It’s no secret that Sunset Boulevard through Echo Park is far from quiet, with the noise of everything from roaring buses to police sirens and drunken bar hoppers filling the air. But Echo Park residents living on the south side of Sunset Boulevard near Portia Street have in recent months faced a new and unexpected source of noise, the screeching, beeping and squawking coming from a $240,000 electronic traffic sign installed by the city last year. The soundtrack (click on the player at the bottom of the story to listen) is generated by a “bird repeller” intended to scare off pooping pigeons and other birds from the sign topped by “Echo Park” written in neon blue script. But the soundtrack plays on a loop even at night when there are no birds to scare away and can be heard inside with the windows shut, according to Ted Dorsey, who recently bought a home near the sign. His home and those of his neighbors are perched on a hill above Sunset, putting them at the same level as the noisy traffic sign.
“I almost prefer the fake bird cries to the high-pitched whoop because that sound will get in your head,” said Dorsey by email. “We don’t live at the house yet, but we’ve spoken to the neighbors who confirmed that the sound runs 24 hours a day. Sunset can be a river of noise, and depending on the conditions it can be quite loud, louder than the sign. But the sign is so high-pitched and monotonous (it’s incessant) that you can’t miss it, even when traffic drowns it out for a moment.”
In response to an inquiry from The Eastsider, the city’s Department of Transportation is dispatching a crew to silence the changeable message sign. Department spokesman Bruce Gillman said in an email that the “bird repeller” recording machine is standard equipment on the new generation of changeable message signs.
“Occasionally, when the signs are close to residences, the noises emitted can be audible to people too,” Gillman said. “We’ll see if birds become an issue on this changeable message sign (CMS) and if they do, look at other alternatives such as ‘whirling antennas’ or ‘springs on top’ to discourage our feathered friends from landing atop the CMS.”