Is it time to review the Vancouver business noise complaint process?

3 minute read

I write this on a Sunny Friday afternoon, birds flying by, a peaceful serenity looking out over to the city from my condo -- with the blaring of car alarms that the city can't do anything about.

It all started several months ago, when I reached out to Carter Honda of Vancouver, to ask them if they could find an alternate way of finding the cars in their overflow lot. The space they use for overflow, is on the top of multi-level car parking lot. When they want to retrieve a car, they drive top the top of the parkade, trigger the car alarm for the car they're looking for, and then drive around in loops and figure 8s, until they find the car in question. Often, they're looking for more than one car, so as soon as one alarm stops, another begins.
The starts with sunrise, and goes on throughout the day. As I write this, 14:00 on a Friday months later, there is a black van eagerly doing loops to find an active car alarm.

So I reached out to them on Twitter, and asked them if they could find an alternative way to find their cars. Being beside several buildings, anyone in any of those apartments will be barraged by these alarms all day long. Good luck trying to have a nap, any day of the week, if you live in the neighbourhood.

So on July 24th, I asked them publicly to fix their process.

They responded right away, on July 24th, that they would work towards a resolution.

Over the months, I realized this was not going to be resolved by the company, so I called the City of Vancouver, to file a noise complaint. The alarms had continued almost daily for 3 more months, I think I was more than patient. I was given a reference number, and a noise complaint against a business was opened. 3 weeks later, and I still had not heard back from the city -- perhaps they could improve this process as well -- so I called back looking for an update, and was provided the contact information for a case worker. His voicemail said not to leave him a voicemail, so I sent him an email at the email address provided. I did not get a response from him, just asking for an update, so I followed up with him again. We eventually were able to connect.

He told me he'd reached out to Carter Honda, and that they were extremely apologetic, and would work towards a remedy. When I heard that, I told him about my experience, which got me to where we were at that moment. He told me frankly, there's not much he could do. It turns out the noise complaint process with the City of Vancouver has two steps, and both work against my complaint.

The first one, is that the noise by-law officer allocates up to 2 hours, at a random time, during business hours, to investigate. If, during those two hours the officer doesn't hear a noise, the file can be dropped. This is bizarre, for situations like mine, where the alarms can start and stop at any time, but if the 2 hours of silence I get tomorrow happen to be when the bylaw officer is there, the case can be dropped?

The second issue I am told, is that the noise measurement tool has to be used from the ground. This is a bizarre requirement, as there are hundreds to thousands of Vancouverites who are forced to listens to the sounds of Carter Honda's alarms, but because the sound is travelling upwards, from a rooftop, the noise meters are not likely to have a notable difference to the ambient noise floor from the ground, outside the parkade.

So here we are today. four months later -- after being directly promised, and after promising the City of Vancouver, we have Carter Honda driving around with car alarms blaring all afternoon with not a care in the world.

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