| Music |

After Judge's Ruling, Neighbors Tell White Oak Music Hall "It's Too Loud"

Neighbors gathered outside the White Oak box office to protest the venue Friday.EXPAND
Neighbors gathered outside the White Oak box office to protest the venue Friday.
Photo by Meagan Flynn
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Near Northside neighbors living near White Oak Music Hall called for the removal of the controversial music venue after a judge ruled that the venue could have four more outdoor shows from now to December.

Gathered outside White Oak, a group of neighbors ranging from babies to senior citizens said Thursday night's outdoor show on The Lawn, featuring the A$AP Mob, was "out of control," saying that profanity-laced music came into their living rooms and backyards like home invaders. The group had sued the White Oak Music Hall last December, saying repeated noise violations make the venue a public nuisance. But so far a judge has allowed the shows to go on, as long as the venue complies with regulations—which the neighbors say repeatedly doesn't happen.

The neighbors' attorney, Cris Feldman, said that the neighbors are at the point where "if it's too loud, shut it down."

"Enough's enough. Litigation aside, the city should be ashamed of itself," said Feldman. "City government has let down this community. This is outrageous. It's insulting. And it's absolutely terrible what the venue has done to this neighborhood. It's time for some leadership from city government. It's time for some leadership from Council Member Karla Cisneros instead of her sitting on her hands pretending there's no problem. We have a serious public health issue here."

Neighbors seemed particularly mad at Cisneros, saying she "hasn't done anything" to help them. But in an interview with the Houston Press, Cisneros said the lines of communication have always been open—but after the lawsuit was filed, things changed. Cisneros said that prior to that, she had organized meetings to hear out both sides—the developers and neighbors—and had always maintained that White Oak needs to follow the rules and the noise ordinance. Now though, she said, the lawsuit has limited the extent to which the city can be involved. The city has also been sued, and neighbors claim the city is not adequately enforcing the noise ordinance against White Oak.

"Before they sued the city, I was convening meetings and pulling people together with the residents, the developers and any city department we thought was going to be part of it to really kind of work to a solution," Cisneros said. "But when they decided to go a different way and to settle it in the courts,  it has limited the conversation as we now look to a judge as to what will happen."

Feldman said that the Houston Police Department issued another citation last night after neighbors called police about four times—but that every time this happens, the ticket gets tied up in court and White Oak is never penalized. (They've been ticketed several times over the past two years for violating the noise ordinance.) Neighbors with small children described having to answer to crying kids wanting to know what was going on with all the noise Thursday night, which they claimed was rattling their homes even though they live across the freeway.

A trial is scheduled for December 11, having been pushed back due to Hurricane Harvey delays.

In the meantime, neighbors can expect to hear shows from Primus (Saturday) and Ministry (November 10), both guaranteeing total weirdness and general raucousness, as well as alt-J on November 17.

For all future shows, the judge is requiring the venue to provide 48 hours' written notice of when soundchecks on the Lawn will begin and 72 hours' notice for any events on the patio. Sound levels can't exceed 75 decibels at 15 Hz, and sound-monitoring devices must be installed on all sides of the property. The owners have to submit weekly reports of the results of those measurements to the court and to Feldman.

Feldman invited anyone who wants to hear what the neighbors go through to come to the neighborhood on the night of the Ministry show on November 10.

"For any of you who know anything about alternative rock, I'd invite you to buy some ear plugs and come out," he said.

White Oak's owners could not be immediately reached for comment.

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