Stop The Bayview Squawk

Are you being disturbed by noise from the Bayview One Condo?

Bayview One operates a seagull noise deterrent on the roof of their building. The device generates a noise every minute for 15 seconds, every day, all day. To most people the noise sounds like a constantly upset bird, but no bird makes that much noise in such a consistent way all day long.

While most other objectionable noises (leaf blowers, loud music, etc) are likely to stop eventually, these devices continue to make noise unattended.

Do you hear odd and consistent bird noises near the Songhees totem pole?

There is another electronic bird scaring device near the Regency Hotel that sends sound across the harbour.

The noise bothers me, what can I do about it?

These devices are unsuitable for urban environments. Changing the noise bylaw to prohibit these devices requires political will, which requires that many voices raise the visibility of this issue.

Register a complaint with the City of Victoria Bylaw Department (250.361.0215 or via online form ) Your complaint will be recorded. Bylaw will contact the Bayview Property manager to report the complaint. Bylaw will not divulge your name.

Send an email to the City of Victoria mayor and council (mayorandcouncil@victoria.ca) expressing that the noise bylaw should be changed to regulate these type of devices.

Why hasn't Bayview One turned the device off?

The Bayview One strata council is aware that the device is irritating to many people in the neighbourhood, particularly those people in Promontory who face Bayview and are above the Bayview roofline. The noise can also be heard on Kimta by the Aquara construction trailer and on Esquimalt Road by the Shell gas station and Edge condominium. Even though they are aware of more neighbour-friendly options such as the "raptor kites" found on city hall, they are adamant they can continue to use this device. Multiple people from Promontory have complained to Victoria city bylaw enformement.

Since the device is installed on the rooftop of the building, Bayview residents do not generally hear their own noise.

The standard BC Strata Property Bylaws state:

Use of property

3 (1)

An owner, tenant, occupant or visitor must not use a strata lot, the common property or common assets in a way that

(a) causes a nuisance or hazard to another person,

(b) causes unreasonable noise,

(c) unreasonably interferes with the rights of other persons to use and enjoy the common property, common assets or another strata lot,

(d) is illegal, or

(e) is contrary to a purpose for which the strata lot or common property is intended as shown expressly or by necessary implication on or by the strata plan.

Bayview One strata council enforces these noise standards within their building, but continues to subject their nearest neighbors to unreasonable noise.

What do the noise bylaws say?

During the day, the noise bylaws are based a decibel loudness reading. Unfortunately, the squawker noise is about the loudness of a very loud bird. It is difficult to capture accurately. There are also enough other ambient noises that this noise is viewed as something that people should tolerate.

At night the "quiet time" portion of the bylaw is in effect. This portion of the bylaw is not governed by a decibel reading and only requires that people be annoyed by the noise.

The bylaw department tends to attempt to gentle persuasion to resolve the problem rather than issuing a ticket. In September they notified Bayview that the device was in violation of nighttime portion of the bylaw. Bayview turned the device off at night but it continues to sound during the day.

Suppose this was a noise of a dog. The City of Victoria animal control bylaw states

Noisy dogs

34 In addition to the requirements of the Noise Bylaw the owner of a dog must not allow the dog to bark, howl or cry (a) continuously for ten minutes or more without significant periods of rest, (b) sporadically for a cumulative total of 15 or more minutes within 1 hour, or (c) otherwise in such a manner as to cause a nuisance.

A bylaw officer would be able to use (b) since the noise sounds 15 seconds of every minute or (c) since multiple neighbors have complained.

Conversely, if dogs were not a special case and were only covered under the noise bylaw,

Harbour Intermediate District permitted noise levels

7 In a Harbour Intermediate District a person must not make, cause or permit to be made or caused, any sound or noise that, when measured with an approved sound meter over a representative time period, has an equivalent sound level, or Leq, which (a) during the daytime exceeds (i) 60 dBA when received at a point of reception in a Quiet District;

Imagine if you made a complaint about a barking dog, and were told by the bylaw officer that they couldn't do anything because even though they could hear the dog barking, it wasn't loud enough.

In general, the daytime noise bylaw based solely on decibel readings doesn't work well because there are many persistent noises which are irritable and a nuisance without being overly loud.

Suppose this was a farm making the noise?

A farm in the Saanich Blenkinsop valley was ordered to adhere to the Ministry of Agriculture standards when using bird scaring devices in a semi-rural area. If these devices are not suitable for use in a semi-rural area, the restrictions in a dense urban environment should be even more strict.

Why is the noise so disturbing?

First, the noise is very frequent. The Bayview device goes off once per minute so the Promontory neighbors next door who are above the Bayview roofline are very likely to hear it. In the mean time, people who live in Bayview don't notice the noise at all since it projects out and up.

These devices also play a bird of prey sound, followed by the sound of a bird in distress. People are more affected by this type of noise since most of us have an innate desire to go help the poor creature in distress.

Here is 15 seconds of a similar noise, once every minute for just over two hours. Play the noise at a barely audible or low volume and leave it on. See how long you can last before turning it off. Try playing the sound so your neighbors in a coffee shop or restaurant can hear. See how long it takes before they become irritated and ask you to turn it off.

What can be done in the short term?

Reporting the bylaw infraction helps document to the city how many people are being impacted by the problem. The more people who report the problem, the more likely that the city will eventually take action. Having more reports also helps show the Bayview One strata council how many people are being impacted.

If you know residents of Bayview One consider asking them why they continue to disturb their neighbors.

What can be done in the long term?

The BC Ministry of Agriculture has guidelines for audible bird scaring devices and a template bylaw for municipalities to use. The standard for these types of devices is to prohibit their use within 100 meters of dwelling, with no more than one noise event from the device five minutes.

The City of Abbotsford audible bird scaring noise bylaw is an example of the implementation of this standard. Compared to rural usage, a dense urban area such as Victoria should have an even more stringent bird scaring device bylaw rather than none.

The City of Victoria needs to adopt the same sort of bylaw to prevent the use of these devices in urban areas. If you would like to add your name to a petition or help in any way, please email stopthesquawkers@gmail.com

Are there any news media articles or videos?

Are these devices used in other places in Victoria?

There is a similar device near the Regency Hotel. The noise can be heard across the water at the Songhees totem pole.

At one time there was another of these devices located near the Selkirk trestle.

Are there any neighbor-friendly alternatives to the squawkers?

Some seagull deterrents be expensive, but there are inexpensive alternatives that have good reviews. One alternative is the "falcon kite", which is used by both the City of Victoria (City hall and the public works yard), Point Hope Shipyard (on several buildings), the new Hillside senior's center.

Why is rooftop noise a problem?

If a neighbour was making noise from a single family dwelling

  1. Other neighbours would be able to knock on your neighbor's door and complain to them in person.

  2. It would be obvious to anyone who walked by (including a bylaw office) that there was a problem.

  3. The neighbour making the noise would hear it too.

In the case of rooftop noise,

  1. The noise is controlled by a building manager or strata council that is far less accessible, to the point of being anonymous.

  2. People walking by cannot hear the noise, so the nuisance is only obvious to the people who happen to be above it

  3. The people making the noise are protected from hearing it by their own rooftop, so there is no incentive for them to eventually stop the noise.

Rooftop noises other than bird squawkers also annoy other neighbourhoods. This article also shows the frustration with the length of time these situations can take to be resolved. Again, if this was a street level noise it would be dealt with much sooner.

Who can I contact for more information?

stopthesquawkers@gmail.com