Moderate community noise, that is, levels above 55 decibels (dB), can contribute to a number of avoidable health conditions including interference with speech, impairments in attention, concentration, learning, and memory, poorer sleep, aggravation of high blood pressure, and greater risk of myocardial infarction. Elevated noise levels are challenging problems for high-density neighborhoods in San Francisco where noise levels frequently exceed 70 decibels. In the future, increases in urban density and associated increases in the proximity of commercial and residential will further challenge noise control and prevention.

Beyond its role in regulating excessive noise, the Department of Public Health is working to ensure that planning and development activities fully consider implications for noise generation and noise exposure. The Department has developed a physical model of sound, the San Francisco Noise Model, to identify those populations exposed to excessive noise. Utilized by the Department of City Planning, the Model will help ensure that new residences are built to acoustical insulation standards. Identifying areas with excessive noise will also focus policy and planning attention to mitigation measures to reduce noise levels, such as sound walls, quieter transit vehicles, rerouting of heavy trucks, and reduced use of police and fire sirens.

Informing Development Activities and Public Policy

Environmental Review of Development Projects

The SFDPH reviews proposed development projects to evaluate noise impacts and the adequacy of noise mitigations.

Research and Assessment

Traffic Noise Map

Using Soundplan software, SFDPH has modeled traffic related noise in San Francisco to identify the areas impacted by excessive roadway noise. The resulting map, validated using field measures, can be used by planners and developers to determine needed noise mitigations for future development activities.

Building Facade Attenuation

SFDPH conducted a series of indoor/outdoor noise measurements to assess how effectively different building materials attenuate noise.