find a reasonable and enforceable balance between two legitimate, but conflicting uses in DC’s successfully created vibrant, mixed-use environment.
The District’s current Noise Control Act is 40 years old and inadequate. Its provisions do not cover buskers’ sound levels in downtown and do not effectively address the widespread availability of portable amplification.
The most recently proposed legislation would limit the sound level of amplified buskers so that it is not “plainly audible to an individual of normal hearing at a vertical, horizontal, or diagonal distance of 100 feet or more from the sound source.” No one is making a donation from 100 feet away so this approach, which is a similar to how other cities have resolved the issue, shouldn’t have an impact on busker donations. It exempts demonstrations and other events that have received permits. Other cities have successfully defined that balance between buskers continuing to play and making a living and residents and workers reasonable use of their homes and workplaces; union activity has not stopped and First Amendment rights have not been infringed. Examples of cities that successfully addressed the issue include New Orleans, Chicago, Cambridge, New York City, San Francisco and Portland, OR.
The proposed bill has been “decriminalized” from an earlier draft. Violations could result in a fine, but that would mean repeated violations after warnings and no jail.
No one is attempting to regulate or limit the type or content of any speech. There is no interest from anyone to stop buskers or their ability to attract, entertain, and solicit donations from a crowd. It is specifically an issue of excessive volume and to simply Turn It Down (#TurnitDownDC).