DAVYJ: time to panic!

Dear Neighbors,

When the FAA implemented their “NextGen” system in the Bay Area in early 2015 and our community was inundated with airplane noise, like many of you, we thought this had to have been a mistake:

    • Surely our existing laws and noise standards wouldn’t permit this increase in noise over our homes?

    • Surely the airlines couldn’t disrupt our sleep with impunity?

    • Surely our elected officials would do something?

When Congresswoman Eshoo insisted that the FAA to fix the mess they created, we were hopeful. When Eshoo formed the FAA Select Committee on South Bay Arrivals, composed of local elected officials, to look at regional solutions for the commercial aircraft noise problem, we were more hopeful.

But when the FAA’s feasibility study response was issued, we became worried. Instead of offering real solutions to the problems NextGen created, the FAA responded to only a few suggestions by non-experts. They then rejected a number of those recommendations, and only deemed the most superficial changes as feasible. Many of the most impactful suggestions submitted by the community weren’t even addressed.

When the members of the Select Committee said they were going to press the FAA for real solutions and not constrain themselves to the “menu” set by the FAA in their feasibility response, we became cautiously optimistic.

Now, with the latest statements from the Select Committee, we’ve started to worry.

The Select Committee may soon endorse a change which would dump a second NextGen (double the noise!) onto our community, and it must be stopped—otherwise, our peace and quiet will be lost forever.

How did it come to this?

Before the introduction of the FAA’s next generation air traffic control (NextGen) for the Bay Area, flights headed to San Francisco International Airport from Southern California and the southwest arrived on a “procedure” called BIG SUR (BSR) which brought planes over Los Altos Hills at an average elevation of 6,700 feet. On March 5, 2015, BSR was supplanted by a new NextGen procedure, SERFR, that moved aircraft slightly to the east (a new “ground track”), but lowered altitudes to 6,150 feet on average. And, there are now 44% more planes flying on this route than there were prior to NextGen!

Now, the FAA is considering a new procedure, DAVYJ, which would return flights directly over Los Altos Hills but at a still-lower altitude between 4,700 and 6,000 feet.

According to the FAA’s own estimates, noise over much of LAH and the nearby cities of Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and East Palo Alto is expected to *double* over today’s already-high levels (a 2-4 dB increase in the FAA’s “Day-Night Level” (DNL) measurement is predicted; a 3dB increase in DNL is a doubling of sound energy).

When the FAA’s noise analysis was released, we thought it was evident that DAVYJ: 1) fails to provide relief for everybody, and 2) makes the noise problem worse for many communities. We hoped that meant the Select Committee could finally move on to talking about better solutions.

When the FAA’s follow-on noise analysis showed that the DAVYJ proposed solution would not restore 2014 (pre-NextGen) noise conditions in Los Altos Hills, North Los Altos, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Menlo Park, and East Palo Alto, we thought that would be the end of DAVYJ: despite the claims put forward by DAVYJ’s supporters, the FAA data shows it is NOT noise equivalent to its pre-NextGen predecessor BSR.

Then we saw messages from some members of the Select Committee saying they supported DAVYJ, saying that it would “right the wrong” of NextGen, saying that residents of the Mid-Peninsula had nothing to worry about. Then we started to become truly afraid: instead of fixing the noise problem, the Select Committee might vote to make the noise even WORSE for the Mid-Peninsula!

Then we noticed that the FAA’s noise estimate of DAVYJ shows that Los Altos Hills would be even more impacted than the rest of the Mid-Peninsula: 1/3 of LAH would experience a total increase of 5-7 dB from 2014 noise levels (~4x the sound energy) if DAVYJ is implemented.

In other words, the FAA’s data indicate that a significant portion of LAH *already* doubled in noise (3dB increase in DNL) when SERFR was implemented, and DAVYJ would double the noise again.

Now we are starting to panic. And you should, too.

DAVYJ does not make our noise problem better; instead it would actually give us as much of a noise increase as the FAA gave us a year ago when NextGen was implemented.

Yes, rather than fix NextGen, the FAA’s proposed DAVYJ would give our community a double-dose of NextGen: another 100% increase in plane noise! And the FAA would spend the next two years designing and implementing DAVYJ, instead of working on solutions that could provide noise relief for all communities.

This is the sad truth that a vocal minority in the Santa Cruz Mountains (Quiet Skies NorCal) is trying to hide. Quiet Skies NorCal tells us that...

    • DAVYJ is equivalent to what we had before (ignoring the lowered altitudes, the increased number of flights, and the loss of our peace and quiet), [UNTRUE]

    • we should ignore the FAA’s noise simulation because QS NorCal “knows better”, [RIDICULOUS]

    • we live in an “urban setting” (are they kidding?) so we won’t notice the noise increase, [UNTRUE] and

    • we have no right to ever complain about noise because there were “always” planes above our homes. [AT MUCH HIGHER ALTITUDES]

And they appear to be succeeding in convincing some members of the Select Committee of their perspective.

Now is the time for all of us to speak up. It’s now or never!

DAVYJ promises to dump a second NextGen onto our community, and it must be stopped—otherwise, our peace and quiet will be lost forever.

The truth is on our side, but the Select Committee and our elected officials need to hear from us as soon as possible - preferably before their next meeting on September 29th–otherwise they will believe the lies they are being told.

They need to be reminded that the people in the Santa Cruz Mountains are not the only ones suffering from terrible airplane noise.

In addition to talking about the data, they also need to hear our stories: the thin film of fine soot on our cars and our outdoor furniture, health problems such as increased blood pressure and increased risk of heart attacks, stopping our conversations while indoors, leaving our doors and windows shut, not being able to enjoy the quiet rural setting that we paid a premium to enjoy, and being woken up several times a night and trudging through our days exhausted. And, of course, studies also show that the increased noise is associated with increased learning problems for our children and reduced property values.

The Select Committee need to be reminded that the current situation is affecting our families’ health and welfare, lowering our property values, and stealing the peace and quiet we once had.

They need to be reminded that there are many good ideas which haven’t even been evaluated by the FAA and the Select Committee yet, and they must heed their charter to find regional solutions and not simply move noise to other communities.

What You Can Do To Fight For Peace and Quiet in LAH

With your help, we are hopeful that we will be heard, and that the Select Committee will take the time to evaluate the other potential solutions which have been put forward instead of rushing to anoint DAVYJ as the regional solution to our noise problem.

1. Contact the members of the Select Committee and tell them:

    • your personal stories: the impact the airplane noise has had on you and your family;

    • tell them two wrongs do not make a right, it’s not OK to impose a further noise burden on already-suffering communities like ours just so that a vocal minority can be given relief.

    • they must take seriously the charge from Anna Eshoo and the other members of Congress to find regional solutions to our noise problem, and not just move noise from one community to another.

    • they cannot simply ignore the noise analysis presented by the FAA: we need relief, not a second NextGen!

    • there are many other potential solutions which were submitted months ago which have not received ANY evaluation from the FAA. How can they, in good conscience, vote in favor of DAVYJ without having considered any of the many alternatives?

Here are the email addresses for the Select Committee members and their alternates. You can cut and paste the email addresses into the To: field of your email.

supervisor.simitian@bos.sccgov.org, awengert@portolavalley.net, mlbernald@saratoga.ca.us, gcwaldeck@losaltoshills.ca.gov, bruce.mcpherson@co.santa-cruz.ca.us, john.leopold@co.santa-cruz.ca.us, dlane@cityofsantacruz.com, ebottorff167@yahoo.com, dpine@smcgov.org, mark.addiego@ssf.net, shindi@fostercity.org, lmoody@cityofepa.org, mike.wasserman@bos.sccgov.org, elewis@ci.atherton.ca.us, jmordo@losaltosca.gov, greg.scharff@cityofpaloalto.org, dlindslind@earthlink.net, gip32003@yahoo.com, cmathews@cityofsantacruz.com, dnortondesigns@msn.com, jgee@redwoodcity.org, bgrassilli@cityofsancarlos.org, piohtaki@menlopark.org, drutherford@cityofepa.org

2. Contact Congresswoman Anna Eshoo’s office: Rep. Eshoo tasked the FAA with coming up with solutions to our noise problem, and she created the Select Committee. Right now, the Select Committee is poised to endorse DAVYJ without having even looked at any alternatives. Rep. Eshoo needs to follow through on her commitment to hold the FAA accountable for fixing the mess they created with NextGen: we should demand no less than a reduction of noise back to pre-NextGen levels. There should be no “sacrificial communities”.

3. Contact the current LAH City Councilmembers. LAH Vice Mayor Gary Waldeck is a member of the Select Committee, he has demonstrated a thorough understanding of the problem, and he understands that DAVYJ would hurt our community even further. But he is only one man. We need our entire council fighting this battle to protect our community’s quality of life.

4. Contact the candidates running for election to LAH City Council in November. We need to know where each of the candidates stands, and how they intend to fight the injustice of NextGen and DAVYJ.

5. Contact your neighbors, and ask them to do the same. Even if people aren’t bothered by the airplane noise now, there are still negative effects on health, learning, and property values. And, a 100% increase in noise is coming if DAVYJ is not stopped! It is much more effective to protest now and insist on a better solution than beg for relief after this terrible change has been made.

Thank you for continuing to fight for peace and quiet,

Quiet Skies Los Altos Hills