Those interested in attending the final ad hoc committee meeting on airplane noise should prepare for a long night.
The U.S. Congress-appointed Select Committee on South Bay Arrivals is slated to finalize its set of recommendations to Congress at the end of the meeting scheduled 1 p.m. Thursday at Palo Alto City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave.
A jet soars above Los Altos
At issue is the peace and quiet of approximately 2.2 million people on the Peninsula, many of them – including Los Altos residents – leading noisier lives after recent Federal Aviation Administration changes to flight paths.
Implementing a NextGen system in the name of efficiency and safety, the FAA neglected to accurately gauge the impact of noise on the ground. As a result, greater concentrations of planes, flying at lower altitudes, are arriving at San Francisco International Airport and generating more noise at more frequent intervals than residents had previously experienced.
Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, who leads the 12-member committee of leaders from the affected communities, said Friday that members have agreed on two-thirds of the more than 20 recommendations in a draft report. The recommendations range from raising altitudes and flying more planes over water to changing Class B airspace for smoother descent and less vectoring and installation of air deflections that mitigate the whistling noise off the wings of frequently used Airbus planes.
Simitian acknowledged that one of the toughest decisions will be whether to recommend a change from the current ground track over Palo Alto, 3-4 miles west of where it is now.
The debate over implementing such a track has pitted “neighbor against neighbor,” Simitian said. Those in favor claim that moving the track back to where it was before NextGen is the simplest and best solution. Opponents contend that the unchanged higher concentrations and lower altitudes of planes ensure that the change merely “moves the noise.”
Simitian said all recommendations must meet the same criteria: “What works and what’s fair? And how can we minimize noise to the greatest degree possible?” He indicated that local reps’ work may not end with the submission of recommendations to Congress. Simitian said some committee members are interested in continuing a dialogue with the FAA, SFO and local congressional officials like Anna Eshoo, who represents the 18th Congressional District, which includes Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View, to identify longer-term solutions. This could include changing an outdated mode in which the FAA measures noise impacts.
If the seven-hour length of the committee’s Nov. 3 meeting is any indication, participants can expect another marathon Thursday.
For more information, visit eshoo.house.gov/constituent-services/airplane-noise-in-the-18th-congressional-district.