• Noise Control Code Amendment: Amplified Sound

    This Bellevue City Code Amendment (BCCA) extended the hours and days when amplified sound may be permitted. 

    Background

    In November 2020, the City Council adopted an updated economic development plan, which aims "to encourage more activities and events that enhance placemaking, community building and promotion of Bellevue." This includes neighborhood gatherings and multifamily courtyard gatherings, as well as events on private commercial plazas that highlight our multicultural community and bring vibrancy to our public spaces. Prior to this amendment, the city code placed strict limits on amplified sound, including when used at such gatherings. 

    Bellevue City Code 9.18 requires a noise permit to use sound amplification equipment when the amplified sound could be clearly audible across a real property boundary, or at least 75 feet from the source. Prior to this amendment, applicants could only use amplified sound 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday to Saturday. Amplified sound was not permitted on Sundays or legal holidays. The purpose of this BCCA was to develop amendments to these restrictions to better support smaller events, while still limiting negative impacts to neighbors. 

    What happened?

    On April 11, 2022, the City Council adopted Ordinance 6657 to expand the days and hours when amplified sound can be permitted.

    The following city code amendments were adopted:

    • Allowing for amplified sound on Sundays and legal holidays
    • Allowing for amplified sound past 5 p.m.:
      • 8 a.m.-8 p.m., Sunday through Thursday
      • 8 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 

    Interested in applying for a noise permit? More information is available on the Noise Permit page. 

    What did not change?

    A Noise Permit is still required to use amplified sound. In addition, the following limits will continue to apply:

    • Amplified sound that can be heard on neighboring properties can't exceed the maximum permitted sound levels set in BCC 9.18.030 (Sound level is measured from the property within which sound originating from outside the property is received, not at the source of the sound)
    • Amplified sound is not allowed at the same location for more than four days in any calendar week
    • Amplified sound is still subject to the quiet zone restrictions of BCC 9.18.042
    • Amplified sound cannot be "plainly audible" to occupants of a school during school hours or a hospital at any time

    Events with more than 500 attendees and events that take place on parks property receive permits for sound amplification through different processes. These amendments did not change the process for these events. 

    Related Projects

    Economic Development Plan

    Why is this change needed?

    As the city continues to grow, with new units of multi-family housing and more employees, residents and workers of all backgrounds have the desire to connect and celebrate. The current noise control code prohibits small gatherings with amplified sounds after 5 p.m. and on Sundays and holidays. 

    Who benefits from this change?

    Many city planning efforts have received resident and business stakeholder input that there is a desire for more gatherings and placemaking activities throughout the city. This change will benefit neighborhood gatherings and celebrations, multifamily courtyard gatherings as well as events and activations on private commercial plazas to highlight our multi-cultural community and bring vibrancy to our public spaces. Past applicants for amplified sound include public schools and libraries, musical performers, employee appreciation events, neighborhood group celebrations and tenant appreciation events. 

    Are there limits on how loud sound can be?

    Yes, amplified sound level measured on neighboring properties can't exceed the maximum permitted sound levels set in BCC 9.18.030 and is restricted in quiet zones. Maximum received sound levels range from 55 to 60 decibels, as received in residential and commercial land use districts. For comparison, 60 decibels is similar to conversational speech. 

    What if I have a complaint about amplified sound?

    City staff will respond to noise complaints. You may report a complaint by calling the Bellevue Police Department non-emergency phone number, (425) 577-5656, or through the MyBellevue customer assistance portal

    What neighborhood input let to this change?

    Neighbor Link, a program of the Neighborhood Services Division that provides resources to support Bellevue's residents' efforts to connect as a community, has often cited the restrictive amplified sound code as a barrier for community events and connection. Community desire for more events was also a recurring topic in public input to the Great Neighborhoods planning process. 

    What business input let to this change?

    Businesses have expressed the desire for increased after-work activations to Bellevue employees will enjoy time in the city longer and can support local businesses. 

    Does this change impact other sources of noise?

    No. The proposed amendments will only change restrictions on the use of amplified sound equipment. This is defined as any machine or device used for the amplification of the human voice, music, or any other noise sound. 

    Date Meeting or Action Taken Links
    2/28/22 City Council BCCA Initiation City Council Meeting Agenda Materials
    3/28/22 City Council Study Session City Council Meeting Agenda Materials
    4/11/22 City Council Action City Council Meeting Agenda Materials