Letter to the Editor:
Driving through Burbank’s residential neighborhoods, it’s impossible not to notice the ubiquitous lawn signs announcing to passers by that “In this house, we believe…” or reminding us to “Choose Kindness”. One would be left with the impression that Burbank were indeed a city where all feel welcome.
On Monday morning, I woke up to a letter taped to my door from a neighbor who chose not to identify him/herself threatening to continue to call the police on me should I continue with activities and noise “uncharacteristic of the neighborhood”. This same neighbor also taped letters to other neighbors’ doors encouraging them to call the police if the “noise” were to continue (these other neighbors reached out to share this with me, as they are NOT bothered by the “noise” and didn’t appreciate the mini campaign and sowing of bad blood in an otherwise friendly neighborhood).
The “noise” in question was a small backyard BBQ late Sunday afternoon that carried on through the early evening. My household is made up of musicians and dancers, as is my small pod of folks who’ve only recently began to gather again safely outdoors per public health officials’ recommendations. On this particular Sunday, some of the best flamenco musicians in Los Angeles were together in a social setting for the first time since the pandemic began. Naturally, we wound up enjoying what brought us together as a community to begin with—MUSIC. Our small jam session included two acoustic guitars and one percussionist. We were ELATED to be sharing what we love most after so much time without it. It’s what gives us LIFE. That is, until the police came to break it up following a complaint from a neighbor.
At no point did this neighbor reach out to alert us that the noise was disturbing (which is highly subjective—other neighbors have shared how much they enjoyed it). Had this person come to have a conversation with me, perhaps we could have identified some kind of middle ground. However, he/she saw it fit to address the matter by involving the Burbank PD. This was the second time. On a separate occasion, this neighbor called the police when we surprised a family member celebrating a birthday following a year of loss and trauma by hiring a group of mariachis. They arrived at 6:00 pm on a Friday and played two sets (along with song requests from next door!), wrapping up while it was still light out.
Having the police at my door for what to me is a perfectly normal way to celebrate on a weekend that was very much within the constraints of the city’s noise ordinance was shocking. The only time in my life I have called the police on a neighbor was when I feared for someone’s SAFETY. It would never occur to me that the police’s job is to ensure my own comfort—law enforcement’s job is to enforce THE LAW. But what’s most disturbing about this is how anybody in the year 2021 could disregard what we all know all too well now; inappropriately and unnecessarily involving police can lead to very bad outcomes—especially for POC (which most everyone at my small gathering was). I say shame on you for this.
I believe there is room both for my neighbor to enjoy peace and quiet and also for my household to enjoy what brings us happiness. Perhaps we compromise on the frequency, duration, and/or time frames for my preferred activities. But asking that others join in shutting down healthy and normal fun leaves me with the impression that this isn’t a person who can be negotiated with.
Burbank, if you truly want residents of all walks of life to feel welcome here, I encourage you to have a reasonable level of tolerance for their cultural expressions. And TALK to your neighbors before calling the police (no matter how different they are from you).