Community Meeting Regarding San Carlos Airport Noise May 18, 2017

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Anna Schuessler of the Daily Journal covers the meeting in her May 20, 2017 article.

The article reads as follows:

County floats efforts to mitigate airport noise: New flight routes, improved tracking among new measures

County officials presented a number of measures aimed at addressing citizen concerns about aircraft noise stemming from the San Carlos Airport Thursday amid continued concerns expressed by Peninsula residents and their neighbors to the south.

Among the new strategies proposed at a community meeting at the FATCO building in downtown Redwood City was the exploration of new flight patterns taking planes over fewer residences, which Assistant County Manager Mike Callagy said had come out of renewed conversations between small-aircraft, members-only Surf Air, the San Carlos Airport Association, which represents many pilots using the airport, and the county in recent weeks.

“These conversations have been fruitful, they have been progressive, they have been good,” he said.

Though no formal agreement had been reached, Callagy said talks between these groups since the county proposed changes to the airport’s policies calling for few flights and even 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. restrictions for certain aircraft has yielded several new measures aimed at addressing resident concerns about flight, takeoff and landing patterns coming in and out of the airport just south of Redwood Shores and east of Highway 101.

Noise from aircraft using the San Carlos Airport has drawn the ire of nearby residents in the last few years since 2013, when Surf Air began routing flights through the general aviation airport where pilots of small aircraft train and store their aircraft. To mitigate the effects of Surf Air flights, a cross-jurisdictional working group, including the Federal Aviation Administration, county Supervisor Warren Slocum, staff from the offices of U.S. representatives Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, and Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, San Carlos airport staff and Surf Air representatives, designed a six-month trial from July to January of a flight route directing Surf Air flights in and out of the San Carlos Airport over the Bay instead of Peninsula neighborhoods. The FAA, which is responsible for approving new flight patterns, is in the process of conducting an environmental review of what was called the Bayside Visual Approach.

At Thursday’s meeting, county officials shared the new measures generated since they proposed the curfew in March, which include improving the system used to track flights coming in and out of the airport, developing an incentive program to encourage pilots to fly planes at less disruptive times and hiring a communications specialist to ensure pilots understand noise abatement procedures.

For Dimitri Vandellos, president of the Greater East San Carlos Neighborhood Association, the new measures did not signal meaningful change. Vandellos expressed frustration that members of his community, which has been active in voicing concerns about the number of planes and training helicopters flying at low altitudes over their homes in recent years, have not been included in recent stakeholder meetings.

“The county process has suffered from a real lack of transparency,” he said at Thursday’s meeting.

Vandellos said he found the conclusions coming out the conversations between the county, Surf Air and the San Carlos Airport Association to be deeply disappointing because they did not incorporate the input of the various communities affected by the noise.

Several Sunnyvale residents attended the event to voice concerns about use of the Bayside Visual Approach, which has sent an increased number of Surf Air planes over their homes, which are already passed over by several commercial airplanes using San Jose International Airport. Though the flight pattern is still under review, Callagy confirmed that Surf Air has been given authorization to use the route on a case-by-case basis even after its trial ended in January. Sunnyvale Councilman Larry Klein said he was hopeful the agencies involved would identify a solution that addressed the concerns voiced by residents of the many cities affected by increased airplane noise in recent months.

“My biggest concerns are we need better communication and ways for our residents and the rest of the Peninsula to raise noise issues,” he said.

Marsha Cohen, a resident of Redwood City’s North Fair Oaks neighborhood, said she has been involved in community outreach meetings on this topic since 2012. Cohen expressed frustration with the lengthy process, which she said has included several studies by federal, state and local agencies.

“Study after study has been conducted, there seems to be a lot of overlap between these studies, and I think these studies tend to drag on,” she said.

In April, the county began collecting community input on a noise compatibility study the FAA is conducting, expected to take 18 to 24 months to complete and provide a comprehensive assessment of the airport’s traffic. Callagy said he would know more about the feasibility and timeline after county supervisors review some of these measures at their June meeting, and thanked residents for coming to express their views.

“We have a good dialogue going on right now, and we hope to continue that dialogue,” he said.