How Loud is Loud?

By Marianne Seregi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 22, 2007

Noise is a fact of city life -- jackhammers, sledgehammers, horns, sirens, truck motors, car motors, motormouths, wailing, whistling, banging, screeching, preaching. It's the preaching that has set off a tempest in one corner of Washington and the banging that has set it off all over.

Residents are pushing new ordinances to limit noise, and the D.C. Council will decide their fates this fall.

In Northeast, residents want noise limits on noncommercial speech made with an amplifier. They are annoyed by protesters and street preachers who deliver their messages with microphones at Eighth and H streets.

Eighth Street NE resident David Klavitter has sought a clampdown for more than two years. He created the "Quest for Quiet" blog in 2005 and has made 200 entries documenting noise.

The preachers are on the corner every weekend. "It was exhausting yesterday -- worsened whenever a passerby would challenge the preachers' message," Klavitter wrote in one post. "Yelling and screaming ensues, while cars, trucks and buses roar past. It's a maddening cacophony of noise. The residents need relief."

The Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge has preached on the corner for more than three years. The group's leader, Yahanna, said Thursday that it's the preachers' message that bothers residents of the gentrifying area and that they lowered their mics and moved to a later time to no avail. "If black men stand up and tell other black men that the root of their problem is white people, you enter into a realm that is unacceptable to white America," he said.

The council will also consider a bill to stop noisy trash and recycling pickups before 7 a.m. "We're making an effort to get these companies to stop widespread notorious ignoring of the law, because that's what they're doing," said council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), the sponsor.

"These pre-dawn pickups wake up our entire family," wrote blogger Bill Adler on

With the council confronting noise concerns, The Washington Post decided to find out how loud the District is.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company