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Has Vancouver become noisier? Yes, yes it has

Residents say noise from construction, traffic and emergency vehicles increasing.
Results of a City of Vancouver survey show residents believe the city has become noisier in recent years, with top concerns pointing to noise from construction and landscaping equipment such as leaf blowers.

A city-led public feedback exercise that received almost 4,000 responses from residents, business operators and people who work and play in Vancouver has found the city has become noisier.

Increased noise from construction, landscaping and building maintenance equipment such as leaf blowers, traffic, delivery trucks and emergency vehicles were identified in a City of Vancouver survey conducted between May 9 and May 30, 2023.

A total of 52 per cent of respondents indicated they are either “very or somewhat concerned” about the increase in noise, with 85 per cent saying noise has significantly or somewhat increased in recent years.

City staff has prepared a report on the results that will go before city council April 23.

Some of the other findings:

• More than half of respondents were not satisfied with current construction noise regulations, with noise outside of permitted hours being the greatest concern.

When asked about potential changes to the current regulations, the main themes that emerged included reducing permitted hours, avoiding construction on weekends, implementing noise mitigation measures, stronger enforcement, need for quieter communities and addressing cumulative noise impacts in the city.

• Landscaping equipment was identified as a “significant area of concern” with 65 per cent of respondents stating that it affects them.

Almost half (49 per cent) of respondents consider the current regulations for landscaping equipment as “too relaxed,” while another 40 per cent consider them to be “reasonable and sufficiently effective.”

The survey didn’t state in which part of the city the respondents lived.

The main themes that emerged through open-ended responses was a call to ban gas-powered leaf blowers in the city “to reduce the unnecessary source of noise and pollution and to ensure consistent, equitable and enforced regulations of this tool across the entire city.”

There is presently a complete ban on leaf blowers in the West End.

'Loud talking, shouting'

Half of the respondents also identified noise from people’s homes as a concern, such as parties, music and “loud talking/shouting.”

Comparatively, sound and noise from commercial premises such as bars and restaurants was only identified as a concern by less than a third of respondents.

Indoor special events noise received the lowest rating for concern.

When asked about familiarity with noise regulations in Vancouver, 61 per cent stated they are somewhat or very familiar with how sound, noise or both is regulated by the city.

The majority (52 per cent) of respondents expressed support for more arts, culture and community events in Vancouver, and stated they have “little or no concern” about noise from special events.

With respect to allowing the city to issue special event noise exemption permits, almost half of respondents (46 per cent) supported this initiative, with 18 per cent being neutral to it and 36 per cent opposed.

“Based on these findings, staff will seek council’s direction to prioritize future work in these areas to address public concerns and consult with industries to reduce potential impact, wherever possible, and to find effective solutions in an evolving urban landscape,” the report said.

Apartment, condo dwellers

A total of 78 per cent of respondents were residents, another 18 per cent were business operators and industry representatives or workers in Vancouver.

Among industry representatives that indicated their area of work, the top three included event organizers and entertainers (42 per cent), commercial industry (34 per cent) and restaurant/hospitality (15 per cent).

A total of 61 per cent of respondents said they lived in an apartment or condo building, and 25 per cent in a single-detached house. Almost 80 per cent of respondents were between 30 and 69 years old.

The survey was promoted in six languages, and participants could use the auto-translation function, available in 16 languages, on the city’s “Shape Your City” website platform.

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