It is a delicate balance. On one hand, they don't want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg but on the other hand, if you're in the neighborhood where that goose is running amuck, you'd want some relief.
More than 16 million tourists visit San Francisco every year and they spend $8.5 billion making tourism the city's number one economic engine, but if you lived near the famous Painted Ladies, would you want to deal with the traffic all day every day? "Many of our neighborhoods and constituents have complained about noise, about parking issues around idling, and other quality of life issues," said San Francisco Board of Supervisor President David Chiu.
Chiu held a hearing Monday on his proposal that open-air sightseeing buses turn down the volume so they are not audible from a distance of 50 feet or more. Tour bus operators say they are willing to compromise but don't want to switch to headphones. "It's more about the experience. It's about the tour guide and it's about interaction with the customer. So, we're just trying to keep the noise reduced," said Christian Watts with the San Francisco Tour Operators Assocation.
With some 100 tour buses now driving through the city, noise is just part of the problem. Residential streets in North Beach are supposed to be off-limits, but Gail Gilman with the North Beach Neighbors Association says many operators ignore that. "There've already been injuries to neighbors due to tour buses. A neighbor had his foot run over at an intersection," she said.
Police plan to step up enforcement and there's also a proposed measure to regulate passenger loading and unloading. The San Francisco Travel Association is closely monitoring the impact new restrictions could have on the city's bread and butter. "All of San Francisco benefits from tourism. Each year, the spending results in $525 million that goes into the city's general fund and those dollars are used to subsidize the parks, the roads," John Ballesteros with the San Francisco Travel Association said.
The supervisors will vote on the proposals next Tuesday. If they approve the noise ordinance, it would take affect October 1.