Thank you to all reporting intrusive aircraft noise! Amidst the deleterious and constant eruptions in noise from Nextgen, in early November complaints surged within a week from 1568 reports from 111 reporters to 4313 complaints from 241 reporters as registered on the stop.jetnoise.net app. This Fall marks the 10th year since Palo Alto neighbors came together to discuss the abrupt increases in aviation noise and lack of reliable information or governance on the issue - especially for MidPen cities. We did not anticipate then that a decade would ensue with no progress on governance. Those in positions of responsibility seem to have become only more resistant to making improvements but are quick to make positive environmental claims, which at best is greenwashing. The definition of greenwashing is “the act or practice of making a product, policy, activity, etc. appear to be more environmentally friendly or less environmentally damaging than it really is.” California’s recent transparency initiative to combat greenwashing for climate-related claims requires detailed disclosure of the methodology for tracking and verifying environmental claims, and third party verification.
When we recently suggested to SFO to add a description of the methodology SFO uses to assess “noise impact ” to their project website, including why these measurements were selected by SFO, and what they can or cannot evaluate, they responded that they are already being transparent but nothing specific about our suggestion. We also asked SFO for a night time noise abatement program where the airport, FAA and airlines agree to address night flights affecting MidPen (per an FAA recommendation and Select Committee vote to institute such a program). SFO replied about one program they have that involves a specific airspace procedure and agreement with airlines that works between 1:00 AM and 5:00 AM, with the name NIITE-HUSH, with some flights that have a direct effect on MidPen. However, NIITE-HUSH does not resolve the flights that are still being called out in thousands of complaints from MidPen residents and that were the subject of advocacy by hundreds of citizens during the Select Committee. Confusion about "NIITE" was raised on 9/1/16 at the Select Committee:
Q. Chair of the Select Committee: Mr. Martin, there’s been some confusion along the way about NIITE and night. So, if you could be clear about which night we’re talking about- are we talking about the procedure or the hours of the day?
A. FAA Mr. Martin response: Yes, sir, I was talking about the flights that are coming in, say between 11 PM and 6-7 AM.
To be fair, MidPen elected representatives have yet to follow up on “night” flights impacting MidPen. However, three counties voted unanimously for a program for MidPen, so it needs more attention, including transparency about which flights have agreements from airlines and airports, and which ones do not.
We need more action from our local elected officials. The Joint Policy Letter from six cities recently submitted to the FAA states that “existing FAA policy and practice is not accounting for the actual impacts of aircraft noise.” Looking at the cities’ letter and SFO’s GBAS noise impact representations - at a glance, there is hardly an area where SFO’s noise accounting matches the needs identified by the cities. While receiving federal subsidies, airports and airlines may never change as long as the FAA doesn’t, and the FAA may take years to respond. Cities and Counties will need to start taking action on the issues in their letter; because local governments can and should be producing credible and reliable noise impact representations where the airports and FAA don’t.
With plans by most airports to grow, aviation noise impacts the health and well being of too many people for our local governments to just ignore. We have sent the following letters with a focus on transparency, airport governance, and to call for more action to eliminate night time noise for MidPen.
10/27/23 Letter to local elected Representatives
10/23/23 Letter to Palo Alto City Council
10/23/23 Letter to FAA
10/15/23 Letter to Port of Oakland - comment on EIR, planned expansion
Please continue to report intrusive noise, and join the efforts to get more action from our local elected leaders. While they can’t control air traffic, they can and must address greenwashing. The FAA could take years to change, and still offer more obfuscation. More letters to airports for brush-offs also yields nothing until our elected officials step up. But it’s up to us to make some noise!