Corona del Mar resident Sarah Thomas recently sued the city of Newport Beach, alleging that the public tennis courts roughly 100 yards from her house are too noisy.Thomas alleges that the noise from the courts at San Joaquin Hills Park has reduced the value of her property and has resulted in “frustration,” “anxiety,” and “severe mental suffering.” She claims the sport is so strident and disruptive that she can’t lead a normal life.
The suit seeks monetary damages and an injunction to force the city to fix the issue. Thomas is seeking a still-undetermined amount of monetary compensation. She acknowledges that it’s difficult to establish the precise nature of her injuries.
Newport Beach indicates that it has installed two fences designed to trap noise and has reduced available playing times in response to Thomas’ complaints. City Attorney Aaron Harp is unsure why Thomas decided to litigate, given the city’s extensive efforts to assuage her.
Thomas’ complaint pinpoints the start of the problem as February 2014, when the city painted new lines on one of the tennis courts so that it could be used for pickleball, a relatively recent sport in which players swat balls over a small net. The sport combines tennis, ping-pong, and badminton, and involves a plastic ball and hard paddle. Its popularity is partially due to the fact that it can be played by almost anyone, and it’s easy on the body. For these reasons, it’s particularly popular among senior citizens. Laguna Niguel, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, and Tustin all have installed pickleball courts in recent years.
Players admit that the game is noisy. Lynnette Holloway of Huntington Beach said that part of the fun of the game is that it’s a “relaxed environment,” and players don’t have to be quiet.
Thomas lives on Jetty Drive, which is next to the park and nearest to the pickleball court. Since the court arrived, the lawsuit alleges, Thomas has been exposed to “substandard conditions.”
Thomas claims she hears noise above 50 decibels before 7 a.m. and sound over 80 decibels throughout the day. 50 decibels is similar to hearing a dishwasher in the next room; 80 decibels compares to the sound of a garbage disposal several feet away.
According to City Attorney Harp, typically the city of Newport Beach permits noise as long as it does not go over 55 decibels for more than 15 minutes in a row. Tests conducted by the city found that the noise produced by the pickleball courts is well within this limit.
Thomas alleges that she hears noise above 60 decibels for extended periods throughout the day. She says the noise has negatively affected her sleep and has caused her to leave the house to escape the sound.
Moreover, the noise and vibration interfere with her ability to hear the telephone ring, talk on the phone, hear the doorbell ring, or even hold a conversation. Thomas is allegedly worried about potential health risks associated with long-term exposure to excessive noise levels.
Harp claims the city has only received two noise complaints about the pickleball court, one of which was from Thomas. And after the city cut down playing hours and installed noise-reducing materials, the other complaint was withdrawn.
Thomas’ attorney said he has been speaking with the city about possibly relocating the courts, but Harp denied having such a conversation.
Harp concluded that “the city wants to be a good neighbor.”
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