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Airplane noise committee delivers recommendations to Congress

The ball is back in the court of the U.S. Congress and the Federal Aviation Administration to address the relentless airplane noise that has become a major quality-of-life issue for some residents of Los Altos and other Peninsula communities.

Culminating months of research and dozens of public meetings, the Select Committee on South Bay Arrivals delivered to congressional representatives a 30-page final report last week with numerous and specific noise mitigation recommendations. The report details problems with lower altitude and higher concentrations of flights coming into and out of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose international airports in the wake of a NextGen program designed to improve flight efficiency.

The report deals with a wide range of potential solutions, from raising altitudes at landing approaches to rerouting more flights over the San Francisco Bay, the Pacific Ocean and less populated areas.

According to the report, “Recommendations might succinctly be summarized as: fly at higher altitudes; fly over locations with fewer people; avoid noisy flight maneuvers; and implement noise reducing retrofits where possible.”

The committee did approve the controversial proposal of moving the noisy SERFR flight ground track over Palo Alto and Los Altos back to an alleged quieter track that existed prior to March 2015. The committee, however, approved the change with the condition that Congress and the FAA develop “a better procedure and path for the long term.”

The SERFR change generated significant debate among local residents’ airplane noise groups. Those in favor contended that reverting to the original path was a simple and obvious solution. Others noted that the proposal merely “moved the noise” to other communities because the altitudes and concentrations of planes were different from before.

“The committee earnestly hopes that the need for this longer-term effort will not be overlooked in the understandable desire to provide near-term relief,” the report stated.

The committee comprised 12 members and 12 alternate members representing communities from South San Francisco to Capitola. Los Altos Hills City Councilman Gary Waldeck served on the committee, and Los Altos City Councilman Jean Mordo served as an alternate. Fifth District Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian served as committee chairman. Local congressional representatives Anna Eshoo, Sam Farr and Jackie Speier appointed the committee earlier this year in response to the numerous airplane noise protests.

A spokesman from Eshoo’s office said last week “it will take some time” to review the report and that a coordinated response would be forthcoming from Eshoo, Farr and Speier.

“The committee believes these recommendations have the potential to provide real relief,” Simitian said. “We hope that relief arrives sooner than later.”

To read the committee’s report, visit supervisorsimitian.com.

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