Small Claims Procedure

Posted on

In the early 80’s, local citizens brought numerous small claims actions against San Francisco for failing to deal with the noise from San Francisco Airport.  It worked! Approximately 35 years later, we are pursuing the same options for remedying the noise related to San Carlos Airport (KSQL).

For over three years, as members of a “Working Group,” we have been in multiple meetings with the County Supervisors, County attorneys, the County employees who operate the airport, members of the FAA, representatives from Congresswomen Anna Eschoo’s and Jackie Spier’s offices, heads of the pilots association at the San Carlos Airport, and the Mayors and Vice Mayors of the town of Atherton.  While this has finally resulted in a test of a new approach path for a commercial operator out of the San Carlos Airport, we need our County to put a permanent solution in place.  The County should never have allowed planes louder than 757’s, 777’s and 787’s to be only 1000’ above our homes and schools.

The California Supreme Court has ruled “Airport proprietors have a duty under state law to reduce airport noise.”  It has also ruled that “Noise nuisance from a government-owned airport is remediable by a nuisance action.”  County officials, despite almost 1,000 signatures on our petition and thousands of noise complaints, have done nothing to abate the noise from the flights operating at the San Carlos Airport.  The noise abatement procedure at the San Carlos Airport has been and remains voluntary.

We believe that the County, through its Board of Supervisors,  must do more to protect us and reduce airport noise.  Unless the County is pushed financially, they will continue to ignore our requests.  For this reason, just like they successfully did in the early 80’s at SFO, we have started to initiate small claims actions against the County.  This is a direct result of the lack of measurable changes that address unreasonable, unhealthy, and disruptive noise nuisances at San Carlos Airport.  The County must be held responsible for its airport.

Note: You will likely need to defend how you have made the county aware of this issue.  You will likely need to show you have been calling the noise complaint line or doing something else.  If you have not been doing this, start now by calling (844) 266-6266 or filing complaints by clicking here.


There are two steps to file a small claims action against the county:

  1. You must first make a claim against the County. Download the form (.docx format) here >>
  2. Once your claim is rejected you can file the small claims complaint.

The Small Claims Court allows individuals and business entities to sue another party for monetary damages.  Neither side may have an attorney.  Additional information is available at the Court’s website


Regarding the amount, you can file for a maximum of $10,000, but we recommend asking for less when you fill out the documents for court.  It may make sense to demand $5,000 and then sue for the $2,499 amount.  The more demands we have with the County, the more reminders they have that there is a problem.  Thus it may make sense to have at least two claims per year.


Step 1: The form to make a demand of the County can be downloaded here >>.   Under “Date & Location of Incident:”  Be sure to ONLY go back six months since the claim can be thrown out if you go back further in time.  This form should be addressed to the County Board of Supervisors which is the address listed on the form.

Step 2: Wait for the denial of the claim from the County.  Once you have received this denial, you will have six months to file a small claims action with the County. Copy this denial letter as you will need to submit it with your form.

Step 3: Fill out the form to Go to Small Claims Court.

  1. Download the form from here.
  2. Leave page 1 blank.
  3. On page 2, Section 1, complete this with your information.  You are the Plaintiff.
  4. On page 2, Section 2, the Defendant is:
    County of San Mateo, c/o County Clerk
    400 County Center, 1st Floor, Redwood City, CA 94063
    Phone: 650-363-4121
  5. On page 2, Section 3: complete this with the $ amount you are claiming (see the section above, Amount Sought).
  6. On page 2, Section 3a: we successfully stated “Failure to mitigate the continuous public nuisance of very loud aircraft flying over my home.”
  7. On page 2, Section 3b: DO NOT go back more than six months.
  8. On page 2, Section 3c: I successfully stated “A portion of my property taxes for no longer being able to peaceably enjoy my home.”  You may also want to point to a failure of enforcing California Public Utilities Code 21669.4(a).
  9. On page 3, Section 4: Select “Yes.”
  10. On page 3, Section 5: Select “a.”
  11. On page 3, Section 6: Fill in with “94063.”
  12. On page 3, Section 7: Select “No.”
  13. On page 3, Section 8: Select “Yes.”
  14. On page 3, Section 9: Answer according to your circumstance.
  15. On page 3, Section 11: Fill in today’s date, your name and sign the printed copy.

Step 4: Bring the form to the County Clerks office at 400 County Center, 1st Floor, Redwood City, CA 94063.  You will have to pay a filing fee and a service of process fee. You must include your copy of the denial letter.

Step 5: Go have your favorite beverage.  You have just started a lawsuit against your county.  😉