I live in San Francisco. I have lived in a rent-controlled apartment for 31 years. I turn 67 in 5 months. On February 22, 2016, the restaurant below my apartment started up its fan ventilation system with a vengeance such that the noise from the fan reverberates in my apartment bedroom 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Public Health Department came out today to do an inspection and stated the decibel level -- during the day -- is acceptable (no more than 55 decibels), and though the decibel level for the evening after 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. is no more than 45 decibels, and the fan is noisier in the nighttime than in the daytime, the Public Health Department does not come out at night to check the decibel level for infringement of the noise limits.
If I try to call the San Francisco Police Department, a noise complaint is put on the lowest priority list. I can wait up to 6 hours for a response. I waited two hours today for a response from the police, but my call was still "pending" when I checked back in. At night, I cannot stay up for a policeman who might show up at 4 a.m. to answer my complaint -- when the restaurant has already closed for the day.
My landlord, GreenTree Property Management, is new (since 1/15). I do not have a contract
with this management firm, but I do pay rent and my rent was increased by 10 percent in February 2016. The restaurant that has the noisy fan does have a contract with GreenTree Property Management. It only began operations on February 1. From February 1 until March 22nd, I had no problem with the restaurant or any noise.
I wrote a letter of complaint to the owner of the restaurant. It was ignored. I sent a copy of the letter of complaint to my building manager and the landlord, but both copies of the letter were ignored. I emailed my building manager that I cannot sleep in my bedroom because the noise from the fan is too invasive and that I have to sleep on the floor in the hallway. She responded, "I'm 100 percent working to find a solution." I've been waiting for a definite solution for more than a month.
Two years ago, another restaurant below me, caused me a great deal of grief because for the first 6 months, its fan was very noisy and then when the owner decided on his own -- after we went to mediation in July 2014 through the Rent Board in San Francisco, which ended up with no remediation for me of my noise complaint with the restaurant -- on his own, as I say, the owner changed the fan's position so it wouldn't bother me any more , but . . . days afterwards, the restaurant began playing very loud pop music all day and all night 7 days a week.
I called the police 300 times, and 300 times I got no solution whatsoever. I complained to the new landlord about this noise, and the building manager at that time from GreenTree Property Management said he investigated my complaint and informed me he heard no music playing at all any time he investigated; thus, he could not help me. The former restaurant owner did not have a contract with the new landlord either, but he paid his rent and kept up his business until it failed by January 2016.
I was very happy when the restaurant went out of business after 2 years, because the whole two years was a battle with noise for me. In the middle of January through February of 2016, I found genuine peace and quiet again, like I had had for the 29 or so years I've lived here previously, but that temporary respite from noise ended when the new restaurant owner made his fan operate at a louder speed or in a position that creates a lot of noise for me.
I talked with the new owner on three different occasions. With each new encounter, the owner became increasingly hostile towards me. On my third encounter with him, the fan had not begun to be loud, but he and his employees
were "partying" at 3 a.m on a Saturday morning in early March and their loud Arab voices disturbed my sleep for almost two full hours prior. I went downstairs in slippers and bed hair to tell him his and his employees' voices were too loud and were disturbing my peace and quiet. His response was, "Get out of my restaurant -- now!"
So now he has ignored my written letter of complaint and has made no adjustments to the fan so that I might enjoy my peace and quiet. In July of 2014, when I was in mediation with the previous restaurant owner over his noisy fan, the Administrative Judge at the mediation told me that noise is very subjective and that I had no real proof that the owner was creating a nuisance -- even though I brought in pictures showing how the ventilation system was installed directly outside my bedroom and kitchen windows. Since the City approved of the decibel level of the fan, it was not creating "noise." The Administrative Judge went on to say that I might pursue rent reduction, but at best I'd receive only a $5 discount. What can I do to seek relief from noise? Can I sue the landlord or the restaurant?