The loudest sound, according to Hyde, comes from the soccer balls striking fiberglass walls that enclose the field. “That literally sounds like a bass drum over and over again, every time the ball hits the walls,” he says. “Those balls hit really thin fiberglass panels, which are like the top of a drum. It resonates through the whole neighborhood.
“And there is screaming of profanities. Soccer is a sport, after all, and being here is like living next to a sports stadium.” Hyde says it is also not unusual for players to leave the field and urinate in the fire lane that’s between the condo building and the Y’s property. “There are children running around out there.” The fire lane is often blocked with vehicles as well, according to Hyde.
“And they’ve had live rock bands over there,” he says, “with electric guitars and amplifiers, where they’ve played until midnight.” For both the music and the soccer, “They use high-intensity lights that shine into our property.
“All this activity started off slowly but has escalated to the point now where it’s gotten out of hand. It’s unreasonable. What’s frustrating is the inability of the Y to see our point of view and do something about it. The impact on us is not only things like being unable to have our windows open under any circumstances, but it causes air-conditioning bills to go way up because we can’t have any cross-ventilation. We can’t get quiet enjoyment of our property.”
When Hyde, MacKenzie, and several of their neighbors go to superior court at the end of October, they will have a section of the California Health and Safety Code to back them up. In part, the code reads as follows: “Excessive noise is a serious hazard to the public health and welfare. Exposure to certain levels of noise can result in physiological, psychological, and economic damage.… All Californians are entitled to a peaceful and quiet environment without the intrusion of noise which may be hazardous to their health or welfare.”
Money, more than any health factor, may eventually win the day. Gary Jimenez, one of the litigants, doesn’t live at Presidio Place anymore. He rents out his condo on the building’s west side. Jimenez tells me that to entice renters he had to install the specially designed windows that supposedly muffle noise. The tenants complained after the windows did little. They argued they could break their lease unless Jimenez lowered their rent. Jimenez tells me that at one time he had been able to command $1650 to rent out his condo. Now he’s down to $1150.
Stuart MacKenzie believes that neither the City nor the Y cares about the nuisance to neighborhood residents. And he argues that stealth was used. He shows me a July 2003 “Notice of Public Hearing” that the City circulated before drawing up the Y’s conditional-use permit later that fall. The notice states that changes at the Y will include removing a tennis court and an “in-line” hockey rink. No mention is made that “an outdoor soccer field” would be moved into their place. That language wouldn’t turn up until October 21, 2003, the date the city council passed the conditional-use permit.