Perhaps it is just the cold weather that is shutting things down, but the management of the Twin Sisters brewery announced it will not continue its music venue until they can resolve issues with the neighborhood (and by extension, the city) over loud noise. The decision was revealed at a scheduled Sunnyland Neighborhood meeting on November 13th attended by about two dozen residents and three members of the brewery’s management. The nearly two-hour discussion covered issues such as parking, light pollution, traffic, speeding, noise, and loud music.
The parking hell around the brewery was the first topic. Clark Williams of the city’s Public Works Department was there to speak about (but did not recommend) the possibility of creating a Residential Parking Zone, three of which now exist in the neighborhoods bordering Western Washington University (South Hill, Sehome and York). These zones were set up to ensure parking availability during the day in the neighborhoods that otherwise were being invaded by students and employees of the university who could not or would not pay for parking on campus. The idea of a RPZ for the area surrounding the brewery was thus suggested to ensure parking availability for local residents who are now crowded out of parking due to the presence of hundreds of patrons of the establishment. There has never been a RPZ created for evening hours, although the possibility cannot be ruled out. The Bellingham City Council would have to approve a change to the current municipal code section (11.38.010) on RPZs which, with all the accompanying folderol, might take a year to put in place. Even then, the neighbors would have to pay fees for their RPZ parking permits, which is the ultimate and ironic insult to them: having to pay for a reasonable chance of parking near their homes because of a situation created by the brewery. Maybe the brewery can foot the bill for the initial RPZ setup and fees for each resident for the next 10 years.
Then, council member Daniel Hammill spoke to the group for about 15 minutes. , a topic he already blew off in an email to the neighbors in which he said the equivalent of “not my job” to help out constituents. To quote the council member, “..it’s not the role of council to intervene on police or planning department matters.” Mr. Hammill used his 15 minutes of infamy to speak instead of disaster preparedness for wind, fire, water and earth, while the neighbors present were experiencing a disaster of their own called “unlivable conditions.” And then Hammill beat feet for another meeting. Busy fella.
Rounding out the evening, Neighborhood Police Officer Dante Alexander was fed into the whirring Asplundh chipper of irate neighbors. After the usual presentation on the woes of car prowls and other crimes and misdemeanors in the neighborhood, the discussion was finally turned in the direction of the brewery and the NOISE of the live music, specifically, the rules under which the police operate. A surprising reveal was that infractions issued for violations of the noise ordinance are not issued against the brewery as a company but against the manager or person in charge at the time. So there is no buildup of infractions against the brewery and as long as the person in charge keeps changing from evening to evening, the citations will go to a variety of individuals. [And here I was under the mistaken belief that corporations could be held responsible as they are persons under the pronouncement of the Supreme Court backed up by Mr. Mitt “Corporations are people, my friend” Romney.]
For their part, the brewery reps made a plea to the crowd, asking “what else they could do to mitigate.” This, after one person suggested that the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center be called forth to mediate. Just what is there to mediate? The level of misery to be tolerated by the neighbors? How nice to see such conciliatory behavior on the part of the management a posteriori. A year ago, meeting with the neighbors was anathema to the city and the management. Now, they both have an image problem and have woken up.
But the problem lies not only with the brewery but with the enforcement of the codes, most of which seem to work for the brewery and not the people who have to live there day after day. I am still waiting on a two-week old request for copies of the police reports for the 911 calls from the 27th and the 31st of October when 18 calls were made over the period of several hours each evening. Those reports may shed more light on the vagaries of enforcement, i.e.,from shutting down the music completely on August 25th and more recently asking the management to turn it down a tad, which seems to be the current default action.