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Downtown neighbors seek quiet, protest loud trucks

Several residents in the Alkali Flat and Mansion Flats neighborhoods downtown are tired of being awakened at odd hours.

They’re asking a local solid waste agency to tighten the rules for the operating hours of private garbage trucks.

About 20 people in the neighborhood want private trash haulers to start work later in the morning. The Sacramento Regional Solid Waste Authority, which oversees private waste haulers in both the city and county, allows trucks to travel through neighborhoods starting at 6 a.m.

Alkali Flat and Mansion Flats residents want to change the rules so that private waste trucks would not operate until “full daylight hours” or 7:30 a.m.

"[Noise from the trucks] wakes us up and also shakes our homes," said Jennifer Caldwell, who lives in the neighborhood.

Caldwell and her neighbors have written a letter to Sacramento County’s Department of Waste Management and Recycling. “The 6 a.m. language is insufficient as the trucks are running when it is dark out (currently 6 a.m. and prior),” the letter states. “The objective is to make it clear that no trucks are to be in residential areas at night. Routes should not begin until after dawn.”

The neighbors contend that private waste trucks are operating earlier than city waste vehicles. “City waste collection crews do not begin until 7:30 or so in our area,” according to the letter.

The neighborhood is also concerned about early-morning noise from leaf blowers. The city’s noise ordinance bans leaf blowers before 9 a.m. Monday to Saturday, and prior to 10 a.m. on Sunday.

Sacramento Code Enforcement Operations Manager Ron O’Connor said enforcement staffers will respond to complaints about leaf blower use “if there’s a pattern” of noise ordinance violations.

The city’s 311 service handles all of the complaints that are sent to the Code Enforcement Department, O’Connor said.

To complain about leaf blowers and private garbage trucks operating before their scheduled times, call 311 by phone. Residents can also e-mail 311 at 311@cityofsacramento.org

Photo by David Watts Barton

Kathleen Haley is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.

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Kathleen Haley

  • Hard to believe that 9 AM is considered early, unless you are a shift worker. Is not most of America not only awake, but on their way to work by 7:30? In reading this it almost looks like some folks get to change their working hours with the rise and fall of the sun.

    • That is certainly something that sounds like a problem that you would want to look into. We live in the heart of Midtown, (have lived in the heart of Seattle, Chicago, etc.), and we hear the street noise from drunk fights, the trucks, the racing cars and motorcycles, the trains, the occasional scream or gun shot, and lots more. If noise is an issue, living in the city may not be a good choice.

    • Jennifer Caldwell

      There is NOTHING unreasonable about expecting to get a good night’s sleep in one’s home. And yes, most of us rise w/ the sun & so should those businesses that make noise…such as heavy duty haulers on the streets of residential areas. This is not about anything but keeping noise limited to hours when it’s least disturbing to residents and most appropriate in conducting business. Think conscientious – live the golden rule.

    • we have zero lot lines downtown. It’s not the burbs. These giant Waste Management Inc. and Allied Waste trucks zoom by 20′ from my bed vibrating the walls and rattling the windows….at 4am, sometimes 2 and 3 times a night.

    • In Chicago the city did just that – mitigate the noise from Ohare & Midway. Several years ago the city settled citizen litigation and paid for noise abatement for many thousands of homes and businesses impacted by the ever increasing traffic at Ohare and Midway. A family member had that done and you cannot hear the planes overhead from inside their home and they live about two miles from Ohare under a major flight path. Noise in cities can be abated and reasonble if the will is there. Living with unreasonable noise is not an inherent ill or evil of city life.

    • As long as you stay inside.
      I would think that if someone seeks a peaceful and quiet setting to live, downtown might not be your best pick. We love the bustle and activity, and we understand that noise comes with it. If we wanted complete quiet, we would live in the country, something in-between might be the suburbs (gag). Unreasonable noise sounds unreasonable., but quiet is not going to happen.

    • True, in theory, but it will NOT be quiet in a downtown enviorment . There is an endless list of noise producers in population dense areas. When you live close in, every thing is closer to you. You cant live close to an airport and not hear the planes.
      The comment. “…And yes, most of us rise w/ the sun….” is hard to believe. Really? I do not think most people go to work late in the winter.

    • Marion Millin


      This is not an either/or argument. That attitude is used to try to tell Midtowners they “don’t know where they live….”

      There is a middle ground and there are regulations, intended to provide some balance and keep Midtown livable. It is not unreasonable to expect those regulations to be followed and enforced.

      As for rights, see Advocate’s comment below about “Constitutional right to Quiet Enjoyment of Property.” Regulations are built upon that.

    • I am not arguing at all. If there is excessive or illegal noise that bothers you, you might want to try to do something about it. I am a big fan of code enforcement , that is lacking. I am very familiar with quiet enjoyment clauses and regulations.
      I do not think people “do not know where they live”. Turn off the TV and listen in silence, there is lots of stuff going on out there. The bulk of the noise you get downtown is from the existance of others. Car doors slamming, car alarms, passing trains, drunk fights, shopping carts, police and fire sirens, big trucks, racing cars and motorcycles, etc are all part of the program I knowingly sign up for when l elect to live in the urban enviorment. I have no illusion that is will not be present, and I would not wish it away.

    • Marion Millin

      That’s right. And when garbage Dumspters are being dropped outside your window at 3:30 in the morning every night of the week and leafblowers are operated illegally every day of the week, you would with them to go away.

    • I do not care about leaf blowers, but again, I would do something if excessive illegal noise bothered me.

  • Marion Millin

    Residents should make those calls regarding private haulers to the County of Sacramento Solid Waste Authority. After years of (trying to) work with the City to stop garbage trucks from coming to Midtown as early as 3:30, 4:00 a.m. and always before dawn, on an almost nightly basis, turns out that the SWA must take action after receiving a certain number of complaints from residents within a 6 month period.

    Call SWA. Record the calls. Expect results.

  • According to these two section the in Sacramento City Code, it appears that power tools are allowed at 7 am, but blowers are not allowed until 9 am (is there a conflict between two sections of the City Code?)
    “8.68.200 Specific unlawful noises. E. Tools. The use or operation between the hours of ten p.m. and seven a.m. of any power saw, power planer, or other powered tool or appliance or saw or hammer, or other tool, so as to disturb the quiet, comfort, or repose of persons in any dwelling, hotel, motel, apartment, or other type of residence, or of any person in the vicinity.” from Title 8 HEALTH AND SAFETY > Chapter 8.68 NOISE CONTROL > Article III General Noise Regulations.

    “8.68.180 Portable gasoline-powered blowers. A. It is unlawful for any person to operate any portable gasoline-powered blower on residential property or within two hundred (200) feet of residential property, except between the hours of nine a.m. and six p.m. Monday through Saturday and between the hours of ten a.m. and four p.m. on Sunday.” from Title 8 HEALTH AND SAFETY > Chapter 8.68 NOISE CONTROL > Article II Noise Standards

    Waste disposal vehicles are rated by noise level produced, and there seems to be no specific prohibition of that type of vehicle (except by the level of noise that it produces).
    8.68.130 Waste disposal vehicles. “It is unlawful for any person authorized to engage in waste disposal service or garbage collection to operate any truck-mounted waste or garbage loading and/or composting equipment or similar mechanical device in any manner so as to create any noise exceeding the following level, when measured at a distance of fifty (50) feet from the equipment or any agricultural or residential property.”

    • Marion Millin

      Yes there are times for waste trucks

  • Next complaint will be “These garbage trucks hold up traffic and make it hard to go to work since they start the same time I leave for work.” Blah, Blah, Blah…

    • Perhaps you don’t live downtown where we have zero lot lines. These giant Waste Management Inc. and Allied Waste trucks zoom by 20′ from my bed vibrating the walls and rattling the windows….at 4am.

  • “Let ME tell you how to run your business. Your scheduling and efficiency of your business means nothing to my beauty sleep.” Get over it!!

    Why don’t you tell the garbage workers or the trains passing by to keep it down out there too? I can’t believe this.

    • William Burg

      Actually, both have already happened…garbage trucks are limited in the hours they can pick up, and due to an FRA special exemption, trains aren’t supposed to blow their horns when crossing through downtown Sacramento unless there is an obstruction on the tracks or other unsafe condition (prior to the change, they would blow a grade-crossing warning as they passed through town.). It’s really not that difficult and not that big of an imposition.

  • four five years i had dumpsters dumped 8 feet from my bedroom window at 5:30 am 7 days a week. i appealed to the city council. no help from un-beloved old city manager. however, the SHRA contract soon went to ATLAS. it took a bit of time, but one of the drivers fixed it. and they now come after 8am . atlas is swell fyi.

  • Casey Kirk

    I understand both sides of the argument here. The people driving these trucks are just doing their jobs and can’t be blamed…although I don’t think it’s the actual employees being blamed here, but rather their employers.
    That being said, after staying at a friends and being awoken (and scared) by a garbage truck that sounded like it was plowing directly into the building, I feel residents’ pain and can understand their frustration.

  • Bill Burgua

    Our residential neighborhood used to have a problem with the commercial building that backed up to us. We had garbage and recycle pick up in the alley as early as 5:30 in the morning. When neighborhood residents spoke with the building management they agreed that this was not being good neighbors. They informed the waste company that if they insisted on picking up waste before 7:00 am that they would find another company to work with. We rarely have trucks before 7:00 now.

  • City code says the private companies can pick up as early as 4 AM and they are usually picking up large dumpsters that crash to the ground, the truck and crashing dumpsters can exceed 100 decibles and if it’s outside your window i assure you it sucks. If you don’t live with this mayhem you do not understand at all and have no baseline from which to criticize anyone. It is a huge quality of life issue in the central city. The city trucks come after 8 AM. Why not be consistent and make all of them 8 am or later? New York City does not allow any trash pick up between 8 PM and 8 AM and they have been doing this whole city thing a lot longer than us. For the residents, I recommend talking to other central city neighborhood associations, I even recall at one time this was an issue for the Midtown Business Association- they might be able to help too. I know from talking to my neighbors that there are many residents across the central city who feel the same way – strength in numbers.

    • Marion Millin

      City trucks can legally come as early as 6:00 — they’re not supposed to leave the lot til 6:00 although some sometimes do.

      There is a “gentleman’s agreement” between the City and the private haulers, who are legally allowed to leave their lots at 4:00 am (and sometimes comes earlier), that they will stay out of residential areas in Midtown until 6 am.

      Residents will discover their most effective phone calls go to the County SWA, which is required to take action upon receiving a certain number of complaints in a six month period.

    • You are so right. Leaf blowers are petty larceny compared to the horrific crashing of one ton slamming cans being tossed like seals by a Great White of a roaring, dinging deisel engine of a trash monster. If you’re ripped out of dreamland four days a week at 4am…you start going to bed at 8pm or you go postal.

  • Jennifer Caldwell

    Thank you Marion. The “gentlemen’s agreement” has resulted in haulers running trucks downtown from 4:15-on. This is unacceptable and the County SWA has been made aware of it. The rule states that an area must be “designated” after the 6 complaints by 3 individuals, before enforcement can be taken. 25 residents of Alkali Flat & Mansion Flats have now complained via letter & requested 7:30 for truck noise to begin in our area. At 6AM it’s dark out & many people are asleep. Residents have asked for rule changes & area designation to provide for quiet during dark hours & for the City’s code enforcement staff to take action when violations occur.

  • The garbage trucks came around 6:30 AM in Brooklyn. At 5:30AM people would start pulling cans and bottles from the recycling bins. I’m not sure where those 8AM city ordinances apply to — I moved back a year ago, but can’t imagine much has changed. Growing up in Carmichael, I learned to accommodate the city noise.

    • Jennifer Caldwell

      If that’s what you want in Carmichael fine, but we don’t want it in our residential downtown areas of Sacramento. This isn’t Brooklyn… and I don’t deserve to be awakened at 4& 5:30 am (nor do people in Brooklyn, for that matter) to “accommodate” rude & unnecessary noise. Let’s stop the contrarian rebuttals please. This is advocacy for “noise normalcy” in our neighborhoods. If you’d like to share your street address, perhaps we can direct the earth shaking loud hauler trucks your way at 4AM 🙂

  • Dale Kooyman

    It is all about residents’ constitutional right to quiet requirement of property. It applies to all businesses, including garbage trucks and night clubs, outdoor concerts and residents holding loud parties or playing music so loud that interferes with their neighbors right, etc.

    ABC knows it well, however, the city of Sacramento has an abysmal record of stating that in its noise codes and enforcing what lame codes it does have. This right is over a century old–county apparently is not any better. In fact most employees of either government don’t even know that right exists, including city council members and board of supervisors members.

    The only way to really resolve this is to do what the disabled folks did when they sued the city on failure to install handicap ramps. That was a mobility rights issue; the courts agreed. If the aggrieved can prove that their right has been violated, the courts will apply that constitutional right.

    Google that phrase and you will see hundreds of court decisions upholding that right over the decades under various circumstances. I never found a case on private garbage haulers, however. So perhaps its time has come in view of the city and county’s bumbling.

  • My NY comment was based on experience in Manhattan – no personal experience in Brooklyn – i would urge Brooklynites to do what people in Manhattan did and ensure the laws are consistent and enforced.

  • Have found that use of gasoline powered leaf blowers has markedly increased in recent years, now occuring almost every day of the week. Noise levels have not decreased, times of operation are regularly violated, and clouds of dirt, debris and noise often fill the air from early morning until late in the day. Ordinance enforcement appears lax or non-existent.

    Our residential Alkali Flat neighborhood is a mixture of single family homes, duplexes, fourplexes and apartments, many of which are beautifully restored Victorians. I was involved in the effort to have leafblowers banned in the 1990’s, but we settled for City promises of better enforcement, quieter blowers, etc. Now these noisy bliowers are rampant again.

    As a professional health educator, I see this pervasive and non-compliant use of leafblowers as primarily a public heath issue. We already have many days of bad air or air “termed “Unhealthy for sensitive groups (including those with asthma, heart disease and young chiildren). The current and more persistent use of these gasoline blowers, commonly known as “dirt blowers” in our neighborhood, is dangerous to the lungs and to the health of our residential comunity. I say, ban them…which has been done in a number of California communities.

    • Marion Millin

      Thank you for working to provide an ordinance. I heard that it wasn’t what proponents wanted, without enough “teeth.”

      It will be enforced, if neighbors do the work, make the calls. Sometimes contacting the violator directly works. Many people don’t know there is an ordinance or think the start time is 7:30 instead of 9.

  • I remember the fight in the 90’s and was sad to see neighbors (us) not win that one and how the city has let us all down by not enforcing and following up on complaints. Perhaps it is time to restart the fight to ban gas powered leaf blowers and redo the garbage truck rules under a blankent of new noise rules to maintain the quality of life in our neighborhoods.

    • Send the leafblowing homeowners to my street please. We love them, compared to the slobs that do absoluetly no propery maintainance.

  • Shellbelle

    I’m with you THSAS! Given the choice between those nasty, noisy leafblowers and allowing moldy leaves and debris filling the gutters adding to the flooding problems(but thats a separate topic) I will gladly live with the noise! Javurek states “most of us rise with the sun” . Since I have no personal knowledge of the citizens of Midtowns’ personal sleeping habits or knowledge of a survey on our residents sleeping habits I wont presume she is correct or wrong. I absolutely agree 100% that UNREASONABLE noise needs to be addressed and corrected. If I were to hear the sound of a lawnmower at 3 in the morning or if my neighbor decided that 11 at night would be a fantastic time to powerwash his home-thats unreasonable. However, this IS the city! Do I LIKE the sound of city trucks at 6am? Not especially….but I like the fact that I’m living in the city with all that the city life has to offer. If the price I pay is (what in every city I have chosen to live in) is what most everyone I know considers the normal clatter and din of city life – so be it. Beats the cookie cutter life of suburbia! I left the life of the burbs when I left my parents home for school in the city. I was extremely irritated by the noise-all the while attracted to the experience of having so many fantastic places to go and see within walking distance. Before long, I learned to co-exist with our noisy city workers. They arent farmers, they dont begin their day based upon the sun rising or falling. If all else fails, earplugs? Good luck!

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