Despite the best efforts by Austinites to dissuade out-of-towners from moving here, they are. The city’s grown more than any other metropolitan area over the last five years, and with all that growth comes plenty of noise. That's not to mention the additional noise brought about by events like SXSW, which draw thousands of party-happy visitors from all over the world.
So it's not surprising that as Austin grows larger, it might also be growing louder. Over the past five years, noise complaints in Austin have gone up by 470 percent, from 2,782 total complaints in 2010 to 13,100 in 2014. Still, only 1.5 percent of those have faced citation – 515 out of 33,107, according to city data obtained by KUT. Below you can view the increase in noise complaints from 2010 to 2014 in an interactive map.
Many complaints are 'not enforceable'
Lt. Brian Gruetzner of the Austin Police Department says the increase in the number of complaints is attributable to the city’s growth. And the reason that citations aren't often issued, he says, is that the majority of people who call 3-1-1 or the police to file a noise complaint don’t actually want to press charges — that, or the calls are simply unenforceable.
“The general problem is that we either take the call, and we find out it’s not enforceable,” he says. “Meaning it’s within the limits [and] it’s not in city ordinance violation."
The most common complaint: Loud music or TV
City ordinance allows noise up to 85 decibels from businesses that operate as performance venues from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., and more often than not complaints near downtown are under that cap. The sound ordinance also limits noise past a property line from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m, with a cap of 75 decibels. That’s the basis behind the most common complaint: Loud Music/TV.
SXSW gets loud, but usually not too loud for the city
So, while SXSW may ruffle feathers of neighbors near venues, many of the complaints don’t even register because the decibel level doesn't reach the limit. Plus, businesses and pop-up venues often apply for temporary noise permits. From 2010 to 2014 there were on average 140 complaints over the five-day stretches of the fest’s music portion, compared to an average of 94.4 complaints on the last four New Year’s Eves.
Search by address
Curious about if your neighbors have called in a complaint on you? Type in an address in the map below to search for previously filed complaints.
The data used in this interactive was provided by the City of Austin, and shows every noise complaint filed to 3-1-1 and the Austin Police. You can view the full dataset online as a PDF or Google Drive spreadsheet.