Law Review: ‘Can’t we all just get along?’
“Can’t we all just get along?” was Rodney King’s lament at a press conference after he was brutally beaten by officers from the Los Angeles Police Department on March 3, 1991. Those poignant words set the stage for today’s case.
Joseph Chase and Benjamin Wizmann owned adjacent residential properties for 25 years in the Hollywood Hills neighborhood of Mt. Olympus. In 2015, Wizmann, in preparation for renting his property as a short-term rental, installed new pool and air conditioner equipment between his house and Chase’s house – directly under Chase’s bedroom window. The combined noise from the air conditioner and pool equipment was loud and interfered with Chase’s peace and quiet. He complained on numerous occasions, not only due to noise from the equipment but also for repeated unruly renters and their public urination, intoxication and even fistfights outside the Wizmann house.
LOS ANGELES NOISE ORDINANCE
The City of Los Angeles has a noise ordinance which the parties agreed was violated by Wizmann’s air conditioning and pool equipment. Ultimately Chase asked the court for a temporary restraining order and then a preliminary injunction to reduce the noise level and force Wizmann to relocate the mechanical equipment to the other side of the house where there were no neighbors. Wizmann refused and the matter proceeded before the trial court.
One of Wizmann’s arguments was that if he could bring the noise into compliance with the L.A. noise ordinance, Chase would not be entitled to make a claim that the noise was a private nuisance.
Under the Civil Code, a private nuisance includes “anything which is injurious to health, including, but not limited to, the illegal sale of controlled substances, or is indecent or offensive to the senses, or in obstruction to the free use of property, so as to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property.” The cost to eliminate the nuisance is a factor for the court to consider. In this case, relocating the equipment was not unduly costly.
LOUD TRAIN NOISES
By analogy, the Second District Court of Appeal discussed cases where neighbors complained about loud train noises include train horns blowing for no apparent reason and train engines idling for hours and days. Notwithstanding federal regulations governing train noise, courts can enjoin unnecessary noise serving no legitimate purpose. I’m sure there are folks in Truckee who are subject to train safety horns and idling of engines.
NOISY AIR CONDITIONING EQUIPMENT TO BE RELOCATED
The trial court and on appeal the court of appeal sided with Chase ruling that the constant noise interference effected Chase’s enjoyment of his property, deprived him from sleep, opening windows and using his outdoor patio. As Chase was likely to prevail at trial, the court issued a preliminary injunction against Wizmann. The balance of harm and modest cost to relocate the equipment favored Chase. L.A.’s noise ordinance is only one factor to consider. Makes sense.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, California, and Reno, Nevada. Jim’s practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOAs, contracts, personal injury, accidents, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or http://www.portersimon.com
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