LAH Urgent Call To Action on Airplane Noise

Call for Public Input

As you may know, the FAA has announced an effort to address the airplane noise complaints in the Bay Area. Many of us were optimistic when this was announced.

Unfortunately, Glen Martin, the FAA Western Regional Director, has said he will only fix things if told what specific technical procedures are to be changed, and how they are to be changed, while still conforming with all applicable FAA regulations and without interfering with any other technical procedures. That is, the FAA is expecting the local advocacy groups to provide them ideas of what to fix, what routes to move, etc. It is, of course, ridiculous for a federal agency with a $15B annual budget and nearly 50,000 employees to ask lay people for fixes to the noise problem they created! There are many great ideas which remain unexplored by the FAA, and likely many more which the FAA could generate themselves.

From the initial set of suggestions received from the public, the FAA has whittled down the list to a small number of proposed changes. Those proposed changes do not address the significant noise issues we face, and I believe the proposed changes will make the noise problem worse for residents of Los Altos Hills.

The FAA is now asking for local elected officials to weigh in on the proposed changes. Rep. Anna Eshoo, in partnership with Reps. Jackie Speier and Sam Farr, has created a “Select Committee” of 12 local politicians (including LAH Vice Mayor Gary Waldeck) to review the proposed changes and make recommendations. There are 4 elected officials on this committee from each of the 3 congressional districts (spanning San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz Counties), and they each have an “alternate”.

The Select Committee has had 2 public meeting so far and they are holding their last and final public meeting in Mountain View on June 29th at 6pm (Mountain View Performing Arts Center). At each meeting, 4 advocacy groups present their ideas in 7 minute presentations and then the public can also voice their opinion at the microphone. At the last meeting in Redwood City, over 50 people got up to the mic (including members of QSLAH) to express their concerns. This meeting is the last opportunity for us to provide public input to the Select Committee before they begin their deliberations and issue their recommendations.

Don’t be Deceived!

There is an advocacy group called Quiet Skies Norcal (led by people from Los Gatos, Soquel, and Saratoga) that has been aggressively lobbying the committee and the FAA in favor of their proposal to move the current noisy flight procedure called SERFR to the old path called BIG SUR. Norcal calls this “low hanging fruit” and suggests to everyone that will listen that this will remove the noise for everyone.

You need to know: THIS IS NOT TRUE!

The old BIG SUR flight path was in use for decades and, by all accounts, was very quiet (many people have told us they had no idea the planes were flying directly over their homes). When the FAA created the SERFR flight procedure, they made multiple changes which made the procedure very noisy--including lowering the altitude over Los Altos and Los Altos Hills. Even though the planes were moved further away from Los Altos Hills, the noise became worse!

Unfortunately, the FAA is not offering to “put things back the way they were” before the airplane noise issue began—the FAA has categorically refused to revert their changes in full, and they have explicitly said they will not raise the planes back to their previous (higher) altitude. The FAA’s proposed change will not address the increased quantity of planes on this route, the noisy Airbus A320 planes, or loud nighttime overflights (like those cargo planes that wake you up at 2am!).

What the “Norcal” group is advocating amounts to relief for some residents, mostly in the Santa Cruz Mountains (those under the current SERFR flight path), without addressing the issues that cause the current flight path to be noisy. By moving the path west, this group is shifting the current noise problem—and any future noise increase—over other people’s homes instead of theirs. See this opinion piece in today’s Santa Cruz Sentinel to learn more.

The proposed flight path and corresponding “noise shadow” impacts many homes in Los Altos Hills. Homes on the following streets are within the center of this noise shadow:

Even homes not directly under the flight path will be affected by the “sound shadow” of the noisy airplane overflights, especially those near Gardner Bullis Elementary School and Foothill College. Even if you are not bothered by the airplane noise, studies show it will still affect your health, property values and children’s learning. Additionally, what is now a flight every few minutes over our heads in the next several years will become constant overflight noise as capacity increases and flight paths become even more concentrated.

Not only does this proposed “solution” shift the SERFR noise burden over more of Los Altos Hills, it does nothing to address the noise we currently experience from the other flight paths (Oceanic, Pt Reyes, and vectored flights)—there is nothing that the FAA is currently offering to solve the noise generated by those other flight paths.

Under pressure from the Norcal group and people under the current flight path, QSLAH worries that the Select Committee will recommend changing the flight path of SERFR to move it over Los Altos Hills without raising altitudes, addressing flight concentration and vectoring, and restricting noisy aircraft--and without addressing the other noisy flight paths that fly over our Town. Not only is that a strictly worse outcome for LAH residents, we fear that the FAA will simply “declare victory” and move on.

Quiet Skies Norcal has been very politically savvy:

    • They created another similarly-named local group called “Quiet Skies Los Altos” to help confuse the situation.

    • They are asking people to “endorse” their solution by telling them they will get relief from airplane noise and without telling people all the facts.

    • They have accused anyone who disagrees with them or stands up for the rights of those under the proposed flight path of lying, being obstructionist, or wanting to delay relief to people who are suffering.

    • They are emailing all the Select Committee members DAILY. The committee members are receiving 20-40 emails a day supporting moving the SERFR noise over someone else.

They are very good at what they do and have the ear of these politicians.

We Need Your Help!

    1. We need you to email your perspective to each of the 12 Select Committee members, and their 12 alternates.

You can find them all on this link. Click on their photo and their email address pops up.

In your own words, share your experience and concerns, but please try to include some or all of these ideas:

    • Do not just move the existing noise onto new communities; instead urge the FAA to solve the root cause of the noise problem;

    • Do not make decisions that will negatively impact others;

    • Let them know that you do not support the QS NorCal proposal to move the noise over someone else, and that it does not represent a majority viewpoint;

    • Urge them to create an ongoing technical working group to further their good work to come up with real solutions for the region that actually reduce the noise instead of shifting the burden onto others;

    • Share your fear that you don’t want the FAA to implement one or two half-baked ideas and then go away;

    • Share that you want real noise monitoring to be implemented (the FAA has admitted they do not monitor noise anywhere in the country, BTW)

    1. Please share this message with at least 5 friends (especially those on affected streets listed above) and ask them to do the same.

    2. If possible, come to the Select Committee meeting on June 29th 6:00p-8:30p (Mountain View Performing Arts Center), and fill in a comment card or make a 90 sec comment at the microphone during the public comment period.

This is truly an uphill battle and it’s going to require everyone getting involved if you want to get relief. For more detailed info check out these websites and also follow Quiet Skies Mid Peninsula on Facebook and Twitter @QuietSkyMidPen

Thanks so much,

Quiet Skies Los Altos Hills