March 25, 2021 | Press Release

Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau Introduces Bill to Set Soundproofing Standards in New Development and Protect Against Displacement of Cultural Institutions

Contact: Luz Martinez, Communications Director: lmartinez@dccouncil.us, (202) 262-8998  

Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau Introduces Bill to Set Soundproofing Standards in New Development and Protect Against Displacement of Cultural Institutions

WASHINGTON, DC – In order to address sound levels in residential neighborhoods while protecting and expanding the local music culture in the District, Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau has introduced the Harmonious Living Amendment Act of 2021, joined by Councilmembers Christina Henderson, Janeese Lewis George and Brooke Pinto. 

“This legislation seeks to address the rising tension that we are seeing between performers and neighbors who live in buildings or homes that are not adequately soundproofed, while also celebrating and respecting the long history of street performance and high-quality performance venues,” said Nadeau. “My goal is to ensure that the artists and performers who make our communities so special can co-exist with those who reside in vibrant neighborhoods throughout the District.”

The bill sets soundproofing standards for new residential construction on mixed-use corridors and entertainment districts, with higher requirements for buildings within 300 feet of a performance venue to address crowds and low frequencies. Currently, the District does not require any soundproofing standard for building exteriors.

For existing buildings, the bill requires a new disclosure on lease or purchase agreements for residential properties in an entertainment or activity area that informs a new renter or buyer of nearby activity and long-established cultural institutions. New incentive programs are created for soundproofing retrofits, both in existing venues and in residential units.  

The bill also celebrates outdoor performance by initiating a study to take a closer look at places where street performance frequently occurs and how to remove barriers from holding performances in public space, while also reviewing buildings in proximity that may be insufficiently soundproofed.  

"DC Music Advocates have been calling for legislation like this for several years, ever since longstanding music venues around the city started receiving an influx of noise complaints coming from residents who moved into new development in entertainment districts,” said Chris Naoum, co-founder of Listen Local First and a member of the DMV Music Stakeholder Coalition. “It was at this point that it became clear that if we wanted to preserve spaces for cultural performance and live music, increased sound proofing was going to need to be required in new development in these neighborhoods.” 

Ward 1 has always celebrated music, from Black Broadway and the Funk Parade to the Go-Go tapes playing from the speakers of the Shaw Metro PCS Store at 7th Street and Florida Ave, NW. The sounds of the District are often why new residents move to DC neighborhoods and why current residents wish to stay. While the music continues to play on the corner of 7th Street and Florida NW, many beloved venues have closed in recent years and the conversations around the relationship of music and anti-gentrification principles have continued.

The starting point of the bill was the “Agent of Change” principle that first came out of London after 35% of its live venues closed in less than 10 years, often due to complaints from buildings constructed well after a venue’s founding. In anticipation of neighborhoods continuing to grow, Councilmember Nadeau has worked with local artists, music venues, and acoustics engineers to identify how the District can modify that principle to fit the challenges the District has seen to avoid the same fate.

“The District is a dynamic city with a rich musical heritage and I believe this bill is a path forward to finding harmony,” said Nadeau.


Bill text: