By Paul Scott
Last year, a group of 17 members of the Assembly Budget Committee inserted a rider in an otherwise unrelated bill (AB 1824) that changed the penalties in the CA vehicle code for operating a vehicle with an illegal exhaust. The bill passed quietly with no opposition presumably because those affected were unaware of it. Our own Assembly Member Richard Bloom voted yes, so kudos to him for wanting to protect his constituents!
Prior to this change, a motorcycle rider with loud pipes, or a person driving a car with loud pipes, might be pulled over, but the penalty was a mere $25 fine and a “fix it ticket”. This meant the vehicle owner had to replace the illegal pipes with legal ones and have it inspected by the state before operating it. Of course, the penalty was so low, and the chance of getting pulled over so slight, they would just replace the legal pipes with the loud ones again. Because of this weak penalty, Santa Monica police wrote only 11 tickets for loud pipes over the past five years! The loud pipes crowd learned they could disturb our peace anytime, anywhere with no penalty.
The new penalty is a mandatory fine of $1,000, and there is no longer the option of a fix it ticket. That got their attention!
The reason the rider option was used, essentially hiding the provision in another bill, is because the manufacturers of loud aftermarket exhausts are now a big lobby. They attack any effort to reign in these law breakers who assault our communities with extremely loud vehicles, and they marshall thousands of bike riders and car enthusiasts who like loud pipes to assist in the lobbying effort.
If you want to see what kind of people we are talking about, Google AB 1824 and watch the dozens of videos produced by angry young men (they are virtually all young men), and read the comments. These people talk openly about making as much noise as possible without any regard to the harm they cause to innocent people. People, I might add, who have a legal right to the quiet enjoyment of their property.
Petitions have been started to overturn the law and thousands have signed. AB 390 was introduced to overturn this law and allow loud vehicles to once again run rampant with no penalties. It’s as though the state took a stick and clobbered a hornet’s nest. These are very angry young men. I’m certain Assembly Member Bloom will vote against this new bill, but it could pass.
I have worked with the Santa Monica City Council and SMPD for over four years to get them to ticket loud motorcycles riding through our community. For most of that time, there was little interest from the City to deal with the problem, but after Cynthia Renaud was named Chief of police, I was informed by the head of the traffic division, Captain Darrick Jacob, they would now begin ticketing loud bikes. This change took place toward the end of last year, but after hearing about this new law, Captain Jacob informed me that it would help in their efforts to rid our streets of the problem. I thought at the time that this was good news and a real turning point in our city.
I appear to have been misinformed. Since January, I have asked Captain Jacob three times how many tickets the Santa Monica PD has issued for loud pipes, and his response was – crickets. Nothing. I can only assume that no tickets have been written for loud pipes and that the SMPD is not enforcing this law. Certainly, the daily assault by loud vehicles continues, so the loud pipes crowd feels it’s safe to make all the noise they want. They sure aren’t afraid of Santa Monica’s police department.
All year long, Santa Monica residents have to put up with these extremely loud vehicles disrupting our peace and quiet. It is the job of our police to protect us from these law breakers, and our state legislature gave them a good law with teeth to use against them, but our police department apparently refuses to enforce the law as it was intended.
Clearly they don’t consider it a priority. That’s too bad because it’s an easy problem to fix. If the PD were to write an article for this local paper informing the loud pipes crowd that they are going to aggressively enforce the law on loud vehicles, and then follow up by having their patrol officers listen for, and ticket, these law breakers, it won’t be long before those with loud pipes either replace them with legal factory pipes, or stop riding through Santa Monica.
Every time you hear one of these exceptionally loud vehicles in your neighborhood, or blasting you as you eat at an outside cafe, just know that your police department has deemed that action OK, and that in spite of the law, they will not protect you from that bad actor.
If you want your police department to enforce this law, call or email Captain Darrick Jacobs, Police Chief Cynthia Renaud, and be sure to let your City Council members know as well. They have the power to instruct the police chief to enforce the law, but they need to hear from you, so make noise to end the noise!
All City employees as well as the Council Members contact info can be found here: https://www.smgov.net/departments/council/ and https://santamonicapd.org
For background on the health issues related to noise, refer to Noise Free America: https://noisefree.org.