Laguna Beach officials telling motorists to keep quiet as they cruise the coast

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Laguna Beach Police are cracking down on loud motors. Last weekend, May 12 and 13, they instituted their first effort. (Photo courtesy of LBPD)

LAGUNA BEACH — When more than 75 motorcyclists recently stormed through town – some riding on the wrong side of Coast Highway and doing wheelies – City Councilwoman Toni Iseman said enough.

Loud motors on cars and motorcycles have been a problem in town for years, jarring residents from their tranquility, setting off car alarms and rattling store windows along Coast Highway in this laid-back beach town, officials said.

Now, Iseman and others want to find a way to stop the roar that echoes from the highway to the canyon as weekend road warriors cruise Coast Highway.

“I would like every entrance in town to have a permanent sign that says we enforce our noise ordinance,” Iseman said recently at a council meeting. “I would love to have people complain about ‘it’s too quiet in Laguna.’”

Councilman Rob Zur Schmiede agreed, saying it wasn’t just motorcyclists, but drivers with “high-end, souped-up cars that are ear-splittingly loud.”

On May 12,  the Laguna Beach Police Department initiated its first enforcement crackdown on loud motors after announcing the campaign on its popular social media, posting “Loud exhaust is a no go in Laguna Beach! Throughout the next week officers will be conducting a special enforcement detail to crack down on loud-exhaust vehicles. Loud exhaust = BIG ticket.”

Laguna Beach electronic signs warn motorists about excessive noise. (Photo by Erika I. Ritchie, staff Orange County Register/SCNG)

At each of the town’s three entrance points – along Laguna Canyon Road and on the north and south ends of Coast Highway – electronic message boards have warned motorists since April 19 that they are entering a quiet zone and vehicles with loud motors will face citations.

On May 12, police stopped 45 motorcycles for excessive noise and issued 26 citations. Twenty-four cars were stopped, with 21 receiving citations.  A combination of fix-it tickets and citations with fines were issued.

Efforts to crackdown will continue, officials said.

Officers focused vehicles with modified exhausts and those revving their engines to make extra noise, said Lt. Joe Torres, who oversees the effort. No specific types of vehicle were targeted, he said.

“We hope to encourage those who drive through Laguna Beach to be respectful of the community and to not intentionally create excessive noise by revving their engines,” he said.

But, Laguna Beach is not alone with this problem. Coast Highway or Pacific Coast Highway – as it is known through most other coastal Orange County towns – is a scenic and enticing spot to cruise, especially on weekends.

San Clemente City Manager James Makshanoff said while it’s not come to the attention of the City Council, Orange County Sheriff’s Deputies who patrol the town give tickets for violations. In Dana Point, since January, 21 citations have been handed out, officials said.

“We have not had the increased number of complaints about them recently as Laguna Niguel or Laguna Beach,” Dana Point City Manager Mark Denny said, “but it is my understanding that all of our law enforcement agencies are talking about ways to work together to reduce the number of those types of violations.”

Newport Beach, like Laguna Beach, gets its share of large riding groups.  “If there are violations, we’ll take enforcement action,” said Sgt. Justin Morouse of the Newport Beach Police Department.

Huntington Beach Police Department also initiated a directed enforcement earlier this year after residents near Golden West and Pacific Coast Highway complained of excessive noise. The city started with electronic signs. A handful of motorcyclists and drivers were cited, Lt. Kent Ferrin said.

In Seal Beach, Sgt. Michael Henderson said loud motor noise has become a bigger issue in the last two years. The city runs an electronic sign campaign and police officers have done directed enforcement along Pacific Coast Highway and Seal Beach Boulevard following resident complaints.

Back in Laguna Beach, Iseman reflects on the recent effort.

“It’s not as easy as you think to catch these people,” she said.

She rode with an officer for two hours on Saturday. As the pair came upon a mob of 10 Lamborghini’s near Urth Caffe, she said the noise was loud.

“It looked like a circus line of elephants – trunk-to-tail, all lined up,” she said.

Though all the cars were loud, the police officer was only able to cite one driver – the others took off. To make a case in court, the officer had to document the noise with a decibel-machine reading.

“I’m hopeful this enforcement will go beyond Laguna Beach,” Iseman said, “to those motorists and cyclists who think of coming here and know there could be a ticket waiting here for them.”